Bay area native, Blake Buttram, is a self-taught artist exploring many different creative outlets, making him a true jack of all trades. He paints to reveal his personal perspective, evoking emotion out of his viewer. Blake’s energy is inspiring as he not only attempts to individually grow as an artist but hopes to grow his community through starting a non-profit art program one day.
What inspired and motivated you to become an artist?
Ever since I could remember, even before I knew art as a form of expression, I have always been creative. You name it, from taking scrap cardboard around the house and making figures to drawing any and everything I saw. It was something I enjoyed doing that helped to pass the time.
Along the way, I have had a lot of inspiration that has driven me to be where I am today. Here are the two major moments that were the most pivotal:
My grandmother was very ill from cancer when I was around 5 or 6 (At the time I didn’t grasp the severity of cancer), and she asked all her grandchildren (6 or 7 of us) to accompany her to the dollar store. When we arrived, she told us all that we had $5 each to spend as we wished. I was one of the younger kids with no clue of what I wanted to buy. For me, you might as well have told me that I had all the money in the world. So I set back waiting, looking to see what everyone else would purchase with their portions. Most purchased candy, soda, snacks, etc. So naturally, I went to do the same thing. As I began, my grandmother stopped me and said, “Blake, put that back! You are going to be an artist! You can get junk food anytime. Buy things that you can be creative with. Be great!”
The other moment was from a close friend, my brother, named Greg. We used to write music together, and while most would write lyrics in their phones at this time, I still preferred the raw feeling of writing on paper. It was more intimate for me. When I would purchase notebooks, I’d always get blank covers so that I could create something original that would inspire me to write. One day Greg looked at the collage of thoughts that drew on the cover and said, “You should start painting!”. I laughed thinking that the idea was so absurd. “I have never painted before”, I responded. He began to explain how when I put my mind to things, I always figure out how to do it. “If you want to do it, then you will do it.”
These are the most memorable moments that helped push me toward doing what I absolutely love doing.
Can you give us a walk through of your creative process?
I can’t say that I have a real creative process. Life is my muse. The most random things inspire me to create. From people-watching and seeing them in their natural element, to spending hours reading random things on the internet. I like to let my mind wander as far as it will take me. Some artists are just able to look at their surface and begin. I create mentally first. I sit and think of hundreds of concepts. If you could look into my mind, I’d like to think it would look like a scene from the movie Minority Report, sifting through different screens trying to solve a problem. Once I’ve locked on to that concept, next is figuring out how to translate that thought in a way that everyone else can see my crazy lol. I do this by sketching in Photoshop, piecing together different elements, or sketching in my iPad and then adding colors to it in Photoshop to get a general sense of how it would look before I paint.
What stories or messages do you wish to tell through your creations?
One message I want to convey is natural beauty. Being comfortable with who you are. It wasn’t until I started painting that I truly began to appreciate the differences in people. The different body shapes and distinctive facial features some consider to be so-called “imperfections”. The things people tend to hate, I love. It creates so much character or depth when the lighting is correct. We spend so much time critiquing one another or even ourselves that we lose the true essence of what beauty is. Everyone wants to be the same now. Don’t get me wrong, I support any person’s decision to change or correct anything their heart desires. I just love to see people as they are. It tells such a beautiful story without words, a silent film if you will.
Another thing for me is to simply challenge conventional ways of viewing and thinking. How can I take a common concept like the cup being half full or half empty dichotomy and change your perception. For example, typically seeing the cup half full shows optimism. Viewing the cup half empty shows a more pessimistic mindset. When the question was asked to me, I asked, “Was the water poured into the cup, or out of the cup?”. The person didn’t understand the reason for my question. In my opinion, looking at things plainly and out of context is why our world has so many misunderstandings. We don’t go further to understand what has happened before we provide our opinion. Perspective is everything and my goal is to help my viewers see things differently. An artistic devil’s advocate.
How has your work evolved over time?
When I began I was a lot more critical of my work and I doubted my abilities daily. I placed too much importance on what I thought people would think about what I put out. As I began to put out more content, I received so many encouraging words from people all over the world. It’s pretty ironic how inspired I get from being told that I am inspirational.
I also learned the value of consistency. Not inconsistent with regards to creating new content for social media platforms, but more so to better develop my craft. It’s so easy to get distracted, too tired, or lack the motivation to create. So I have to push myself to get in my studio on my set days and do something. There’s always so much to do. So organizing my time, figuring out what is needed to be done, and executing it is critical.
Lastly, and most importantly, my work ethic has changed drastically. Being complacent is a thing of the past. What’s next? Is always the question on my mind. I am only as good as the last thing that I have created. My work has evolved into a business. Initially, it was just self-exploration. It has now grown into providing visual queues for others to create conversations in the comfort of their own homes when they acquire a piece or view my work online.
Do you have any particular goals for the future, what’s next?
Yes, I definitely do. In an effort to keep this interview concise, I’ll only share a few.
Galleries in the beginning of my career were not something that I strived for. I wanted to improve my craft and get to know myself as an artist. As I start to find my niche, I am ready to explore that option more.
Accessibility is important to me. I would like to create a commercial line of art for major retail locations. In the past when I would go look for decor for my home it would always be generic abstract art that I saw. Nothing seemed to really resonate with me. I would like to provide greater access for customers that may not necessarily come across my website. I also hope to create an avenue for other artists to do the same thing.
Eventually, I want a non-profit that provides kids a safe space to paint in. While growing up there were not many free programs for kids to get involved in within my community (or at least they were not readily accessible). I would like to give them easier access to express themselves. For me, it’s not about trying to get children to become artists or follow in my footsteps. It’s more about allowing them to explore their own creativity. Be kids! Be messy! Most importantly, have fun with their peers.
FRONTRUNNER online forum: @itsjustblake