Gill Button is a UK-based illustrator, who you might know as @buttonfruit from Instagram. Gill has a very unique and distinctive style, illustrating in a playful and painterly hand that makes high fashion feel real and accessible. Working mostly with oil paint, you can see the beauty in the brushstroke in Gill’s work, the texture, the movement and the emotion. This refreshing, contemporary approach has allowed her to work with clients such as Gucci and Dries Van Noten.
Ahead of the Fashion Illustration Gallery’s upcoming Art Fair, we had a chance to talk to Gill about finding inspiration in London, and the sensuality of painting.
Hi Gill, you have a distinctively unique style, how would you describe it to us and what are your inspirations behind it?
The way I work came about in a completely subconscious and organic way. After years of working as a commercial illustrator and feeling a little constrained by style, I began to just draw and paint with no consideration to how I wanted the end results to look. I love the sensuality of paint and I always like to be true to the materials I use, so I think this has a bearing on the way my work feels.
Have you always been interested in drawing? When did you realise you wanted to become an illustrator?
Yes, I drew a LOT as a child, especially at my grandparent’s house – they used to keep a stack of paper and felt tip pens for when we came to visit. I would just sit and draw and draw and draw, so much so that my grandmother used to get exasperated at how much paper I was using, so I had to draw new pictures on the back of my old ones… I would then cut those up and recreate them into collages. I basically just never stopped drawing, and when I was about 13 or 14 I realised that art was my future – that spiritually, no other life was really an option for me. The only real dilemma I had was whether to go to Art College to study painting or illustration, and I feel very fortunate now that I can inhabit both of these worlds. .
What are your favourite materials to use and why? How is this important to your work?
My two favourite mediums are oil on canvas and ink wash on paper. I absolutely love colour, and the feel of applying oil paint to canvas is just amazing to me. I find using a brush and ink to be so completely natural; if I haven’t used it in a while, it can feel like taking a deep breath.
You’ve recently exhibited work in the Jardin Du Palais Royal in Paris, can you tell us a bit more about this exhibition and the work you showed?
Yes, the opportunity came up for my Paris Gallery to take a new space in Le Jardin Du Palais Royal and of course they didn’t hesitate. One of the most beautiful locations in Paris, and definitely one of my favourites! On show is a new series of ink works based on Greta Garbo… I became fascinated with her back in January when I was researching Mata Hari for my Artist’s residency in Amsterdam – I repeatedly watched Greta Garbo’s portrayal of Mata Hari in the 1931 movie and was mesmerised.
You’re based in London, how does living and working in London inspire you? Where are some of your favourite places to visit?
There are always so many inspirational exhibitions and concerts to see, it truly is a cultural paradise. I used to have a studio space just off of Brick Lane, I loved to just wander around discovering quiet little streets, marvelling at all the beautiful, authentic little details on the 18th century houses… and then stumbling across Vintage shops off the beaten track, jam packed full of treasures. During the summer, walking through Hyde park to visit The Serpentine is truly something special.
You’re about to exhibit work at the Fashion Illustration Gallery’s Art Fair in London at the end of June, can you tell us a bit more about the event and work you’ll be showing?
FIGAF is a unique opportunity to view original works up close, by some of the world’s finest artists creating fashion illustration today… many of the artists will be present at the fair. On show will be the first series of works that I have made with watercolours. My works on paper have been exclusively monochromatic recently, so this marks an exciting new chapter for me. Because of this being a new approach, I wanted to have fresh visual stimuli, so I decided to take my paper and paints and head to Reykjavik. The colour palette in Iceland is so rich, and completely different to anywhere else I’ve seen, colours which I believe are echoing through the series of intimate portraits I created there.
What has been your favourite career moment so far? Do you have any illustration goals?
The most exciting moment for me was seeing my work in the windows of Dries Van Noten’s flagship store in Antwerp last August… I walked round a corner, saw the windows and was taken aback by the sheer scale – my A3 ink drawings were suddenly over three metres high and filling every window of the beautiful flat iron style building. The next day I visited his stunningly elegant store in Paris; for my portraits to be gazing over The Seine at Le Louvre was especially magical for me. I try not to have specific goals as I think this can interfere with the natural progression of my work. As long as I can carry on painting I will be fulfilled and very happy… if interesting, exciting clients come along then that’s a lovely bonus!
You have a huge following on Instagram, how has social media influenced the ways you produce and exhibit your work?
It doesn’t influence the way I produce work, but I do consider how paintings will appear on a small screen, so for example, sometimes I post a tight crop of a painting rather than showing the whole thing. In terms of how I exhibit, the galleries I work with have discovered me through Instagram, and so in this essence it has been paramount and I’m extremely appreciative of what the platform has done for me.
Would you have any advice for young illustrators and artists?
Find your own voice. Visiting exhibitions and looking at the work of other artists is of course crucial, but emulating other artists can only lead to disappointment all round.
GILL BUTTON IS THE ARTIST ILLUSTRATING GUCCI AND DRIES VAN NOTEN
Published on 29 June 2017
Words Kesia Inkersole