Q&A with Niamh Butler

"Ultimately, when time permits, my goal is to relive and enhance those moments, either captured by camera or presented in front of me, in which I discovered and felt something beautiful."

Eirik den Raude - Oil on panel 8 x 10 in.
Born in: USA
Lives in: Montrose
Education: B.F.A. in Drawing; the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, CT   |  Full Time Certificate for the Intensive Drawing Program at the Florence Academy of Art in Florence, Italy
Media: Painting, Drawing,  Printmaking
Describe your work in 3 words: Classical realist, photorealist, detailed
See More Work: www.niamhbutler.com
Victor's Contentment - Black colored pencil, charcoal pencil & white chalk 8.5 x 11 in.
CFA: What themes does your work deal with? 
N.B.:  Themes that my work explores are anxiety released as kinetic energy, confidence & vulnerability, the image of masculinity, feminine strength, the passing of time & decay, and beauty found in the smallest of things.
CFA: Describe your creative process.
N.B.:  My meticulous process of measuring and getting a sense of gesture, rhythm, body type, and proportion allows me to feel as if I were living through a photographed instant, or the few hours with the live model, in an “exploded moment,” or a life in a second, making the original moment even more profound to me. If the subject is a person, whether in a photograph or in a live sitting, the method of re-creation also allows me to feel like I am getting to know that person in a way unlike any other.
CFA: What influences your art? What inspires you? Why do you make art?
N.B.:  Years of traditional academic training have always had an influence on my work, as has much time spent admiring work by artists of the past such as Velasquez, Repin, Bouguereau, Salvador Dali, Zdzisław Beksiński, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Alphonse Mucha, Andrew Wyeth, Norman Rockwell, Frank Frazetta, and contemporary artists such as Alyssa Monks, Gottfried Helnwein, Andrew Lattimore, Joakim Ericsson, and Jordan Sokol. What inspires me most are people's character and eerie settings.
CFA: What is art? What makes a piece of art great?
N.B.:  I believe in a broad definition of art; I feel that if one perceives and treats something as art, then it becomes so. However, whether it is great art (or whether or not it will be accepted as art by others) is very subjective and changes from individual to individual. What makes a piece of art great for me, in particular, is if it moves me emotionally and/or intrigues me by revealing several layers of meaning to keep me contemplating; this can be evoked by many genres of art for me.
CFA: What is the role of the artist today? 
N.B.:  I feel that there are many roles an artist can play and that this role comes naturally to each artist (and perhaps changes over time). For example, an artist could make work to reinforce, or perhaps influence others to change, cultural perceptions, or to bring joy by allowing people to savor a beautiful moment, or simply to relieve their own tensions through the action of creating.

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This interview was published by Circle Foundation for the Arts © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist