Travelling, composition and energy: my three favourite things - Tom Butler Artist

Travelling, composition and energy: my three favourite things

New York is one of my favourite places to visit, alongside London, Havana and European countries such as France and Italy also topping my list. I have got a definite affinity with travelling, particularly where places are culturally and visually interesting from ground level up to aerial viewpoints.

Wherever I go, whether at home in London or around the UK and internationally my eyes automatically adjust the scene into a composition. Inspiration comes from nowhere and it just comes together before me; I intuitively know what will make a good painting. It has not always been the case; at the beginning it was a bit of trial and error. I didn’t have a proper grasp of what I was doing although some of my gallery pieces were successful. I am still learning as I go along.

A composition emerges by taking in the shapes of man-made structures or architecture (collage lends itself particularly well to straight lines), the light conditions and illuminations, shadows, and reflections of the place.

Travelling and being out with the camera is always the first stage of what I do, and I really miss it right now. I love the feeling of getting on the plane with the anticipation of adventuring to a new destination or knowing you will fall back into the embrace of a familiar old town.

I always do my research before travelling, it gives a geographical advantage in terms of placing areas of the city. You can get a good idea of the place from photos but there is nothing like seeing it for real, feeling the nuances of the place, walking around, and getting the inside info or first-hand knowledge of it. There are always subconscious things that will creep in too, which I think are an important part of putting together a mixed media piece.

Cityscapes are what I love to create because it is a perfect match with my text-themed style of working and so easy to add the layered, textured look that has really excited me since my early days. Movement and detail are absolutely the key to the city and curating its liveliness on canvas, that is why I always add people, cars, and transport. They add bustle. If you take them out of the equation it can feel empty or unfamiliar.

New York New York

New York, The City That Never Sleeps, The Big Apple, Gotham whatever you call it I love it and hate it equally.

It is draining, exhausting, bustling and busy but fantastic and surreal, fascinating, and iconic all at the same time. There is so much to get your teeth into at street level from a composition perspective with advertising text, shop fronts, people, cars, and taxis. Other cities have a similar vibe, for example San Francisco (which has a more undulating landscape) but there is something about NYC with its long avenues and buildings.

There is no shortage of interesting establishments for all tastes and budgets with plenty of funky lesser known restaurants, hotels and bars offering an off the beaten track experience of the city. Fingers crossed that these places survive the crippling economic situation the pandemic has brought.

I always walk along Manhattan Bridge to see China Town versus the skyline and newer buildings of the city. An old versus new view with plenty of fire escapes, brownstone buildings and all the busyness that I love. Brooklyn also has great viewpoints too so heading over there is worthwhile.

For a straight down Manhattan scene, I head to Broadway but of course most epic of all is Times Square. The flashing billboards, wailing sirens, sights, scents, and sounds can only be described as hypnotic! When the heavens open the billboard lights create an even more dramatic dazzling light display, which is totally mind blowing.

For more of my NY pieces take a look at my website or Instagram page @tombutlerart.