|Artist Sharon Butler in her studio|
All of this is a slightly long-winded way of explaining how I found myself in Sharon Butler's studio in the DUMBO area of Brooklyn on a gloomy Tuesday afternoon. Competing with the sounds of the elevated trains going by her window, Zinsser introduced Butler by reference to her acclaimed blogazine Two Coats of Paint. He noted that conversations about art and culture that would have taken place in a salon in the era of Gertrude Stein happen today online through blogs like the one published by Butler. And with that, we were off.
Every morning, one of Butler's first tasks is to create a drawing on her iPhone. Her app of choice -- Pixart -- uses only geometric shapes, so she is always working within those confines. To Butler, each shape has a personal meaning. (She kept those meanings to herself.) Once completed, she posts each drawing on her Instagram feed.
Another series is based on drawings that were the most "liked" on Instagram. (She has no idea why some drawings garner more "likes" than others, but she suspects it has to do with their colors. Curiously, once she told people the basis for the series, the overall number of "likes" of her posts declined.) Butler considers the series an exploration of the notion of popularity which, in turn, made her consider the distinction between the electoral college and the popular vote. Her current series is developed from her drawings on significant dates relating to the Mueller Report.
Butler shared her process with the group as well. Once she's decided a drawing will be the basis for a painting, she creates small sketches (like the one shown in this photo) in which she plays a bit with the image. When she's satisfied that it communicates her intention, she projects the drawing onto a canvas and recreates it free hand. The goal is to make the digital image more painterly. Her choice of color is consistent with the choice made when she created the drawing.
While Butler acknowledged Zinsser's points, she resisted any attempt to assign a specific meaning to her paintings. Her work is intended to be experiential, with the viewer creating its meaning based on her own history and emotions. (Having said that, I defy you to think of anything other than "these boots are made for walking" when looking at this purple painting.)
Needless to say (and yet I will), I loved meeting Butler and being introduced to her work. My head was abuzz from the discussion, and our day was not over yet.
To check out Butler's Two Coats of Paint, click here. And to listen to her TEDxOrlando talk about what she's learned in the blogosphere, click here. Finally, for Butler's own website, click here.