Nottingham-born, Jersey raised artist Jason Butler has been exhibiting his work since 1993 during which time he has been commissioned twice by the Government of Jersey to commemorate Royal visits and in 2009 was chosen to paint Colin Powell OBE for the Jersey Museum. He has been exhibited on three occasions in The National Portrait Gallery in London, and his work resides in private collections in the UK, Europe and America. We caught up with him to chat about how he remains motivated, the impact daily swimming has had on his recent work and where he goes for really great eggs.
On the coast road at Seymour. I get to walk my dog on the beach every day in an environment which is forever changing. The tides are constantly coming and going as are the oyster fishermen. Anyone who thinks they have a tough job should bear in mind those guys on a dark January morning!
My weekend ritual involves…
After walking the dog I will have a restful pot of coffee, checking the football news and making a rough plan for the day ahead. I cycle into work each day and go for my daily swim at Havre des Pas. It’s on the way to my studio so I have no excuse! On Saturdays I tend to make it an experimental day in the studio and try things out which may or may not work. I’ll have the football on the radio along with painting all day so it’s my perfect day really. I’m lucky enough to have a little gym in my studio so I do a workout and then I’m back home to my wife Oonagh. Sundays are pure rest days, apart from the swim with Oonagh. Maybe a breakfast somewhere and time at home reading and relaxing with a box set.
Any secret swimming spots?
Too many to mention! A daily swim has been an incredible reminder of what this little island has to offer in terms of natural beauty. La Coupe, Fliquet, Annport, the list goes on and on. I think many people during lockdown had a similar experience of realising just how lucky we are to have so many idyllic spots in Jersey. It’s been a bit of a game changer for me in wanting to get out to all the different bays and seeing bits of Jersey I had forgotten about. I’ve had so many memorable moments doing it.
Do you have a favourite beach?
Probably Portelet. It’s an amazing location any time of year. Having the pizza restaurant there is a real bonus. The walk down to the beach is an adventure in itself and it’s a great place to swim. As a family we had an amazing experience whilst eating pizza in the restaurant and seeing a pod of dolphins. My daughters were still very young at the time so it was very special.
Describe your perfect day spent on the island?
I’m lucky in that I get to do what I want to do every day so an average work day is perfect. The summer is best. A cycle into Havre Des Pas along the coast road, a swim and a dry out in the sun. A coffee and catch up with friends and then a day painting in my studio. I love the harbour side where my studio is situated.
Which restaurant would you recommend to someone visiting Jersey for the first time?
We live close to Seymour Inn so I would definitely recommend the food there. The best meal I’ve had on Jersey though would have to be when Oonagh and I stayed over at the Atlantic for New Year’s Eve a few years ago. The food was really, really good and it was a nice treat for us both. It came after I had put on a successful exhibition so we felt justified in indulging ourselves.
What about the best brunch on the island?
During the summer my friends and I love to go to The Good Egg after a swim at Havre Des Pas. Great food and lovely staff. Love a breakfast at Archirondel too. For coffee it’s got to be The Merchants in town- they do amazing coffee. To be honest, sitting at my studio window with a filter coffee overlooking the harbour is pretty perfect too.
Where on the island do you feel most inspired?
I’ve always loved the harbour-side and the fact it’s very industrial makes it feel different to anywhere else in Jersey. I feel very lucky to have been based there for the last 8 years and I grew up nearby so I feel a connection with it. Any coastal spot is inspiring, there are so many different elements. I’ve never been a landscape painter so it doesn’t necessarily inspire my work directly but it’s forever life affirming.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently developing a new body of work. Having spent the last several years concentrating on painting without the figure, I am enjoying working on figurative painting again. It feels like a new phase has begun so it’s an exciting time right now. I feel like I’m at the start of something which is both exciting and frightening which, as an artist, is exactly where I think I need to be. The joy of painting is that you are constantly learning and having to adapt to new ways of thinking and seeing the world. The sea swimming has definitely affected my thought-process so I am keen to reflect that in the work.
What was your first memory of Jersey?
Sunny days playing football on St.Brelade beach and praying for a knickerbocker glory ice cream after!
Describe Jersey in 3 words…
Surprising, beautiful, small!
Jason’s work and details about upcoming exhibitions can be found at jasonbutlerartist.com