Flowers shine a light on energy concerns

This new image visually contrasts flowers and the aging technology of the electrical grid. These flowers, although thin and wiry like the transmission lines, are animated and lively. By comparison, the towers appear to be an ancient construct. As the window for preventing dramatic climate warming closes, the energy transmitted through the grid continues to be produced by a 63% blend of fossil fuel and nuclear, rather than environmentally friendly renewable sources.

The electric grid in its current state brings to mind the over year-long recovery of Puerto Rico from the destruction of category five Hurricane Maria. The island grid was almost totally destroyed. The power has not yet been restored to all of its citizens. Puerto Rico, vulnerable to storms, is also rich in renewable sources such as wind, solar, water, and biomass. Still, with our current laws, FEMA is required to restore power to match the destroyed system exactly as it was.  And so, the government is currently rebuilding the grid without updates. Tall towers are being built in inaccessible areas such as mountain tops in favor of more manageable local grids fueled by solar or wind. In addition, the importing of expensive fossil fuel needs to continue.

In spite of these FEMA requirements, philanthropists and private companies have come in to help. They donated roof-top solar systems, which form small renewable grids. This technology has helped some neighborhoods regain their electricity. While Puerto Rico’s energy problems and recovery are an extreme example of lack of economic and environmental foresight, I hope that we as a nation can learn from these missteps.

Do seahorses have horsepower?

Seahorses are magical fish that seemingly float up and down, back and forth, and gracefully twist and tumble through their watery world. These dancers of the sea achieve their swimming power from one constantly moving dorsal fin.

On a visit to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois, I observed these social creatures swimming in pairs. They gathered in groups, using their curly tails to cling to sea grass. Did you know that the male of the species carries the babies during gestation?

These beautiful creatures served as an inspiration for my latest digital collages. In the first print, I silhouetted the seahorses and then filled them with cars, packed in traffic. The name of the work, Horsepower, is a play on words between our vehicles, their carbon emissions, and the affected seahorses.

Like all marine life, seahorses are experiencing changes brought about by our warming planet. Much of the atmosphere’s heat and carbon dioxide are absorbed by the ocean like a sponge. Therefore, the climbing temperature is eroding their shallow tropical water habitat of sea grass and coral. In addition, excess carbon contributes to ocean acidification, which causes their bony structure to lose strength. Other hazards include: getting caught in fishing gear and being harvested for traditional medicine and souvenirs.

Celebrating marine life

sea horses
Betty Butler, Colorful Seahorses, 2018

In order to celebrate seahorses and all aquatic life, I was moved to create a companion art print that was fun and colorful. It uses many of the same graphic elements as the first digital collage. Rather than cars, I filled the silhouetted animals with bright colors. In a bit of good news, Starbucks and McDonald’s are intending to switch from single-use plastic to paper straws by 2020. This is because of consumer demand. It feels good to know that the public can make a difference to reduce the tide of our environmental problems.

Playful ocean art talks about climate change

ocean digital collage
Acidic Ocean, Betty Butler, Digital collage, 2017

From an emotional perspective, water can symbolize longing, as in being separated by large spans of ocean. It is a life force, stormy and threatening, as well as calming  and beautiful. From a scientific point of view, the oceans cover 70% of earth’s surface and contain roughly 97% of its water. The oceans supply much of the earth’s food and most of its oxygen through a population of tiny plants.

From an artistic point of view, I am moved to create work about water. In the image above, I layered ocean photography with playfully colored, digitally painted circles, which could suggest bubbles of gas dissolving in water. 

Saving our oceans

Sea water is slightly base as opposed to acidic. As man-made CO2 increases in the atmosphere, it is eventually deposited and dissolved in the ocean. It then skews the water toward a more acidic reading in a process called ocean acidification. As a result, shell-forming animals including corals, oysters, shrimp, lobster, many planktonic organisms, and even some fish species could be gravely affected.

While climate change is an urgent issue, time has not run out for action. Here is a list of ten things each of us can do to save the oceans. I plan to take as many of these actions as I can.

 

What I learned at my art opening

Exhibit at Creative Coworking

Artist Betty Butler's art opening
Betty Butler opening September 2016, Creative Coworking gallery space

One nice thing about having an art opening is what I learned from you, the viewer. Some people asked about my Photoshop techniques. Others observing the beach motif asked if I came from Florida. Some folks commented that the pleasing color, movement and the perfect placement of the shells evoked a pleasurable walk along the beach; the way one would hope such a walk, indeed life, could be. While I had never thought about my digital collages in exactly this way, your questions and comments gave me a better understanding of how people are seeing and interpreting them. Thanks to you and my friends at Creative Coworking.

