© The Chris Butler Collection 2016. Proudly created with Wix.com

  • w-facebook
  • Twitter Clean
  • w-flickr

Chris, born and raised on a farm in Idaho, loved drawing from the moment that he had any capability of recall or what world he was in. Fortunately, his family never viewed his dream to become an artist as some sort of unrealistic joke.  With his parents and four brothers encouragement, he left the homestead to attend the College of Southern Idaho and then further honed his skills at Utah Sate University.  After completing school in 1974, Chris loaded a 67’ Chevy Impala with nothing more than a stack of artwork, a few bits of clothing, very little cash, high hopes and a stomach full of butterflies. He then headed west with Los Angeles circled on a road map. To this day, he says it was one of the most frightening, and at times he thought “foolish,” things he’s ever done in his life.  And what did he find once he reached California?  The beach, freeways wider than he’d ever seen before, sleepless nights from the noise and--rejection!  Still, and through pride and stubbornness, he refused give up, even if it meant residing in the lowest of dwellings.  He continued to pound the streets of L.A. for months and his persistence never wavered, and it paid off when he finally caught the attention of an Art Director at Grey Advertising by the name of Leland Miyawaki. Leland instantly saw the potential in Chris’s work, so he contracted him to his first commission as an illustrator, which was to create a poster for Honda Motorcycles.  He'd finally gotten his first break, and he intended to run with it--and he did. So much so that within the next  two years Chris had quickly established a reputation for being one of the best and most reliable illustrators on the West Coast.  His range of talent had suddenly extended from pen & ink, to oils, and mixed media to convey humor, drama, and most anything in between. Whatever they needed, he could do.  His clients list suddenly grew to include the likes of the Bank of America and United, PSA and Continental  Airlines, Hollywood Park, Busch Bird Sanctuary, LA Magazine and NBC Television.  He was living the dream. 

 

Chris, in roughly 1977, then happened onto a style of art that caught his eye while scanning an ancient Illustrators Annual, a style that was produced through the manipulation of paper.  It intrigued him so much that he decided to take another chance.  He then labored (even through many all-nighter's, if necessary) to find a way to further develop a fresh and exciting version of the style. He viewed it as a challenge to teach himself how to push the limits of the pulps properties and exact the engineering needed to make the cuts, folds and scores work. It was a bold move, on his part, considering that he was already established and had little need for more recognition.  Still, he couldn't resist and, again, through that same stubbornness, he trudged on in an attempt to master the concept. Eventually, he did and had finally developed something special, one that immediately became another of Chris’s signature styles: Paper Sculpture. The venture was so successful that he soon became noted for being one of the best at a technique that very few had the patience to master. 

 

Chris, by 1981, and through multiple styles, had finally established nationwide recognition in the advertising and publishing world and soon found himself being commissioned by agencies, corporations and publishers from as far away as New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and even Japan and Australia.  His client list, too, suddenly grew to be just as expansive, as in; the NFL, Warner Brother Records--Playgirl, TRUE and HOT ROD Magazine--TOYOTA, DATSON (now NISSAN) motor companies--McDonald's, Burger Chef, Magic Pan and Levy's Restaurants --Budweiser, Coors, Natural Lite and Old Style Brewing Company--CBS Television, American Express--and Running Press, Viking and Penquin Books--and Disney, Lloyds Bank, Great West Savings, AVCO Finance, Invesco, Merill Lynch, the Olympic Games, Hilton Hotels, WYLE Laboratories, Scholastic Publishing, the Chicago White Sox and endless others.  His choice of careers now seemed almost unimaginable to him because he was producing art to, as he had always stressed, "PROMOTE my client's product or service--otherwise, I'm not doing my job."  He was now doing works for museums, magazines, aquariums, zoos and corporations, all of which were appearing in poster, print, display and billboard form.  As he once said, "Yeah, all those ways of publishing were the best gallery any artist could possibly ever ask for, especially if it was produced nationally."  It was obvious that the business was no longer just regional.  It was worldwide!  And, too, there was no longer a need to maintain residency in L.A., even though he'd had great times, but he still had an urge to make another bold move.

 

Chris then decided to make another road-trip and did so through the northeast to see if there was a place to relocate to that may resemble old and familiar territory, the sort that could somewhat bring back memories of his rural youth, and he soon found it in Boulder, Colorado.  And within a month, Chris also met  brilliant photographer.  Chris had maintained for years that skillful photography would always be a critical aspect of his Paper Sculpture works, because it was highly important to capture the shadows that inevitably made the final image dance. And he found the best he'd ever worked with in Bill Ervin. When asked about his 30 year relationship with Bill, Chris reflects, “A person couldn't create a fine paper sculpture without the proper tools!  And, believe me, Bill was not only a dear friend, but one of the most important tools I ever had!”  Through Bill’s expertise and knowledge of lighting, multiple exposures and special effects, Chris and he were able to elevate his sculptures to new levels. A dolphin could rise to extreme heights through 13 exposures, or movement could come to a carousel horse, or stars and eyes could twinkle, or lightning could flashes, or fish could literally swim through bubbles, or or even the Devil find himself engulfed in flames.  It was a perfect match and then an even better one was soon to come in 1983 when he met a beautiful woman that eventually became the love of his life, Krista, to whom he was happily married to for 26 years.  She was his biggest fan!  But he was never prepared for what he was about to experience, something that was the biggest blow that a man could ever take in life when his sweet Krista was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer.  "Yeah, the 5 years that followed were very very long," he once quietly said, "but she was an impressive fighter."  Still, after a lengthy battle with the disease, the inevitable happened.  She died in 2009.  He was crushed and felt beyond lost and alone for an extensive period of time.  Yet he began to heal because she'd left behind the best gift from her ever; his daughter Kassi, and to this day, he says, "When asked what my best piece of work is, I don't even hesitate and reply, 'That one's easy!  No doubt, hand's down, Kassi is my true masterpiece!'" 

Chris, now 66 years old, says, "Ah, yes, wonderful years, they were, but now, sadly, they're as deep into the past as the payphone.  Actually, I could see the end coming about 10 years ago when the industry was introduced to computer graphics and photo-shop.  The writing was on the wall; my and many other terrific illustrator days were done.  Best explained, over those years, the phone started to ring maybe only once a month, if I was lucky, and eventually everything came to a complete halt, including for the one that I've always admired the most, the great movie poster artist, Drew Struzan.  Hey, when things started to hit the skids for HIM, I knew full that it had for ALL of us.  But I'm not bitter.  I had a fantastic run.  Timing was everything and the timing and demand, way back then, was ideal for the traditional artist.  Now the timing is ideal for the computer nerds--of which I've become one, but no longer to produce art.  The fact is, I haven't completed a sketch in well over 9 years.  But I've fallen love with something that is just as creative.  Writing!  And I HAVE completed 3 books that I'm now trying to get published.  Let's just say that I've replaced the paint on my pallet with WORDS."