She is looking at you. He is looking at you. And you just can’t take your eyes off Gill Button’s canvases. They gently pulse a sensual mystery, demanding for you attention and devotion. With their coveted oil cheekbones, they will confront your senses, challenging your desires and your confidence. From global known publications to her most recent collaboration with Gucci, this is definitely an artist to follow on Instagram, allowing your pupils to be fed with good taste.
Have you always drawn? Do you remember any particular drawing from your childhood?
Yes, I remember drawing a lot as a child. I especially remember whiling away many happy hours drawing at my grandparent’s house – they always kept a bit of paper and felt tip pens in the cupboard for when we came to visit. I would just sit at their coffee table and draw and draw and draw, so much so that my grandmother used to get exasperated at how much paper I was using – so I had to draw new pictures on the back of my old ones!
But it was it always crystal clear to you that you wanted to be an artist and illustrator?
Definitely, I guess it was when I was about 13 or 14 that I decided that art was my future – that spiritually, no other life was really an option for me. The only real dilemma I had was whether to go to art college to study painting or illustration.
Who are your muses? And your inspirations?
One of my favourite faces to paint recently has been the model Molly Bair – I absolutely love the devil may attitude she exudes, alongside a subtle fragility. A great source of inspiration for me is the work of phenomenal makeup artist Pat McGrath; the most exciting aspect during fashion weeks is seeing her creations. I also look at a lot of photography; I particularly love Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, Irving Penn, Daido Moriyama.
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Why do you usually paint in small scale? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
I love the intimacy of small-scale work – how the viewer can be wholly absorbed into the piece up close. On a practical point of view, I prefer to complete an oil painting before any of the paint starts to dry, so for this reason, the smaller the better! Occasionally I do work on larger canvases, which can have great impact for larger spaces.
What is needed to paint the eyes as the mirror of soul? Or at least as vividly as you paint them?
I like my subjects to have a relationship, firstly with me and then with other people, so most of my characters are looking right at you, demanding you engage with them. I always start with the eyes, if I’m not happy with how they are looking there is no point for me carrying on – I’ll wipe the canvas and start again!
Did you come up with the colours palette consciously? Do you think that it will be any different in a short term?
I’ve never consciously decided on a colour palette, but when I look at my work overall I can see the influences. I look at the work of a lot of British painters such as Ben Nicholson, Alfred Wallis and Peter Lanyon, who lived and painted on the coast in St. Ives, Cornwall (my favourite place!) – I am very drawn to these cool, wintery, seaside colours.
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Oil, ink or just a pencil. With which do you feel the most comfortable?
Primarily I started Sketchy Men as a vehicle to keep myself drawing everyday; it’s so easy to become rusty. I’ve always particularly loved to draw the male figure, ever since I started life drawing at school. I’m greatly fascinated by gender, especially the balance of a man’s masculinity and femininity – his confidence, or perhaps trepidation, to adorn himself and reach outside of society’s traditional prescription of a man and allow himself to be beautiful.
My favourite is Day 63 –a small oil painting of a bearded man in profile with botanical tattoos–, to be honest I regret selling him as he is one of the paintings I miss the most!
You have recently collaborated with Gucci. Tell us a little bit more about this project.
It was a real honour to be selected by Gucci’s amazing creative director Alessandro Michele to be part of an online campaign to launch their new Blooms and Caleido patterns. The brief was completely open to reinterpret the patterns in any way, a truly dream commission.
You are based in London, so you must be one of the best cultural guides to say where we should go if we are looking for creativity.
You really can’t go that wrong if you’re looking for culture whilst in London, no matter where you are, there will be something mind blowing to see. But to get a real sense of creativity, Brick Lane in East London is probably the place to head to first: a real eclectic crowd of artists and media creatives, alongside genuine locals – it’s a wonderful place to watch people. There are some great independent galleries, vintage shops, amazing food and only a few steps to The Whitechapel Gallery, one of the most exciting art galleries in London.
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Tell us, what does it really mean to you to have more than 50k followers on Instagram?
When I reflect on the exhibitions, commissions and experiences I’ve had recently, most of it tracks back to Instagram. It’s been a hugely important aspect of my career lately, and through it I have met so many wonderful artists and made some absolutely amazing contacts on an international level that would simply have been out of reach before social media. I’m so lucky to have such a wonderful, supportive set of followers – this really spurs me on to keep going, keep creating.
Could you share with us what your main goals are in short and in long term?
As long as I’m painting, I’ll be happy!
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