*Mainstream America may not know Phillip Butah, but the London-based artist has already received a big helping hand in his quest to win over the world from none other than the Prince of Wales.
Prince Charles personally commissioned Butah to do a self-portrait of him after the 30-year-old creator became the youngest person to win the Young Artists’ Britain: The Prince of Wales’s Young Artists’ award in 1998 at the age of 16. Butah’s good fortune at the art competition proved to be a pivotal point as he found himself seriously transforming his hobby into a career as an artist.
“I always thought it was just a hobby. I never knew it was something I could do in my life until I entered a competition where I came highly commended and I got to meet the prince. It was from there I thought ‘Man. I could do this for a career. I really enjoy this. Maybe I could do this for life,’ Butah shared with EUR’s Lee Bailey while tracing his artistic beginnings and attention to detail to his early years drawing stick people at the nursery. “I remember like in nursery, where I would be drawing a stick person and the other kids would want me to draw their stick people…you know when you draw the hair on the head? I would be ‘Where’s the head behind the head’ and ‘where’s the nostrils and the eyelashes and the eyebrows?’ So my stick people would always be, I guess, I would just notice those things even then.”
The kids at the nursery weren’t the only ones taking notice. Butah’s friendship with the organizers of the Young Artists’ Britain competition paved the way for his royal encounter in 2009. Six months later, after a few meetings and several sittings, Butah and another artist found themselves meeting and drawing Prince Charles, who posed for both artists at the same time.
“It was very daunting at the beginning. Just at the first stage because it was his team, his home and he was wearing his whole, you know, military royal regalia, I think you call it,” the former Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design student said about being in the same room as Prince Charles. “That was very intimidating, but he put me at ease. Immediately when I met him he put me at ease. So then I wasn’t nervous. I was just trying to do what I do. I really just asked the prince if I could come closer to him and he said ‘Yes…That’s fine Do what you need to do.’”
Although Prince Charles took one of Butah’s portraits, Butah doesn’t know if the other artist was as lucky. Nevertheless, Butah’s portrait of the royal heir currently hangs in Prince Charles’ home.
Since word got out about Butah’s portrait, he has attracted new admirers of his work while setting his sights on international appeal. While the exposure is welcome, Butah was “quite afraid of being in the public eye” initially. Nowadays, that fear is a non-issue.
“[As] the artist, sometimes you feel very insecure about your work. It doesn’t matter how amazing you think you are. It’s one of those things,” he said. “I’m very confident in my work now. Back in the day I wasn’t. When I did that competition when I was16, that gave me a huge boost.”
More of Phillip Butah’s portrait artistry:
Prince Charles could be a suitable highlight for any artist, but Butah has a wish list of other famous people he would love to draw. Among them are President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey as well as Lewis Hamilton, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince William, his wife, Kate Middleton and Olympic track and fielder Usain Bolt.
While drawing well-known subjects can be a highlight, Butah is just as grateful to work on someone who is not in the public eye.
“It feels great doing show business people, but I enjoy doing people I see on the street,” he stated. “I ask people all the time who I see on the street if I can draw them. And there’s no difference with drawing a famous and a non famous person. It’s all the same; you know…I feel very honored for anyone to ask me to do their portrait.”
For more on Phillip Butah, visit PhillipButah.com.