Q+A W/ CARA BUTLER
Do you ever think about games you used to play as a child, and marvel about how darn creative you were!? Playing “make believe,” acting out made-up skits, creating little worlds and dialogues for your toys… Now you can’t even come up with a clever pick-up line. Ugh. Why does everything get so boring and literal as we grow up.
Cara Butler never lost that magic. This Texas born, UK based artist has been able to create a successful career by putting her imagination to work. Cara draws beautiful, colorful illustrations, and writes short stories to accompany each. The stories welcome the viewer into her fictional world of Saint Delphine, a made-up town where each illustration takes place. We love anyone who describes their artwork as, “a throwback to the days of Pierre Cardin spacesuits and Marie Antoinette doing the twist.”
by CHLOE.: Hi Cara! Thanks for chatting with us! We’ll let you introduce yourself.
CDB: Thank you so much for having me! I’m an illustrator currently based in the UK and I really, really like topiaries. My work focuses around the socialites who live in Saint Delphine, which is a town I’ve created. They’re obsessed with outer space and eighteenth century powdered wigs—a.k.a. my kind of people.
bC: We LOVE your unique aesthetic. What inspires you, and where would you say this style comes from?
CDB: Thank you! I’m very much inspired by the space race and anyone with a beehive. Pair that with high society aliens and high fashion and it’s like I’ve died and Belinda Carlisle’s brought me to heaven. Since I’m based in the UK at the moment, I’ve been driving to National Trust houses as much as I can. Seeing huge manors and ornate decor and imagining the parties and drama that once ensued is a huge inspiration. I’m also really interested in dressing my characters as couture visions—illustrating fashion at the moment is so freeing because the rules of the runway disappear more and more each season. It’s like playing dress-up and my characters are the dolls.
bC: Tell us about your path to becoming an artist. How did you get started? Do you do work as an illustrator, full-time?
CDB: Yes, I am lucky enough to be working as a full-time illustrator. I finished my degrees in Art and English at the University of Texas about two years ago and since then have been slowly building up a freelance base. I think my path was always more about accepting a creative career and not being afraid of how impractical it could be. It’s the thing that always had the most possibilities in terms of ideas and productivity for me, and that’s exciting.
bC: Not only are you an incredible illustrator, you’ve got quite the knack for writing. Tell us about the short stories on your website. What is Socialite SciFi?!?!
CDB: Thanks so much! The Socialite’s Science Fiction (or Socialite SciFi for short) is just that—science fiction for the socialite in us all. I like to say it’s Barbarella meets Clueless. I always felt especially connected to the conversations happening in SciFi growing up, and Socialite SciFi is a way for me to explore similar narratives but with a beautiful, stylish, Architectural Digest kind of flair.
I’ve created the world of Saint Delphine as a place for all my characters and their drama to live and Socialite SciFi is their way of living. I’ve turned it into a weekly newsletter—which you can sign up for on my website—to keep up with the goings on around town. My illustration work has always-since-the-beginning-of-time been connected to its own narrative. I can’t not tell a story when I’m making an illustration, so the newsletter is how I express that. Words and pictures about outer space and pastel heiresses=peace on earth pour moi.
bC: Do you only create illustrations, or do you like to experiment with other art techniques?
CDB: Illustration is my main focus right now, but I love experimenting with other techniques like ceramics, large-scale painting, murals, and embroidery. Murals are especially interesting because they’re just massive illustrations. But the wonderful thing about illustration is that it can be anything. The Birth of Venus or Capability Brown’s landscape designs are all illustrations if you want (which I do).
bC: Tell us about your background. Where are you from originally, and why did you decide to move to the UK?
CDB: I’m originally from Houston, but my family moved around a lot so I grew up between the UK, Ireland and the US. I’d been living in the States and when the opportunity to spend some time over in the UK came up, I took it. It’s fab because the freelancing lifestyle lends itself to impulses like that.
bC: Can you let us in on some of your favorite spots in London? Where do the cool kids hang these days?
CDB: My favorite thing to do in London is to walk around the really beautiful, rich areas. Parts of Kensington and Notting Hill, Belgravia, Chelsea. That stretch of Kensington Palace Gardens feels just like home. The architecture in all these neighborhoods is to die and there are almost always topiaries nearby. Another fav thing (which is also free) is to go to the Portrait Gallery and then stop by St. Martin-in-the-Fields to hear a rehearsal before going home.
bC: Where do you see yourself, and your artistic career in the next 5 years? Any goals?
CDB: Summers on the Amalfi Coast. Sanctuary farms. I would love to be rocking the illustration gig to the nines with books and fashion shows galore. Also, backstage at Céline Dion god willing.
Nickname? Slim Shady. Oh no wait, that’s someone else.
Favorite place on earth? Saint Delphine.
3 favorite fashion brands? Gucci. Miu Miu. Alexander McQueen.
Favorite food? Avocado and vegan mayo on toast à la Alicia Silverstone.
Early bird or night owl? Night owl.
Choice super hero power? Being able to fly through space without a spacesuit. Also the power of being able to do a bouffant without having to tease my hair.
Juice or smoothie? Smoothie.
3 objects you can’t live without? Mascara. The Nanny box set. Pink gouache.
Whatcha readin’? Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I think Savannah is my other favorite place on Earth.