Travel Diaries Q&A Session with Tom Butler - Tom Butler Artist

Travel Diaries Q&A Session with Tom Butler

Join Tom as he discusses how his travels have inspired his work, from the new cultures he has encountered to the different ways of seeing the world, and browse our travel collection to discover your favourite destination.

How have your travels influenced your artistic style and creative process?

Traveling is essential to my creative process, not just an influence. I need to explore new places and revisit familiar ones, as they are constantly evolving and changing. I do this by walking around with my camera, looking for compositions that I can use in my collages. Sometimes, the composition is perfect as is, but other times I need to tweak it in my studio and use my artistic license to capture the atmosphere of a place, rather than the exact true likeness.

When I travel for research, I also take the opportunity to collect collage materials on-site. This gives my work an authentic edge, as I am not only capturing a scene, but I am also incorporating materials directly from the destination.

Can you share a specific destination that had a profound impact on your artwork? How did it manifest in your art?

Venice is a city that has been captured in art and literature in so many different styles and ways throughout history. But when you are actually there, walking around, it just takes your breath away as it feels so preserved and layered. The architecture and facades have been patched up and painted over so many times, and you can see all of these layers. My artistic style sits alongside Venice’s depth and is a perfect example of how my technique can replicate a place.

I could paint Venice over and over again and never be bored. There are so many different places to stand, iconic or otherwise, and you could stand there all day and see something different almost every hour. The canals are constantly moving, the light is always changing, and the way it affects the water and the buildings in shadow is always different. Add to that the seasons, and the rain, and you have a city that is constantly evolving.

I love to get lost in the side streets of Venice. That's the whole point of the city - to get lost in the labyrinth of back waters and lose yourself. Time just disappears. It's wonderful to find these hidden spots and areas away from the crowds, where the light creeps through. It's magical.

Which cultures do you find the most inspiring to incorporate into your artwork?

New York is a fast-paced city with a lot of noise and flashing lights. It's a place that demands attention, and I like to make fun of that a little bit in my collages. If I'm doing a piece of Times Square, I'll go crazy with the billboards and messages I put in.

London is similar to New York in some ways, but it also has its own unique culture. I like to play on the clichés of a place in my collages, which can make people smile. I'll add little things that people will recognise and connect with their own experiences.

I particularly love the culture in Europe, especially the way that food is king, so there will often be a nod to food somewhere in the piece. I appreciate the way that European culture hasn't changed as much as other cultures. Things like siestas, family, good quality food and routine are still important, and prioritised over making money. There's something wholesome and authentic about this tradition, and I think there's a lot we can learn from it.

How does the experience of working outdoors affect the energy and emotion you infuse into your sketches?

Because of what I do and the fact there are so many layers to a piece I can’t create the piece itself outdoors, but sketching is such an important part of my process as you can really see so much more of a place in person rather than from a photograph. It’s about logging that memory to recapture again in the studio. I spend more time observing rather than actually capturing it, soaking it all in and allowing my subconscious to absorb as much as possible.

Can you share an anecdote about a particularly memorable moment on a research trip?

Cuba is such a vibrant and interesting place to visit, you never know what you will see or what to expect. Everywhere you go there will be something entertaining going on, the people are also incredibly kind and generous.

On one particular trip I left my camera at home, but luckily I had my camera phone to capture content on. I then proceeded to lose my phone in the back of a taxi. I was stumped, how could I capture the city of Havana without a camera? But the people there are so wonderful, the taxi company located the vehicle I’d been in and dropped my phone straight to my hotel and they helped me out in a way that just went above and beyond. So yeah, those sort of moments really stay with you.

Browse the travel collection and discover your favourite destination.