#GramGen is a series profiling the most radical characters in youth culture, who continue to shape trend behavior and spark controversy through their avant fashion sense and candid social media personalities.
Meet Butler, the 22 year-old artist illustrating the female body with fine lines and aesthetic clarity. His inspiration for drawing women in their most natural form (usually nude or half-nude) began at a young age — his mother was a nurse, and his family’s “mini library” was filled with anatomy books, giving him an early understanding of the body and how it works. Butler’s portrayal of women focuses on the purposeful removal of excess parts, offering a minimalistic view of the female body.
While the London-based artist recalls always having a “desire to create beauty,” his rise to Instagram fame took place just over two years ago when a friend convinced him to post an image of a restaurant napkin he had doodled on.
We caught up with Butler to discuss the designers who inspire his work, his introduction to the IG “influencer” world, and the NSFW pieces he keeps away from the social media spotlight.
How old are you?
I am 22 years old.
Where are you from and where are you currently based?
I’m Nigerian by birth, and I currently live in South London.
At what age did you begin pursuing art?
I have always been doing some form of visual art for as long as I can remember, there was always a desire to create beauty – I’m still figuring out where the urge comes from.
At what point in your career did you start sharing your work on Instagram?
Two and a half years ago. I doodled on a restaurant napkin after a night out and a friend convinced me to post it — went somewhat viral, and I haven’t stopped ever since.
A lot of your recent work on IG highlights the female body — what’s your inspiration?
Very early inspiration was anatomy books – my mother is a nurse, and we had a mini library. I was always looking at stuff I probably shouldn’t have been looking at at that age, but it taught me how our bodies worked.
Drawing women in particular originated from the early days of secondary school where if you wanted to get the attention of the most beautiful girl in class, you had to draw her and you dare not mess up any of her facial features. It rarely ever worked and you always had to do multiple ones, everything was PG-13 just to clarify.
Are there any artists whose work has inspired or influenced your own?
Designers have been more of an influence, I really admire the work of the Bauhaus. They taught me the importance of reduction, keeping everything that is essential and removing anything that’s not – I apply that ethos to my work.
Do you share all of your pieces on IG, or do you keep certain pieces solely for shows and exhibitions?
I would probably get in trouble if I shared everything. I have done some NSFW pieces and I’m aware that a lot of young artists follow me, I don’t want to pass along the wrong idea; objectification of women for example. I try to find the balance between expressing myself and highlighting the importance of skill first.
You’ve created work for brands like Adidas and Beats by Dre. Does Instagram play a role in connecting you with brands and opportunities?
I had no idea that the “influencer” world existed when I started sharing my work. I remember my first gift from Adidas being a pair of OG Stan Smiths, they were big at that time – Phoebe Philo to Raf being regular wearers of them. It totally blew my mind that I had free access to that product and more because people find my work aesthetically pleasing. Artists don’t really make a lot of money in their early days, connecting with brands like Adidas and Beats helped me a lot in elevating my career to where it is now.
There’s a minimalistic look to your work — would you say this is reflective of your personal style?
It certainly is, it comes from my mother (again..). She owned a pharmacy, and I used to go there after school because there was no one to look after me at home. I also used to sleep at the hospital while she did night shifts. Being exposed to white clinical environments as a young boy and studying the Bauhaus as a teenager helped shape my personality and work to what it is today.
Did you see an immediate difference in your recognition as an artist when you started sharing pieces on IG?
Instagram accelerated my status as an artist, I wasn’t accepting of it at first because I believed that I had to go to art school first to be branded an artist, obviously, the times have changed.
You recently published a book, Just Drawings featuring over 200 of your own prints — how did you decide which pieces to include?
The book Just Drawings is self-published, so it was easier following my own intuition and just publishing want I wanted and not pieces that would get the most attention, making it an easy coffee table read and there aren’t things jumping out at you, you may pre-order here.
What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
I’m working on something exciting with MTV VMA’s in London this November, I designed the invitation cards for the show already and working on more stuff which I can’t share yet. I also have my 7th solo exhibition coming soon, titled “The Space Between Us” which tackles race identity in modern times.
For more artists making it big on IG, meet @hey_reilly, the pop artist taking over IG with designer parodies.