My father told me I had to meet him. When I first heard his last name was Butler, I already felt disposed to liking him, because, of course, he bore the name of one of the most awesome fictional families to ever come out of an author’s brain: the Fowl bodyguards. (Reference: Artemis Fowl series, by Eoin Colfer.)
I’d never been to Trasacco before, so my initial reaction when we entered those gates was, “Ei! When did we leave Ghana?” But as my best friend Ari would say, you’re still in Ghana if you can see the potholes. (Ha! As if I would have been paying attention to POTHOLES.)
Victor Butler was wearing an apron when we got in. Yet, there was not even a speck of paint on his clothes or form, despite what he told us: that he’d been at work since 5am (and it was about 4pm when we arrived). He uses his garage as his studio, and even that is spectacularly neat. Not to mention that all his works-in-progress rock!
If I had an imagination like his…well, I’d be as rich as him! He has an extraordinary way of putting his ideas accurately onto the canvas, whether that idea is an image, concept, situation, story or even illusion. You’d know it from the moment he tells you the title of a painting that it could never possibly have been a misnomer. The title flows with the image so accurately that if you were confused before, you’d wonder at your own slowness. I may be glorifying just a tiny bit. Only small.
Most of his works I saw were in oil. He works on dozens at a time, but I was informed that many of the ones I saw were in the same collection. Because oil takes a long time to dry, he has all these paintings hung up along the walls of his cool, air-conditioned house. As I looked around at each one of them, in several of the rooms in the house, I was shocked to hear him inform me that many of them were, in fact, unfinished. Translation of what was going on in my head: “EH? If these are unfinished, then when they are finalized di33r, what will they look like?” In the end, there were very few finished works I saw, but even those rocked my world pretty hard.
For the particular collection I saw most of, the focus seemed to be on people and figures. He has a unique style of drawing people. I suspect that if I saw a figure drawing like that in any gallery, I’d know it was him.
Okay, now let me describe some of the illusions in his paintings:
- There’s a painting of a woman in an alley. Her head is inclined. Now most of the usual face optical illusions seen in paintings are of the eye following you. But this painting isn’t JUST of the eye following you. When you stand at its extreme right, it appears as if her eyes are squinting at you,almost closed. As you move closer to the center, it’s more like she’s looking at you full-on, with eyes opened to normal size. And still, when you move further to the extreme left of the painting, it’s as if she’s looking at you through half-lidded eyes. Get it? While you’re moving around the woman, her eyes are opening and closing.
- There’s a painting of a man and woman hugging and a child at the bottom right corner of the frame. From a distance away from the painting, he looks sad. When you come closer, about a meter away from the painting, suddenly, he’s smiling at you. Apparently, the trick is a window above the boy that goes almost unnoticed when you’re far from the painting. But when you come closer, the light from the window plays on the boy’s face differently, and emphasizes the curves on his lips and face, making him look happy.
- There’s a painting on the part of the wall that is depressed, and there’s a shadow on the painted figure’s face. You’d think it’s a shadow from the wall, because the tones are EXACTLY RIGHT…until you see the actual shadow from the wall. That is when you realize that the shadow you saw before was painted on, three-dimensionally, because they carefully follow the curves of the person’s face. If it was a wall shadow, it’d be straight, two-dimensional, no curve no bend.
I asked Mr. Butler if he knew the effect his paintings were going to have beforehand, or if they just incidentally occurred. His response was that he knew what he wanted to achieve with his art way before painting them. It’s one thing to know what result you’d like, but another thing entirely to actually achieve it, and for this feat, kudos to him!
Another thing I inquired of Victor Butler was how often he worked on his art. He tries to do it everyday, but of course, he must make time for his hobbies. Now one thing I learnt of him and found quite interesting was that he studied basically his whole academic life to be a doctor, and somehow, someway, he ended up as an artist. How indeed? And this leads me to the introduction of his hobbies: engineering and software design. Did he study these things academically? No. Is he amazing at them anyway? Yes.
I am telling you, the guy is a downright G! He writes programs FOR FUN! He’s a gosh-darn technological genius. This never truly hit me until we went outside. That was hen he started playing music from his iPhone, and suddenly, the sound was all around us. “Where is the sound coming from?” I wondered. And all he did was point up with both his index fingers, to either side of the wall above his back door. Guess what I saw? You can’t.
PVC pipes. The sound was coming from PVC pipes. And not only from those tiny pipe joints up there. Oh no. There were PVC cylinders on either side of the house, composed of a complex assembly of different parts of what I assume was an old, defunct pipe. Some were even painted. My goodness, I am not talking about any yawa thing a street engineer can do. I am talking full-blast, functional outdoor speakers, which can make Beyonce’s voice sound even sexier (he was playing Sweet Dreams) in the comfort of your back garden, complete with sub-woofers and whatnot. He asked me this question: “Has it ever sounded so good?” It had not.
Allow me to put it simply: Victor Butler created his own speakers, from scratch, using PVC pipes. Hello! Can I get a little excitement over here? Am I the only one who thinks this is super ultra mega cool? Like, seriously? According to him, he’d been working on this concept for 10 years, approximately, and he finally got it right. Here’s the story behind their construction: he bought speakers. He didn’t like the sound. So he decided to make his own. He was explaining the mechanics to me, saying something about precision to 4 decimal places, but as yet, I don’t speak fluent tech so…
How about an overview of this man’s profession and occupations? He studied his whole significant academic life to be a doctor, and found himself painting. Aside from that, without any formal education with these things, writes programs and builds devices. Could this possibly make less sense? Yes! He did 11 O level subjects, because he neither wanted to be exclusively a science student or an arts student. And he passed. Now, someone, please explain to me why I’m struggling with nine.
It’s geniuses like this who rock my world and make me feel absolutely useless at the same time. I mean. He memorized the play Macbeth just for fun so he could scare the seniors in his dorm room. He started reciting the play the night before the exam and while the others were commenting on how much he had studied, he’s all like yeah, well I don’t do literature. Just to prove his story to me and my brother, he quoted some lines from Act 3 then and there for us. And he did 5 A level subjects.
Victor Butler is some sort of genius. I don’t remember the last person I felt such admiration for who’s not — you know — fictional.