Oil painter inspires personal growth

Courtesy Photo
Ginny Butcher is seldom seen without her paint brushes or her portable plein easel and enjoys the life of both artist and mentor. 
By: 
Trish Popovitch
There was never any plan for Ginny Butcher to become a professional oil painter. And yet one day the former pastels’ teacher found herself vowing not to pick up another pastel until she had mastered the brush. 
 
Fifteen years later, with an established art business, numerous artistic accolades and hundreds of oil paintings under her belt, Butcher would be the first to admit, oil painting isn’t something you master over night, but it’s all part of the artistic process.
 
“When I was in high school I wanted to paint pictures for a living. I had the opportunity to get a full ride scholarship to the Rhode Island School of Design and I turned it down because everyone said you either had to do commercial art or teaching and I didn’t want to do either of those,” recalls Butcher. “But whether I was painting or not painting, my concept of myself was that I’m an artist. I always thought of myself as an artist.”
 
Butcher, a New Hampshire transplant, moved to Wyoming in 1980. She studied fine arts at Casper College and in 1996 began working as a graphic artist in Casper. Since 2001, Butcher has painted professionally, learning the many highs and lows of the professional creative life. Her work can be found in collections across the country, including the permanent collection of the Nicolaysen Art Museum in Casper. Butcher has won the Juror’s Choice Award for the Governor’s Capitol Art exhibition twice, and in 2011 she won the Wyoming Land Trust Purchase Award for her plein air painting. 
 
Armed with her portable plein air easel, Butcher likes to hop into her truck on ‘good light’ days and drive around the area looking for something to paint. Her adventures often end in a pasture full of personable cows or by the side of a stream; or even, as in the case of one outing last year, actually in the river.
 
“I really love to be outside when it’s nice out and I love painting, and it’s like, well, why not paint outside but by no means is it the only thing I do,” says Butcher. 
 
These days paintings outdoors is about a third of Butcher’s work time because despite the great light and scenery, the plein air equipment is heavy, and she doesn’t like to lug that stuff around anymore, she laughs.
Working mostly from home these days, Butcher enjoys standing just inside the doorway and looking out into the Wyoming expanse, a familiar motif in her paintings.  Presently, Butcher’s art is displayed throughout the upper areas of her home. This gallery-type feel is retained despite the fact that Butcher now rents out the top of her house to tourists and visiting artists. Butcher has since converted the basement of her ‘Old Highway’ home into a studio apartment for herself and husband Duane. 
 
Butcher’s workspace comprises a large corner of the studio apartment with a few well-worn brushes and her signature square panels strategically placed. Known for her pastoral renderings and nostalgic whimsy—cattle, teacups, fresh citrus fruit and bright mornings to name a few—it is a pleasant surprise to find skilled portraiture on the studio wall as well. 
 
“I feel like I flounder around somewhat and my subject seems to be changing like I did a lot of landscape, but I seem to be gravitating away from those. My actual focus is trying to get that sense of light and of life, that feeling of, whatever the scene is, you get a feeling from it,” explains Butcher. 
 
Having enjoyed drawing people in her youth, Butcher decided to see if the aptitude was still there. Figure drawing is something Butcher has minimized in her professional career. She hopes this year to spend a lot more time on sketching and painting the human form. In addition, Butcher will continue her 30-day painting challenges, which she finds very useful to her process and her business. 
 
The cultural shift away from real to virtual art galleries was a welcome change to Butcher, a self-confessed introvert. As traditional galleries closed or re-imagined their public image in the face of cyber competition, Butcher found herself focusing on her virtual sales. 
 
“I’m way more comfortable doing online marketing,” says Butcher. “There’s no middle man. I get to meet my collectors through e-mail and things like that, which isn’t as fun as being at a show and meeting people face to face, but it’s far more fun than just getting a check from a gallery and you have no idea who bought it, why they bought it or anything.” 
 
Choosing a creative career, as Butcher knows all too well, is precarious at best and help from established professionals can be a valuable tool. Butcher offers one-on-one mentoring and occasional classes in technique, but a lot of her wisdom is imparted for free through cyberspace. Sharing her experiences with a bevy of subscribers through her newsletter and social media page, Butcher illustrates the often neglected but so very necessary side of the art world — self promotion. 
 
Mentors are a growing trend in the creative world, she adds. The student teacher style relationship permits the transmission of artistic practices and allows new ideas to flourish. Many things influence Butcher’s art but the contribution of her mentor, western impressionist artist Sam Thiewes, has had a lasting impact. 
 
“Probably my biggest struggle has been in having confidence in myself and my ability to make something worth buying. Going to Sam really helped. I learned a lot about painting, but I think the most valuable part of it was the confidence that he had in me. He treated me like an equal, like an artist,” recalls Butcher. “That was probably the most valuable thing of all my time with him. Sometimes when I get discouraged I just think about what Sam said. There’s so much more to mentoring than an art lesson.”
 
By advising beginning professionals on things like sales and marketing as well as perspective and capturing light, Butcher hopes to encourage other professional artists in the area to follow suite, helping to build a robust and expansive artist community in the region. 
 
Butcher intends to devote 2017 to mentoring and practicing her craft with lots of “practice practice practice.” 
Ginny Butcher’s art can be found online at http://ginnybutcher.fineartstudioonline.com/
Follow this local artist on social media at https://www.facebook.com/GinnyButcherArt/

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