Josephine Butcher: Student Of The Arts
Twenty-two year old Josephine Butcher is a painter by trade. However, like many creatives, her skillset extends far beyond a canvas. Currently based in Bristol where she’s studying studio art, Jo’s talents also include illustration, textile design, and hunting down sources of inspiration. Her works features objects such as chairs, sofas, and sculptures in her works — all reflective of images she finds while perusing Instagram and Tumblr. The artist has a knack for combining all of the things she loves most — landscape, design, and art — into one simple creation. Already, Butcher has begun to define her style while diving deeper into understanding what exactly she wants to create. And she’s only getting started.
When did you get started creating, and how?
JB: I’ve been drawing since I was little, but I really only started creating ‘proper’ work in March 2017. I suddenly discovered acrylic paint and fell in love with the medium. My work at the beginning was a lot more graphic and bold, I used colour and shape as a vehicle to create, but now that I feel more confident in my painting skills I can create fuller scenes with landscapes.
Where are you from? How did that play a role in your path?
JB: I’m from London, which has had a huge impact on my path. From a young age, I’ve been lucky enough to be exposed to a huge amount of culture and arts. My whole family is creative, and my mum took me to exhibitions a lot, so places like the Tate and the V&A are very familiar. I don’t think I really appreciated the work until I was older, but it had an impact anyway. Aside from galleries, there is also a huge young London art scene. My sister has had studios in Dalston since I was about 14, so I would always visit her and see everyone creating amazing stuff and that world interested me a lot.
What was your path towards becoming an artist like? Are you able to create full-time?
JB: I’m definitely still on that path! I feel like a proper newbie, but I am happy with what I’ve achieved so far. I just started my third year at university, where I'm studying drawing and print, which is great because I’m doing what I love. So I guess, technically, I am creating full time — but if I wasn’t in university I would definitely have to support myself some other way. The goal is full-time painting, of course.
Did your work always feel so serene and uplifting?
JB: Before March 2017, not at all! It wasn’t particularly depressing or anything but it was just sort of lost and scattered. During my foundation year I was actually making a lot of work about race relations in America, particularly the police brutality issue. I had so much to say but I didn’t really have the means to get it out (I was studying graphic design at the time and hadn’t discovered paint). I was very lost and didn’t know what I was doing or what I was good at, and was also majorly suffering from depression. October 2016 was when I went on anti depressants and they changed my life, so the sudden interest in paint, colour, and serene, uplifting work was a definite by-product of that. I’d like to re-introduce the political themes into my work at some point, but for now I’m just enjoying painting paradises.
From where do you find inspiration? Or from whom?
JB: My sources of inspiration are sort of the whole point of my work, weirdly. My paintings are collages of the things I find inspiring. Most of these come from Instagram and Tumblr. You wouldn’t believe the catalogue of images I have saved! They’re all organized into sections like ‘Objects,’ ‘Spaces,’ ‘Chairs,’ ‘Colour,’ so whenever I need some inspiration I can look at those images and they usually spark things off. Two themes I’m really enjoying at the moment are furniture design and landscapes.
Where do you create? Do you listen to music while you create — if so, what?
JB: I have just settled into my new studio space at university, so that is where I will be painting from now on. Up until now, it’s sort of been anywhere I can find the space! Kitchen tables, tiny desks in rented rooms, on the floor in my boyfriend’s bedroom, occasionally at university. It’s been higgledy-piggledy until now so it’s nice to finally have a real space.
I nearly always listen to music when I paint, however I never end up paying attention because I’m concentrating on the painting. So, I realize I’ve listened to the same album three times by accident! At the moment, I’m listening to Sabrina Claudio, JGrrey, Summer Walker, Slowthai and Daniel Ceasar.
You work with textiles too. How did that get started?
JB: Working on the swimsuit collaboration was such an amazing opportunity given to me by the lovely Katy at Stuff With Prints! She approached me nearly a year before it finally got released, and said she thought a swimsuit with my designs on would really work. I licensed my work to her and she basically sorted the rest. She’s a really wonderful business woman and that project has opened so many doors for me. I’m looking forward to working more with textiles and accessories.
What is your biggest challenge as an artist?
JB: Integrity would be one of them. My work treads the fine line between fine art and illustration, and I’m super torn between wanting to be successful in the fine art world and wanting to be successful commercially. Its a complete gamble because commercial work sells faster and you can probably support yourself on it more quickly through products, but the fine art world could be more long-term beneficial and stable once you make it big, and perhaps more rewarding as a serious painter.
Another challenge is motivation. It’s so hard being dependent on creativity and self-motivation to work — sometimes it feels like it’s only once in a blue moon that the stars align, and I manage to complete a painting! What I’ve learnt is to not rely on motivation, because it might never come. If I’m not able to finish a painting that day, I’ll do a drawing or rough sketches, and sometimes that stepping stone can make me feel more able to start a proper piece. Force it. As inorganic as that sounds, just force it! You’ll make a lot of crap but the good stuff will be great.
What is the best part of doing what you do?
JB:The best part is definitely the feeling of accomplishment I get after finishing a painting I’m really proud of. As someone who frequently suffers from creative block/general life block, it’s a very exciting moment when it all comes together. Another amazing part of it all is the sense of community on Instagram and the wonderful people I have interacted with as a result of sharing my work.
What, if anything, would you like to achieve as a creator?
JB: I have so many dreams for where I want my work to go, I think about it constantly!
I would love to have an immersive solo exhibition in London or abroad, and I’d love to be able to travel with my work. My dream painting destinations are Grand Canyon, LA, and Mexico. But, for now, on a smaller scale, I just really want to be able to support myself with painting.
For more of Josephine Butcher’s work, check out her website here.