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Miami Artist Captures Concerts In Drawings

Credit Junette Reyes / WLRN
Brian Butler is a local artist that captures live performances in drawings.

In a crowd of concertgoers hidden in the shadows of a dimly lit venue, one man can’t help but stand out. Equipped with a pen and sketchbook, Brian Butler regularly claims a post near the many stages he comes across, ready to capture the diverse environments around him. 

Butler, originally a Massachusetts native and a Massachusetts College of Art and Design graduate, moved down to Miami about five years ago. He cites having seen rock legend Iggy Pop perform on the beach during Art Basel as part of the motivation for this move.

“[Miami] just seems like kind of this mecca for this stuff that I wanted to do, and here I am,” says Butler. 

Butler has established himself as a local staple not only through his work with Sweat Records, but also mainly through his drawings of the many acts that come through Miami, as well as local musicians. 

“The drawing concerts stuff was a natural progression because I would just carry around sketchbooks all the time anyway,” says Butler. 

He says that he would normally go to concerts and it just clicked one day that he should try to capture the moment. He specifically cites the aesthetics of a show by the thrash metal band Gwar, where he decided he wanted to draw the bands and “get blood on the drawing.” 

Although Butler says deciding on his favorite sketched show is like comparing apples to oranges, he does admit that the performances that are the most interesting to draw are the ones that are the most theatrical. He emphasizes that the audience is also a big part of the outcome. 

Credit Junette Reyes / WLRN
Brian Butler shows off his sketchpad.

  “I want to capture the whole environment, so like the audience is just as much a part of the show as musicians,” says Butler. 

The nature of a show is emphasized in the drawings not only through the people captured on the pages but also through the stylistic appearances of the sketches. Butler explains that drawings of shows with active audience members and bands show an urgency to the weight and gestures of the lines. Shows with a calmer vibe tend to result in more refined drawings and more detailing. 

“Even if it’s dark, I have to push down on the pen harder to make a bolder line so I can actually see what I’m doing,” says Butler. 

Butler makes it a point that the drawings are started and completed all within the span of the show. 

“Those are the perimeters I’ve set up for myself. I have to be in the venue to complete the drawing. That’s why there’s no color or anything like that because if I started coloring these things, then I’d never go home,” says Butler. 

Butler has taken his art beyond Miami and put his skill to the test in festivals like Pitchfork Music Festival and Bonnaroo. But when in Miami, he says he usually finds himself in Churchill’s Pub.  

“If you come for the right shows, it can get pretty hectic and pretty exciting to illustrate,” says Butler. 

Butler admits that his taste mostly dictates what shows he decides to attend and draw, but that he would be interested in seeing how drawings of performers he’s not much of a fan of would turn out.

Overall, Butler feels that his concert experiences have now become more than what they were before. 

“It’s altered my experience a little bit because I was always sort of a wallflower and now I feel like a purposeful wallflower,” says Butler.