Geoffrey Butler

Mark Lucas
PLEIN AIR PAINTER
Photographs by Geoffrey Butler
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I just remember sitting in my office, looking out the window being like, Oh my god, it's so beautiful out there. And I hit 40, and I saw the future. I could do this for 30 more years, make pretty good money, have a bigger truck, a nicer house. And then what? Then we're 70 and our lives are winding down. That's when I realized, I can't do this. This is the wrong thing to be doing. Yes, I get to be creative but that's not the best way to fill that need. And I knew this, but I finally acted on it at 40.
I knew at 16 years old I wanted to paint. I went to the National Gallery of Canada and had such an emotional response to this piece of art. Literally, tears start coming. I knew it was important to me; other people didn't have that kind of connection.

I remember studying for biology exams and really struggling. And as a release, I would do little copies of Van Gogh paintings. And I'm like, this one thing is a struggle, and this other thing is a release. I should probably do the release thing; relieve the pressure instead of adding to it. So I always knew this was important, to be a painter. It's subtle, but I think everyone has that, if they listen. And that was my thing.
What got me into this was Impressionism; not literally capturing what you see, but what your impression of the scene is. Discarding the things that aren’t interesting and adding things that are. Make it a painting and not a picture. Simplified is always better, but it's not easy to do. It takes a long time to retrain the brain to change the colour of something, to change the distance. Learning how to mix colours takes five years; literally doing it every day for five years.
I’m getting some dual sport bikes as part of the painting process; this is my new thing right now. When I'm painting and taking the van out or the truck, accessibility is an issue. Trails are limiting by how far you can go, and lugging stuff around by hand is kind of lame. This is a new chapter, to be able to access a lot of isolated areas. I can pack all my stuff in, into the backpack and zip away. So I need to buy some tools and strip the bikes down and go to work on some electrical bits. I'm hoping to be on the road maybe in a week or two.
I hope there's positive change from all of this. What do you want to spend your time doing? I think the Buddhist religion really captures that idea: every breath is one breath closer to the last. We have 20 summers left to enjoy; why are you wasting this one? Our culture doesn't think about that at all. I hate that #blessed bullshit, but I wake up every day so incredibly thankful. I figured out what's important to me. It's about the present moment. It’s about experiences. I'm very happy.
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