Interview with Illustrator Martin Butler

Martin Butler’s work is concerned with line and space, organic forms, the transformation of consciousness, and mythological and mystical iconography. He combines highly detailed pen and ink drawing with contemporary design technologies to create what he calls “psychedelic environments, psychic landscapes, and the characters that inhabit them.”

For commisions, projects, collaborations or general chit-chat please don’t hesitate to get in touch! Email [email protected]

FAULT: How was 2010 for you Martin?

Martin: 2010 was a very busy year for me…a year of balancing the making of my own artwork with various illustration projects, doing arts jobs at festivals (Glastonbury, Beach break Live and Secret Garden Party), DJ’ing out and about, organising events ( I run Dollyrocker Club which is a monthly night dedicated to psychedelia, 60s garage, surf and soul in Bournemouth, Dorset), spending way too much time on the internet and attempting to somehow emerge as a fully functioning and sane member of society!

FAULT: What is the creative process of your designs?

Martin: That depends on what the job is really…sometimes i will have an idea of certain elements, patterns or icons that should be present, put them into place and go from there with a pencil and fine-liner, keeping any appropriate motifs or themes in mind. In other cases i will have literally no idea what is about to spill out of my brain onto the paper or board! I guess what I do in its purest form is a sort of refined doodling, it almost feels like I’m channeling something other than my own imagination….like my mind is a conduit and the images that I put down have always been out there somewhere…they just so happen to have been plucked out of the ether by me at that specific moment. Its exciting, because I’m the one drawing but I don’t know where each piece is going- the lines, shapes and spaces guide my pen… i read an interview with Neil Young recently in which he says that “songs are wild animals”. This struck a chord with me because I feel the same way about my drawings…it’s like they’re alive, they have a mind of their own and you probably wouldn’t want to be left alone with one of them for too long!

FAULT: Is there one piece you are particularly proud of?

Martin: Hmm, thats a tricky one because like a lot of creative people, I’m my own worse critic…. I will basically live inside of a piece for a week when I’m making it, but then I tend to lose affection for it after completion. I think this is a very good thing though because it keeps me looking forward and stops me from repeating myself too much. As a result, my work is constantly evolving and goes through definite moods and phases.
I’m pretty proud of the large scale live illustration pieces  I’ve been doing recently at a wonderful monthly poetry event called “Freeway Poets” (also in Bournemouth) in which I try to interpret some of the literary goings on via my drawings. I think that the spontaneity of these pieces in conjunction with their size has been working really well. I’m used to working within the confines of an A3 piece of paper, so it’s nice to be really physical and gestural with a marker pen on an 8ft x 4ft board!

FAULT: Was there a defining moment of your childhood that guided you into a career as an artist?

Martin: On my first day of nursery school I made a massive mosaic depicting a dancing figure on the floor out of tessellating shapes…I think my parents at least (bless them) took this as proof of my genius and encouraged me to create from there on in! Listening to my Dad’s LPs on a sunny sunday mornings and drinking lots of tea must also have made an impact as not much has really changed since then!

FAULT: Where did you study?

Martin: I did my Art Foundation at Loughbourough University school of art and design and then graduated with a  BA in Illustration at The Arts Institute at Bournemouth (now the AUCB). I had a splendid time!

FAULT: How would you rate yourself as an artist?

Martin: It’s difficult to distance myself from the work itself in that way because it is an extension of myself and so whether I like it or not, I’m fairly attached to it. I like to think I would enjoy my work if I saw it printed or displayed somewhere though! I think my images can create a nice head space for people to drift into.
For me, being an artist is not neccesarily just about the pursuit of an aesthetic perfection (in fact it’s more about finding perfection in the imperfect) but can also be about a desire to transmit more and more effectively an honesty and truthfullness that really connects with people. This can be pleasant or repulsive. It is also about collecting skills and experiences and pushing the boundaries of the comfortable. I would like to transmit more rawness of feeling through my work in the future….

FAULT: What is your all time favourite album sleeve?

Martin: i love all the late sixties/early seventies psychedelic and prog record sleeves for bands like King Crimson and Yes but it’s so hard to choose any in particular! Michael English and Nigel Waymouth’s sixties work as Hapshash and the Coloured Coat is great as was the output of Martin Sharp.
If push came to shove,  I guess I’d say the cover for Jefferson Airplane’s “After Bathing At Baxter’s” is my favourite sleeve of all time,  it features a highly detailed drawing of a multi-coloured flying Victorian town House for crying out loud! I also love the photographic sleeve for Pink Floyd’s “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn”.

FAULT Are you inspired by music?

Martin: Music is probably THE inspiration behind what I do, ahead of the work of any fellow illustrators or artists. I’m somewhat obsessed with collecting vinyl and discovering new sounds to guide and drive the images i produce. The graphic poster art intrinsic to music history is also a constant source of inspiration and wonder for me.

FAULT: Is there anyone you would love to work with?

Martin: I would love to work with the Dutch Illustrator Zeloot as she is absolutely amazing, the visionary artist Natalia Natuka and also with any cool bands/artists. Id love to do something for The Black Angels, Wooden Shjips or The Brian Jonestown Massacre or for anyone that digs similar stuff.

FAULT: Do you have exhibitions to showcase your work?

Martin: I’ve exhibited work at Ishihara (an art event currently making waves in East london) and at The Secret Garden Party in Cambridgeshire. Its about time to show some of my new work however, so watch this space!

FAULT: Where can people see more of your stuff?

Martin: I regularly update my website and online design portfolio here – Also check out for news on future happenings!

FAULT: What are you currently working on? and what can we expect from you in 2011?

Martin: I’m working on the sleeve for an upcoming EP by a very talented alt country artist called Mountain Feet (you can hear his songs on myspace) and I’m doing an editorial piece for an interview with none other than Lou Reed which is pretty exciting (the article is focusing on his Metal Machine Music album). I’m working on some designs for this year’s Secret Garden Party and have also recently been asked to draft various tattoo designs, which is quite an honour.
I plan to organise a big exhibition in 2011 to showcase what I’ve been up to since graduation and I hope to just keep as creative as possible. I’m also in the process of setting up an online shop so be sure to check back for updates!

FAULT: What is your FAULT?

Martin: I think I can get a little TOO involved in my work sometimes, particularly during intensely creative spells when I tend to retreat into my own head, cut myself off from the rest of the world, barely sleep and probably drive my lovely girlfriend a bit loco in the process! It would be nice if I could turn off when I get like that but I guess my work would be very different  and might lose its sense of urgency….when I get the inspiration, the drawing has to happen there and then!