We talk to Hatty Butler about her passion for utilising contemporary art to bring about positive change and the emotional journey every painting takes her on…A Bath Spa University, Fine Art graduate, Hatty has already been shortlisted for the Jerwood Visual Arts prize and nominated Royal Arts Prize 2017 Visitor’s Choice Artist in her artistic career - she is an emerging artist with instinctive talent and ‘one to watch’ in our opinion!
Hatty’s work is about people: exploring their vulnerability and capturing an honest and exposed resemblance to create a vivid and forceful image. Her focus is not the face alone, she strives to portray and question the emotions and experiences behind the person.
She creates dynamic, vivid portraits which embody her love for texture, method and material to convey emotions, experiences and struggles. Hatty wants to celebrate unique and interesting people via contemporary art, highlighting and embracing those who may be ostracised for being different. Challenging society to look upon her work and make sense of the internal issues they represent, she is a firm believer in the power of art to bring about positive change.
What is your first ‘art’ memory?My first art memory is probably being at an art class I used to attend when I was a child called ‘Paint pot’. I remember making a giant batik mural and being so amazed that I had created it from just some wax and ink!
My whole childhood was filled with being creative; from endless hours painting with my mum at the kitchen table to making jewellery out of leaves, so I think the creative side of me was ingrained from an early age.
Describe your art practice in five wordsEncompassing, fluid, emotive, textural, capturing a moment in time.
How did you become an artist / where did you start your artistic training?In high school I had the most amazing art teacher. He was the one who encouraged me to go on and pursue my art at a time when a lot of people thought it was a waste of time and I should be doing something that could ‘earn me a proper living’. I am so thankful for the push he gave me as now I am doing what I am passionate about every single day.
I went on to study Fine Art at Bath School of Art and Design. After graduating in 2016 I have fully immersed myself in my artistic practice and it is now my full-time career.
What is the main inspiration for your work? Are there any artists, in particular, that influence you?The main inspiration for my work is the people I meet every day, or even just walk past in the street. I am passionate about using my art to celebrate unique and interesting people. Highlighting and embracing those who may normally be criticised or overlooked for being different. We live in a society where the abnormal is laughed at and my aim is to alter these outdated views. I believe art can be the most innovative and compelling form of creating change within our society.
There are many artists that influence me, from portraiture to abstraction. Lucian Freud was the initial reason for my love of portraiture, but I also hugely admire the works of artists such as Andrew Salgado, Colin Davidson and Euan Uglow.
How has your work changed over the years?My work has definitely become more contemporary. I have pushed the boundaries of what I would consider a traditional portrait. I love being able to reflect a person’s emotions and characteristics in an unconventional form.
Making work that is a piece of art in its own right rather than simply a portrait of someone is a key element to my practice. Creating a face using loose, fluid brushstrokes is so exciting, I love the fact that my work only comes together, and is clear what the subject is, in the final stages of creating it.
How would you like people to interpret your work? What does your work say about you?My work is about people, exploring their vulnerability, capturing an honest exposed resemblance, creating a vivid and forceful image. I want to challenge the viewer, encouraging them to look deeper into the painting than just the portrait itself, to raise internal issues and try to comprehend them.
With the titles of my pieces I like to give a small clue as to what I was thinking and feeling when I created the piece and what it means to me, however I like to leave the rest up to the viewer themselves.
My work is me and I am my work. It is an emotional outpour; I feel such a connection to my work as I am literally painting out the emotions I am feeling at that time. It’s great to reflect on a piece and remember how I felt when I was painting it. People say painting is a journey, and I really believe that with each piece I create I am taken on a very personal, emotive journey.
Explain your process, from concept to finished pieceMy process starts with initial sketches and I normally play around in my sketch book with colours and strokes to get a loose idea of the direction I would like the piece to take. I work from photos but only really use them as references in the initial stages.
I like the work to go in a natural direction and develop organically as I am creating it, so I never really know how it is going to turn out until it is finished. I make decisions about my work based upon how I am feeling. I know a piece has been successful when it has challenged and confronted me, it comes together as a whole and is energetic and commanding.
I choose to use oil paint, it is malleable, thick and creates an incredible texture. Using a pallet knife alongside this means that I can drag the paint and also become less precious about my work as it forces me to make mistakes, which often turn out to be unexpected and brilliant surprises!
Please describe your typical working day…My working day consists of spending as much time in the studio as possible (and of course, copious amounts of coffee). Some days I will only manage to paint a few details, as things go wrong. I spend a lot of time painting, scraping it off again and forcing myself to re-apply the paint until I am happy with it.
Other days I will get so much painting done that I almost go into another zone and lose total track of time! Painting isn’t something you can just do successfully every day; for me it is very mood dependent. Even just sitting in the studio and being around my work is a form of creation for me. It is important to fully engulf myself in the creative process - to live and breathe it.