Stepping outside the safe zone and into the depths of expression is a true sign of someone seeking their authentic-self. Hillary Butler is a Memphis-based artist that has done just this — stumbling on finding her creative flow in abstract fine art after a labyrinthine of a journey. A pioneer for the 9-5 alternative, a collector, and a painter driven by the advice to “do you!”. Her bold brush strokes in art and in life have the ability to light the way for those in need of some inspiration. Her vision is an encouraging source which reminds me to continue being bold, everyday, in my thoughts and dreams.
Hillary exudes The New Southern way of life and incorporates that into her artwork. Colorful and visionary. Bold and spirited. Her pieces are untraditional in color palette and visually interesting. Each one has the kind of texture that must be raised from a spirit oozing with joy for their craft. She sees the overall picture and focuses more on creating something beautiful than on playing it safe.
Any woman’s success of turning a dream into a lifestyle is moving, especially so for a woman like me that has quit her corporate job to establish a career sowed by creative hunger. Hillary is a piece of artistically-sound validation that it is not merely possible, but extremely fulfilling.
We were humbled to sit down with Hillary and get a taste of what else there is to her spunky, artistic self — other than paint in her hair.
Alyssa Rosenheck: Tell us about yourself.
Hillary Butler: Most days you can find me working away in the studio with my toddler studio assistant. A rambling journey took me to my career as an artist — it's an art major turned English major turned English teacher turned admin assistant turned graphic designer turned artist kinda journey. I quit my 9-5 in 2011 to start a career that allowed me to make a living working alongside my family, and I'm amazed most days that I get to live this life. I am a podcast junkie, lover of long dinners with good friends and Sunday afternoons with a good book. A really tall, handsome guy lives with me as well. I call him "hubs" and our son Cedar calls him "dad." David is also an artist. We live and work in Memphis, TN and life is very good.
AR: How are you modernizing / updating Southern style with your art?
HB: I love modernizing Southern style with lots of bold color. I’ve recently been pairing paintings with amazing frames like lucite boxes or big dramatic mats around framed paper pieces. People in the South are really excited about color these days and it's so exciting to see them get on board with my vision!
AR: What innovative trends are you seeing with Southern style across the country?
HB: Lots of pattern and bold color mixing play. It makes my heart so happy to see Southerners shift from "safer" traditional palettes into bold, visionary room designs.
AR: What are your favorite hometown design interior boutiques?
AR: Favorite shade of white and black paint color?
HB: Honest confession — my dining room is painted a super high gloss black. I just grabbed the first can of high gloss black I saw on the shelf at Home Depot and it turned out gorgeous! Same with white — I'm not afraid for each room to be a different shade of white. I'm an abstract painter. I just see the overall picture so I can’t remember the names of my favorite colors once they are on my wall.
AR: What’s your life motto?
HB: “She made beauty all around her. When she trod on mud, the mud was beautiful; when she ran in the rain, the rain was silver. When she picked up a toad—she had the strangest and, I thought, unchanciest love for all manner of brutes—the toad became beautiful.” — C.S Lewis, Til We Have Faces
AR: The key to making a house a home? What does a home need more of and less of?
HB: I read once that a home should not be decorated straight from a catalogue. It should take years to collect all your pieces of furniture and art — it should be a compilation of your travels and adventures. Your home should tell the story of your life. I think homes should also have more fingerprints and crumbs on the floor and less stuffiness. A home is lived in, not always ready for a magazine shoot!
AR: Life advice you’ve gotten that made all the difference both personally and professionally?
HB: Work for enough. Know what enough for you is and work for that. Don't keep striving for more, more, more just for the sake of more. It never comes.
AR: Design advice you’ve received that made all the difference?
HB: Do you! I love Iris Apfel's quote, "No one is original anymore." I've taken that to heart and tried to make our home truly us! Also — Isaac Mizrahi — "Pink is a neutral." I wholeheartedly agree!
AR: What’s the best piece of business advice you could provide for creative entrepreneurs starting out?
HB: Grow slow. A boutique owner once told me this when I first started my art business. I couldn't agree more. Good things take time!
AR: Who are some of your favorite artists / makers? What do you love about their work?
HB: Michele Armas — I just love that she just does her own thing and makes such gorgeous waves in the art world.
AR: My momma always said...
HB: Necessity is the mother of invention. Sometimes my best decorating ideas have come from being limited by budget.
AR: What’s your favorite housewarming gift?
HB: A piece of artwork or a bottle of champagne. You can't go wrong with either one!
AR: Tell us something we probably don’t know.
HB: I like to walk barefoot in cold grass on hot summer days. It's kind of a compulsion to take my shoes off and feel the grass on my feet.
AR: What’s your dream project / client?
HB: One day Johnathan Adler and I will sip lattes and plan client projects together. It's written on a goal sheet of mine somewhere!