SELF-taught artist Samira Butt (51) studied art at high school but only really explored her passion and talent fully when she found it helped boost her mental health. She now runs art workshops for school and community groups.
Q: When did you realise you had a passion for art? Have you always been creative?
A: Both of my parents were creative. My father loved art and studied it, eventually becoming quite a talented artist. Later on, he stopped pursuing it further due to other life commitments which took away most of his time.
My mother was great at crafting dolls, designing and sewing clothes for us, she taught us how to make jewellery from paper and broken bangles, how to embroider handkerchiefs and pillowcases.
They both fostered our creativity, so I suppose I had a passion for art from a young age.
Q: Can you tell us about how your interest developed through school, college and further training?
A: During school, I was more focused on getting good grades in my other core subjects than developing my interest in art.
Art was seen more as a hobby than something that would provide you with a good income.
Although I did study art at school, I felt it was not taken seriously, I did not learn much about it, we were very much left to our own devices and therefore, after school, I did not pursue art as a career, I decided to study business at college instead.
Q: What other areas are you interested in?
A:?I have just started experimenting with pencil drawings. I find them very challenging, which is why I decided to practise using them. I am always exploring new styles and techniques.
I have also been exploring Indian folk art, which I enjoy. Coming from an Indian/Pakistani background, I can relate to it.
Q: Are there any artists or styles that have particularly inspired your work?
A: The first person to inspire me to paint was (TV artist and tutor) Bob Ross. It would have been awesome to have him as my teacher as a child.
When I first saw him paint, he made it look so easy that I was motivated to try it out. My very first painting as an adult was using children’s paint brushes and the inside of a cereal box.
From there I started researching other artists and fell in love with Leonid Afremov, an impressionist artist who used a palette knife to paint beautiful bold coloured paintings. I love his use of pure colour.
Leonardo Da Vinci is another favourite artist of mine. He was an amazing scientist and inventor, too.
One of my paintings was my take on ‘Vase with Zinnias and Other Flowers’ by Vincent Van Gogh.
His paintings especially Starry Night, show his view of the world which almost looked like he could see energy movement around objects.
Sometimes the greatest form of flattery is imitation and he is worth imitating. I love Monet because, like myself, he loved nature too, he was a bit of a rebel as he went against expectations in art in his day.
Q: You were recently the featured creative in Rotherham Creative Network’s showcase of local talent — how useful has this experience been to you as an artist?
A: It gave me the confidence to talk about what I do. I was introduced to different artists and learned about their own unique styles.
I found reading about each artist’s personal journey fascinating because it gave me an opportunity to understand what their experiences were as an artist.
I could relate to a lot of their struggles too and barriers they overcame.
I felt a connection to everyone, a belonging, and I am hoping that the publicity that came from this will help me reach out to more people.
Q: Why do you believe art is important?
A: It is a way to disconnect with daily life and dive into my soul. It is my solace from this world, a healing force.
I love discovering and experimenting with different techniques and colours.
Art has a calming and freeing effect on the mind and if children are given opportunities to create, from an early age, they can become confident, have self-worth, be imaginative and think laterally.
I hope that society will one day appreciate the endless benefits of art as a tool, in the healing of the mind, body and spirit and as a medium by which we can evolve as human beings.
Q: Coronavirus has had a huge impact on the cultural sector, as on all areas of our lives. How has it affected you and what ways of living and working differently have you found?
A: I have been spending a lot more time with members of my household and realising and appreciating the finer things in life.
I understand the importance of things I used to take for granted like going out to eat and socialising with friends and family.
Going for walks in the evening after dinner has improved my health, too. I managed to complete a course in counselling and presently am in the process of studying for a diploma in foraging, which has always interested me as a nature lover — so it has not been all doom and gloom.
Q: Can anyone be an artist? What would you say to those who might think they have no talent?
A: Yes — you won’t know until you try. Many people believe that artists are born with this talent but I do not believe that to be true.
If you spend a lot of time practising what you are interested in you can become great at it. There are many forms of art like sculpture, design, crafting, painting… the list is endless. You just need to find what resonates with you.
It does not matter what anyone says — just roll your sleeves up and go for it, have fun, be creative. The sky is the limit.