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Spring 2019Geoff Butterworth: Watercolour Artist

Rolling hills, picturesque villages, and idyllic days of nostalgia.

The chances are if you are looking at a watercolour painting of Rochdale and surrounding areas, you will have stumbled upon a Geoff Butterworth: a name synonymous with stunning landscapes, exhibiting around 60 paintings a year.

Achievements during Geoff’s career include winning the Best Picture award at the British Society of Painters Exhibition for three consecutive years. He was elected to join The Royal Society of Arts and The International Guild of Artists and was subsequently made an Associate of the British Watercolour Society as a result of the consistent high quality of his work.

Geoff said: “I was always good at art, but when I went to enrol at the art college I was told I was not art college material and ended up in engineering.”

After a motorbike accident at the age of 22, Geoff returned to painting, picking up the oil paints he had enjoyed using as a child.

It wasn’t until the following Christmas that Geoff was introduced to the medium he is most famously associated with – watercolour.

He said: “I took to it straight away as it is a cracking medium to work with. Mum had bought me some good artist watercolours and I began to copy the colour photos from a book. I tried to make them as realistic as I could.

“I love the end result. I’ve used other mediums but always find myself coming back to watercolours.”

By his own admission, in 1980 Geoff received his lucky break that lead to his success in Rochdale. He said: “I saw an advert for a new furniture shop looking for photos. I took 12 watercolours to show and they wanted to stock 40 so I had to get cracking.”

By September that same year, Geoff had sold several paintings and became self-employed. His first exhibition was held at Rivington, set up by a friend who lived at Stubley Hall in Littleborough and knew the gallery’s owners. This show taught him what would sell in commercial galleries.

He added: “I was still in plaster from my accident when I completed my first local scene. A friend of mine who lived in Littleborough met me at the park and I painted the water wheel of the old library. It started raining so I finished it off at home.”

Whilst Geoff has painted hundreds of landscapes over the years, a summer scene of transport links in Walsden remains his firm favourite.

He explained: “I was working on this picture when I had my studio in Littleborough. I had my headphones on with loud music and, somehow, I saw pebbles bouncing off the window. It turned out a car in the garage below was on fire, and I had to get out.

“I was half way through this painting, so I grabbed it and some brushes, and finished it off at home on the kitchen table. I would never sell it.”

That same painting also won Geoff a £1,000 prize in 1990 at the Laing Landscape competition at the Mall Gallery in London.

The small Yorkshire village, just a stone’s throw away from Littleborough, remains one of his favourite subjects, although he cites Castle Combe as a close second as he had previously painted the Wiltshire village from a book before visiting in person.

Rochdale Town Hall has also featured heavily in Geoff’s work over the years, particularly in illustrations of the town during the 1960s.

He smiled: “I have painted the Town Hall so many times, and Rochdale in the 1960s, as I remembered it as a child. I went nearly every Saturday: I loved Yorkshire Street in 1968 with the square, the old cinema and the hundreds of people walking along the street.”

Geoff’s current exhibition can be viewed in the Rochdale Exchange Shopping Centre.