Monday, May 5, 2014

Andi Butler

 How did you become an artist? 
Everyone starts out as a creative risk taker. Babies and toddlers all start out with crayons and pencils, observing, imitating, grasping, drawing, coloring and creating, and eventually displaying our work in the 'Fridge Gallery.' Some kids stop when they hit grade school or maybe middle school, but I didn't. I was a huge fan of our local kids' programming (I grew up near Detroit, MI) and two of my favorites were Count Scary and Sir Graves Ghastly (they'd show a monster or b-movie, and have weird skits after commercials). They always had a 'ghoullery' of kids' art and being very driven, I would beg my mom to send them my stuff. Sometimes it would make it to their wall. That set me on a course to being a maker... I grew up in the seventies and eighties, so it wasn't called that then, but that's what I was. I learned to sew when I was nine, so I was doing what Molly Ringwald's character in Pretty in Pink was doing, waaaay before she was doing it...Coincidentally, her character's name was Andie, which I still think is funny...
Did you go to art school?
I went to college. I took art classes, but at the time, there were no degrees for what I wanted to do, which was a bit of everything, but not boring things. So I took creative classes at the local community colleges and just continued learning what I wanted. I'd just had just over a decade of learning what the public school wanted to teach me, now it was my turn to pick. I took photography, figure illustration, color, perspective, fashion merchandising, marketing, advertising, etc. I had a lot of fun with it! I still take classes online, because I'm a lifelong learner, but I would recommend to younger people: go to college and get the degree, not art school necessarily, but something so you can have an income to keep making...
Was there anyone that influenced you in becoming an artist?
Yes, my parents. Both of my parents are from England and grew up post WW2. My dad was pretty traditional when I was a kid, and regarding a career, he just didn't think a person could make money from drawings. This is ironic because he worked for Ford, and had to build from someone's design. The more he expressed that I needed a 'real' career (that was very non-traditional, both my parents wanted me to be independent financially) the more driven I became to show him I could create, and have a stable career. My mom was very much a maker, she made everything. At a young age she'd see something and then copy it because she couldn't afford to just buy it. I learned that from her, how to make my mark. 
Is there one or more artists that influenced your art?
I love, love, love Naiad and Walter Einsel. Their work pushed me very early. My mom hated to cook but for some reason had a lot of cookbooks. I don't know if it was because she wanted people to think she liked cooking, or, was hoping that she would find something she'd want to cook. We didn't have a lot of money and I loved to read and those were what were around the house. The Einsels had a lot of illustrations in cookbooks, recipe cards and 'homemaker' magazines (my mom also bought a lot of those, and still did not cook from them) and I loved looking at just all the detail and bits and pieces. They were just really fun! Charley Harper was also huge for me. I wish I'd saved all my dad's Ford Magazines, as Harper did a ton of illustrations for them! He created a lot of insects and animals, and I wanted to be an entomologist because of his drawings. I also loved Jim Flora. My parents didn't listen to jazz, but when we'd go to the record store, I always looked at those albums, sometimes there would be old ones still in print with his art. I also love the Provensens, Mary Blair, Good stuff! Contemporary artists I look to include Angie Lewis, Shaun Tan, Oliver Jeffers, Chris Reccardi, Isabelle Arsenault and Alison Jay.
What inspires you?
Living things, anything that's moving or growing. Humor, sadness, anger, if you think of a color when you think of a word, you can draw it... I also like to see what the youngsters are up to. They are so great with taking risks and ignoring someone who tells them they "shouldn't draw like that." My sons are the most inspiring. Our younger son has high functioning autism, our older son is nearly a genius. They take care of each other and solve conflicts and are funny and they're just brothers. I look at the adversity that they rise above, who couldn't be inspired by that? 
Would you like to share your process?
My process is very similar to other creatives: I'll get outside or read or bake something (in other words, do something not related to art, sometimes if I try to hard for an idea, I hit a wall), and the images come. I'll brain map a bit and do some word association with drawings. I'll expand on some of those, and flesh out the roughs in Adobe Illustrator. Some things get finished and some don't. The ones that don't, get filed away and I'll bring them out again when I need to doodle or work out more images.
Are there links where more of your work can be seen?
I post my work on my website ( and on my Instagram and Twitter feeds, and also Dribbble. I use 'andibutler' as the handle for all of them. I also have a Facebook public page. All links branch off from my website : )
What types of markets do you create art for?
I've created for toy companies, publishers, social expressions, apparel companies and even software icons! If you focus on making work that you like, and getting yourself out there, there are applications for your work you may not even be familiar with, but the companies will find you.
Do you do other things regarding art like teaching?
I volunteer, teaching art once a month at my sons' elementary. I make visual presentations in iMovie, and collaborate with two other design moms, who put together the lessons. 

Do you peruse other interests?
I cook and I bake. I love baking. The delicious reason would be because baking means pies and cookies and cake. But I actually really love the process of learning why something does what it does. Baking is all about chemical reactions. I like making the mistakes and realizing why it happened. I also garden and teach our sons how to grow food. There's nothing like something you grow yourself, and anyone can do it. This is where I get to explore my science side without the boring bits...
Where can your art be seen?
Is it on products, books, etc.? I've collaborated on a lot of books for Klutz, which is owned by Scholastic. I've created a lot of prints used on apparel for Sears, Kmart, Land's End, sneakers for a dance apparel company, baby gear for Fisher Price (I did a lot of the character development for their Rainforest Baby Gear line, the frog in their logo was from me), even temporary tattoos from Gumtoo!
What do you love best about what you do? 
I really enjoy the diversity of the work that I do. Even if I'm only working on surface design at one point, those patterns could have many different applications: giftwrap, stationery, apparel. Even in apparel, a print I create could be used for an all-over pattern on a dress, with a motif pulled out for an embroidery, appliqué or a screen for a tee. A coordinating print can be made for a pant or short. An entire collection of garments that would hang together can be based on one print. I also enjoy the problem solving. All creative work is really searching for a solution, although the 'problem' isn't negative, it's a question in need of an answer. Some of my favorite ways to work are with a restrictive palette, which often happens with printwork. If you're only allowed 4 spot colors on a print, you have to find new ways to use those colors so the motifs still make sense to the consumer.


  1. Great interview! Always interested in learning about other artists, and the steps they took along the way to get them where they are today!

  2. Awesome interview, Andi! So great to get to know you better - love your work! Thanks Patti for another super interview!

  3. Informative interview...amazing how the little things in our childhood can be such a big influence!