Artist of the Month: Allan Butt

allan butt watercolor artist in north carolina
Allan Butt, Self-Portrait

Allan Butt is a fine artist living and working in North Carolina. He has been painting realist paintings in oil and watercolor for nearly 50 years. Originally from Alabama, Allan is actually a friend and contemporary of another North by Northwest artist of the month, Tony Alderman. Allan and Tony both went to the University of Mobile. Where they were at school together. Allan has been living in Concord, North Carolina now for 8 years. 

Allan has won multiple awards for his work. Including winning Best in Show, two years in a row, in 2019 and 2020, with the watercolor society of North Carolina. He is also the Co-Director of the Western Region of the Watercolor Society of North Carolina. His full list of awards and some of his featured paintings can be seen on his website

Discovering Watercolor

In a conversation over the phone, Allan told North by Northwest that he took up painting in high school on a whim. “I’d been drawing my whole life, as a kid. The propensity for it was definitely there early on. I remember as a kid getting the 64 crayon box. And it was the highlight of my year to get that box of brand new crayons. I loved the colors and I still love color now. I have a lot of color in most of my art,” Allan said.

His painting class in high school inspired him to wander into the local art store. There he told the sales representative he wanted to paint. “They asked me what medium I wanted to paint in and I said I didn’t know what that meant. But after he named a few types I said I’d try oil. He helped me and gave me a book that explained how to paint. That was in 1974.” 

watercolor paris series by allan butt
“The Trolley Driver”

After Allan had painted a couple of oil paintings he meandered into a Hallmark store and found a couple of cards that had been designed by artists. “I loved the way they looked. And so I bought them, took them back to the art store. I said, ‘I want to paint what’s on these cards.’ And that turned out to be watercolor. I copied those two cards. And ever since then watercolor has been my go to medium. I do several paintings in watercolor and then I might switch over to oil. But it’s mainly watercolor for me.” 

Allan’s Artistic Inspiration

Allan’s style is realism and although he has dabbled in abstracts, and even won an award for an abstract painting, he prefers to faithfully depict the world as he sees it around him. “I’m always seeing things, the color of the sky, the atmosphere of the trees, searching and looking for things that move me and catch my eye,” Allan told NxNW.

His biggest artistic influences have been Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, and Andrew Wyeth. Allan has also enjoyed painting on commission. “I’ve been commissioned to paint wonderful things including lighthouses, coast guard cutters, and different things that have come my way. I also love to travel, in the US and abroad. Whenever I get a chance, I take advantage of that and paint what I’ve seen. When I return home I paint a whole series of paintings from what I saw abroad.” On a trip to Paris, France in 2019, Allan began a series of paintings that he is still working on now. 

watercolor paris series by allan butt
“Paris: Apres Le Dejeuner

Director of the Western Section of the Watercolor Society in North Carolina

Closer to home, Allan is proudly one of the directors for the western section of the Watercolor Society in North Carolina. “It’s a great way to get involved and connect and be inspired by other artists in your local community,” Allan explained. The Watercolor Society regularly has meetings, showings, and artists that come from out of state to give classes. 

When I asked Allan why he loves what he does he said “When I’m painting and drawing there is a great satisfaction and peace that comes with it, even though the actual painting itself can be tedious and laborious. It’s the whole creative process that’s a wonderful thing that draws me to it. It’s an innate thing, I believe. As an artist, you feel called to it. When I see things, I feel like I have to paint them. I love art and the older I’ve gotten the more I’ve studied art and appreciated different types of art form from impressionism, expressionism, and color.” 

What is Allan Working on Currently?

Currently, Allan is working on two paintings and already planning a whole other series of street scenes, as well as some interiors with unique ceilings. “I have another I’m planning that’s in the wings and that is a kind of swimming pool with floaties in it.” Allan explained that he can’t really say which of his paintings he’s most proud of because as an artist he’s always trying to get better. “I heard a famous artist answer that question by saying, ‘I’m most proud of my next painting,’” Allan laughed. He told NxNW he is constantly asking himself, “Did I achieve what I was trying to do? Did I capture the emotion? Did I capture the light? Was it a success or not? I look at every painting and critique them in this way and I think artists can sometimes be the most critical people of their own artwork.” 

If you’re interested in seeing Allan’s work, you can visit his website or email him. Currently he is not showing in any galleries but he is open to talking to galleries who might be interested in showcasing his work or including his work in an exhibit. 

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