Award in photography from Light Space & Time Gallery

I am pleased to announce an award in photography from the SeaScapes Art Exhibit sponsored by Light Space & Time Online Art Gallery, based in Jupiter Florida. The gallery invited artists to submit work that captured imagery relating to the sea in any way. The exhibit was juried by the accomplished photographer, John R. Math; hence I consider the award quite an honor. The exhibit runs through November 2016.

Art print Blue Beach
Award winner, Blue Beach, Photo collage

 

Artist Interview

A Dialogue with Creative Coworking

Art print of a digital collage of painting and photography
© Betty Butler, Starfish Portrait, Art Print, 12” x 12”

As we approach the opening of September 2016 Wine & Art Night at Creative Coworking, I would like to present a condensed version of the artist interview they did with me. I thought the questions were quite thoughtful, so here goes:

What sparked your initial interest in creating art?

I have been drawing and making things since I was young child. Luckily, I had parents that encouraged my creativity.

How would you describe your style?

For each art print, I blend my own painting and photography into a digital collage. In my current series, an imaginary beach is populated by starfish, sand dollars, sea urchins and seashells. In this invented world, vivid color drawn from my acrylic painting and resembling the northern lights, flows across these sea creatures.

Who are your influences?

Early in my college art education, I attended a large exhibit of the paper cut-out collages of French artist, Henri Matisse. I was struck by the bright color, movement and fanciful composition of his dancers, leaves and sea creatures. I also very much appreciate the close-up, stylized interpretations of nature by painter Georgia O’Keeffe.

What are your opinions on the Evanston/Chicago art community? How do you see your work in relation to this community?

The Evanston/Chicago art community is vibrant and varied. Additionally, I experience the Evanston art community in particular as friendly and welcoming of local talent. I am honored to be part of this community and exhibiting at Creative Coworking.                                                   

Do you have any upcoming exhibitions/plans/projects?

I would love to exhibit in a traditional or alternative health care center. Viewers have observed that my work has a calming and meditative quality.

Are there particular motifs/themes/symbols that you are fond of using in your work?

I am drawn to curvilinear forms found in nature. These can be seashells/waves, botanical forms or clouds. I often add a patterning motif to create movement and visual excitement. 

View the entire interview here.

Let’s collaborate

art print,beach art,colorful art,starfish,nature,photomontage
© Betty Butler, Blue Beach, Art Print, 12” x 12”

Creative minds working together remind me of the many starfish dancing on the beach among the brilliant colors in my new art print. Like the act of collaboration itself, this digital collage consists of several layers: photography, digital manipulation of acrylic painting and other effects. This past weekend I stopped by the July Art & Wine event at Creative Coworking, Evanston, IL. It is a friendly, supportive, shared office space, where there is always a rotating display of vibrant work by local artists. I am honored to be showing my art there in September.

Save the date: my art prints will be on display at Creative Coworking, Friday September 16, 2016!

Patterns in nature

© Betty Butler, Sea and Sky, Photo montage, patterns in nature
© Betty Butler, Sea and Sky, Photo montage

I am always searching for the unifying patterns in nature, whether it is the spiraling design of a seashell, the petals of a flower or magnificent formations of clouds. As an artist, I take joy in these visual treasures. In my art prints, I interpret the rhythms, colors and patterns in nature. I incorporate and organize these elements in pleasing, yet surprising ways.

Patterns in art

In my art print below, one can observe a galaxy of pattern on three starfish. They are nestled on an imagined beach among naturally purple seashells. In this invented world, bright colors, drawn from my acrylic painting, and resembling the northern lights, blend with these sea creatures.

© Betty Butler, Ocean Lights, art print,patterns in nature
© Betty Butler, Ocean Lights, art print of blended of painting and photography

 

 

Reflecting on my art

Digital collage of photography
Nautilus Beach, Digital collage, 18” x 18”

I have asked myself, why do I consistently use the rounded shapes of natural forms such as seashells and flowers as subject matter for my digital collages? In addition, I wonder why I am attracted to nature’s patterns in clouds and waves on water. I have concluded that not only is this subject matter beautiful, but it is calming and gives me peace. Of course, as an artist, I also seek an original perspective through color, line and form. Perhaps for me, combining both the meditative and the novel is the key to my motivation.