Before I get into this book review, I just want to make it clear that I have a personal interest in this book and the artist behind it, Mr Phillip Butah.
I have known Phillip for some time now in a professional and personal capacity. His work has always inspired me and I was all too happy and humbled to provide him with my opinions when he first opened the conversation about putting this book together. Also for our Blog readers, it’s worth noting that this book is not an out and out art book, it’s more of an illustrated book of autobiographical memoirs. I would therefore recommend it to both fans of Ed Sheeran’s music and fans of illustration and portraiture alike. Although much of the accompanying visuals are the work of artist Phillip Butah, there is also some varied and complimentary photography.
The Book Review:
The UK version of the book (to which I have kindly been gifted a first edition of by Phillip himself) is published by Cassell Illustrated a division of Octopus Publishing Group Ltd.
The hardback cover is a bright and striking luminous green wrapped in luxurious soft touch lamination. The cover contains a simple line illustration of Ed looking rather humble. This I felt was an excellent precursor to the overall flavour of the book which takes us on a journey through Ed’s more humble beginnings up until his latest’s album release. In fact humility is often an underlining feature within both Phillip Butah’s artistic portraits and Ed Sheeran’s music.
Phillip’s forward highlights this fact quite clearly when he talks about the need to put in at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become really good at any discipline. He also explains how even though both himself and Ed have made the necessary sacrifices to get to the level they are at, they both instinctively know and feel they can always do more and always do better. He also talks about this at the end of the book (which is dedicated to Phillip and the way in which he works) where he states that he is his “own worst critic”, with an eye for seeing his own work’s imperfections.
The book contains a variety of artistic styles and approaches however I find that its Phillip’s signature realism style that shines through. His images often look like he has deliberately peeled back some of the layers to reveal the inner workings and techniques used to create them. Leaving areas of the portraits only subtly rendered to create depth and interest. I personally like this idea as it creates a sense of imbalance or drama and can help draw your eye to what the artist finds interesting and what he wants to reveal about the person he is drawing.
Some of the styles in the book include inspiration from Czech artist Alphonse Mucha and even Soviet propaganda art. He treats us to a variety of mediums including, pencils, watercolour & pen, biro sketches, full blown pastel renders and graphite on paper chiaroscuro illustrations.
Ed Sheeran “a visual journey” is available to buy now. I think we will be seeing a lot more of Phillip Butah and his collaborations with Ed Sheeran.
24.8 x 19.6 x 2.2 cm