Cityscapes and a Rock Star – Geoff Butterworth Resident Artist

Geoff Butterworth
Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson in action

It is now five years since I last exhibited at Towneley Hall, Burnley and to be asked to stage another exhibition is quite an honour.

I had my 30th anniversary exhibition there in September 2010, almost to the day when I started as a self-employed artist back in 1980. I threw everything at it to show all of my work, almost a hundred paintings went up on the walls, and the visitors’ book filled up with great comments. This time, though, the exhibition is staged in their new dedicated watercolour gallery, which is a smaller space, so we are not lugging a hundred paintings across this time.

The theme was intended to be the Rome paintings that I worked on over the last couple of years and which featured recently in The Art of Watercolour magazine. Several of them sold when I first showed them so the collection has been added to recently by two that I completed at the recent pop-up gallery that I had in Rochdale.

With more paintings than I know what to do with (talk about prolific), staging another exhibition was a matter of picking and choosing, so between me and the exhibition staff at Towneley Hall we have come up with a great mix of paintings which I can honestly say are the best I have. The theme of city life carries on to my home area of Manchester where I have worked for many years. During the early 90s I sold a great deal of work at Platform One Gallery just off Deansgate, and the Manchester streets were one of my favourite subjects. Some of these city paintings are a technical nightmare and one of the hardest paintings was of the Beetham Tower, serving as a backdrop through the foreground of ironwork walkways from one block of flats to another. The details of Deansgate station draw your eye into it all.

If city paintings are a bit much then the theme mellows slightly to a collection watercolours of the coast and the sea. One of my latest paintings shows the distant pier at Lytham St Annes shining in the sun, set against a stormy sky and reflected in the watery sands.

The coast of Yorkshire features in several watercolours with Filey and Whitby as subjects. It would be great to get back there again and perhaps when all this exhibition work is over we might get
a week off and go somewhere, by that time I hope it isn’t snowing!

Anyway, it’s nice to be busy and exhibitions are my mainstay as so many galleries have closed down, and working on my own has been the watchword for quite a while now. Self-promotion can have its benefits and the cost of wall space can eat into your profits to a large extent. This Towneley exhibition will be a rest after the full-on graft of the pop-up gallery, something to look forward to.

Let’s move on now to a recent surge of interest in some work from the past. The recent pop-up allowed me to show some paintings from way back and it is a fact that you can never say when a painting will sell, some right away, some maybe never, but one thing is true; there is someone out there waiting for that very one.

You just have to get them both in the same room. Recently though, the interest is on space exploration with Pluto rising in focus thanks to the incredible images transmitted from the Voyager satellite.

Fifty years ago the Apollo space programme achieved the impossible or very near. If man can walk on the Moon then I can sell a painting of it. I set out to paint that very subject back in 2000 and I
produced several acrylics of the subject. Several of them did sell but there are always ones that just defy purchase, until that certain person walks in and goes: “Wow! I want it.”

In the last couple of weeks that happened, twice. Out of three paintings two are sold and the other, well let’s give that an airing.

I have long been a fan of the group Jethro Tull and have seen them in concert several times. Their early albums went gold and sold in their millions. They were always a live band, constantly touring and playing to cheering fans. Ian Anderson fronted the group and wrote all the songs; in fact many people thought that he was called Jethro Tull.

Truth is, that guy invented an agricultural seed drill in the 1700s and he probably didn’t play the flute anyway. I had taken some photos at one of those early concerts at the Manchester Apollo (This has an uncanny link with the earlier subjects, don’t you think…) Some of these were so good that I decided to have a go at painting them, so I did.

These two are the result, both acrylic on canvas and propped up in my pop-up gallery in Rochdale recently. Sitting in the window, so many people did a double take or tripped back and walked in to look at them, in fact nearly everyone did. It just shows how popular they were.

Many people enquired about the price and I just said that they were not for sale. After a while I got cheesed off with being asked and so I said that I might get them copied and produce a print of them and see how it goes.

Well now I have two beautiful canvas copies done and the two originals, and the exhibition has ended. You can’t win ‘em all, can you? Well if anyone is interested then get in touch. Tull fans are great guys.

As I sign off and climb back into my studio to start on the mountain of commissions maybe a CD or two will spur me on. How’s about ‘Minstrel in the Gallery…’ Jethro Tull of course.

The Towneley Hall Exhibition runs from 1 August to 12 September.

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