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Discover how Brisbane based Japanese-influenced street artist Buttons made the impossible possible.

From backstreet murals to clothes, tattooed skin and gallery exhibitions, Brisbane artist Buttons’ typical artistic journey takes her from her bedroom, through her studio and onto any canvas she sees fit.

Her art is filled with bright, cartoonish pieces that elicit a distinct affinity for the unmistakable style of eastern popular-culture. Her latest, a collection labelled Fresh Fruit is flourished with collaged ensembles of healthy treats set to welcome in the summer season with a late-spring exhibition at Analogue Gallery.

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A focus on the female body placed into the style of Japanese cartoons, the work of Buttons is bright, distinctive and fresh as fruit.

HAPPY: Could you tell us a bit about how you got started as an artist?

BUTTONS: I have always loved drawing and painting ever since I was pretty young. Once I finished high school, I didn’t want to go to uni, but I later decided to go to TAFE and study graphic design. The course wasn’t for me; it was fun, and I did learn a lot, but I found out I’m not the biggest fan of designing logos. I always had the dream of working for myself and creating every day.

So, I had a think about what makes me unique as an artist, and what is also important as an artist, and in my opinion it’s developing your own personal style. I always had my own style of drawing, and it is still developing now, but my goal was for someone to look at a piece that I had done without my name being on it and knowing it was mine.

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HAPPY: What’s influenced your style the most?  

BUTTONS: I am very influenced by Japan when it comes to my drawings. When I was in primary school, I was completely obsessed with Japanese cartoons. I am really influenced by their pop culture, candy packaging, advertising — everything is so colourful and over the top. I love it. I always drawing inspiration from the female form, fruits, food, and anything I’m interested in at the time.

HAPPY: When did you realise you wanted to take your art from something private to public?

BUTTONS: It kind of just happened. Instagram had started up, and that was when I started posting my art online. I started to see people actually liked it, and from there I grew a following which really inspired me to keep going.

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HAPPY: What’s your studio set-up and working process like?

BUTTONS: I do have a studio downstairs from my apartment, but lately I’ve been taking everything into my lounge room and covering the floor with drop sheets haha. I think I like to be near the kitchen to grab snacks more frequently. I also have a massive bedroom with a desk set up, and that’s where I do a lot of my illustration stuff.

From the moment I wake up, I’m straight into painting or drawing. In the lead up to my show, I’ve been waking up and drinking my coffee and eating breakfast while I paint. Every other day, I try and start my day off by doing an hour or two of sketching. It’s actually a really good way to start your day!

HAPPY: The Fresh Fruit exhibition “takes kawaii to a new level; drawing inspiration from warmer weather and tropical themes” — If you had to pick a music genre to accompany the exhibition, what would suit it best?

BUTTONS: That’s a hard question, because in a way I suppose you would assume cutesy pop music, but I don’t listen to that myself, so I wouldn’t have it at my show haha.

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HAPPY: You’ve said in the past that you don’t like to define yourself as a “female artist”, but rather as just an artist. Have you encountered any gender label issues through your art’s exploration of the female form?

BUTTONS: Not really. I have had some girls upset with the way I draw my female characters because they are too unrealistic, or there’s an illustration where their boobs might be too big. I’m not trying to say what I draw is an ideal image of a female, it’s just what I want to draw, and that’s what art should be… whatever the hell you want!

I do want to inspire girls to be artists, do whatever they like, push themselves to do more, but I want to inspire guys too.

HAPPY:  How do you think emerging artists can or should gain exposure? What’s worked for you?

BUTTONS: Keep drawing, and be consistent. Upload photos, make prints of your work, get stuff out there.

HAPPY: How does it feel knowing someone loved something you created so much they got it tattooed?

BUTTONS: Amazing!!! It makes me so happy. When I was in high school I originally wanted to get into tattooing. When I see people getting my work tattooed, part of me wishes it was me who could do it for them! But I think perhaps tattooing will be my next venture.

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HAPPY: What collaborations or partners have you particularly enjoyed working with?

BUTTONS: One of my first jobs as an artist ever was with STRIKE bowling, and I got to paint on a pair of bowling shoes, and I still think that was one of my favourites. And I got to design some awesome underwear with X+Y!

HAPPY: What’s a new medium you’d like to display your art in?

BUTTONS: I want to try sculptures and more installation stuff.

HAPPY: Do you have a theme you haven’t tackled in some of your previous pieces or exhibitions that you’d like to explore?

BUTTONS: I’m not sure yet. I think I’m still working that out.

HAPPY: A lot of creatives have to juggle a variety of day jobs to support themselves. What’s been your experience in pursuing art without going broke?

BUTTONS: I still work a casual job, believe it or not. Sometimes it’s only two days a week, sometimes four, and sometimes I have a few weeks off. I never know if I’m going to have a quiet month with my art work, and at least I know the rent can be paid if I still work a casual job. But yeah, sometimes it can be a bit hard, but I suppose you’ve gotta try and hustle, but even then sometimes that can be hard.

My advice to people starting out is don’t be in a rush to quit your job and draw every day, you’ve got to work hard and build yourself up. I have a lot of very successful artist friends, and sometimes it’s hard to not compare myself to them. But really, I still feel like a newbie, but I’m slowly getting to a place where I can survive with just my art.

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HAPPY: What do you want to see more of in local art, or art in Australia?

BUTTONS: I want to see more opportunities for murals in Brisbane!! (West-end, I’m looking at you)

HAPPY: What’s next after the exhibition at Analogue Gallery?

BUTTONS: Well, I go down to Coffs Harbour for a graffiti festival November Reign (I’m painting 19th -20th), then to Wollongong for Wonderwalls Festival (25th – 26th). Then I want to relax for a little bit before getting started on some new projects I have stored away!!

You can catch Buttons’ solo exhibition, Fresh Fruit, at Analogue Gallery from November 3. You can follow Buttons on Instagram here.

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November 2, 2016