SPOTLIGHT

In conversation with

Riona Buthello

November 2022

“I like to paint scenes that we see
often but don’t think too much
about; somewhat mundane but
beautiful scenes that are easily
forgotten, yet at the same time
buried in our memories.”

Riona is an oil painter based in Manchester, UK.

Á: Can you tell us more about the type of paintings you create?

RB: I paint dark and moody landscapes – realistic scenes that viewers would ordinarily see with their own eyes in day-to-day life. Like when you’re looking out of the window on a rainy day or when you’re driving to work. I like to paint scenes that we see often but don’t think too much about; somewhat mundane but beautiful scenes that are easily forgotten yet at the same time buried in our memories, so a sense of nostalgia is evoked when you look at them.

Á: How long have you been painting for?

RB: I’ve been painting professionally since 2020, but I have been painting my whole life. Painting has always been my medium of choice and I am completely self-taught. Even at school, painting is always what I gravitated towards. I used to only paint seascapes but as I developed my personal style, I realised that I love creating paintings that trigger collective memories.

Á: What inspires the art that you make?

RB: I’m really inspired by music. A lot of the titles of my pieces are song lyrics. This is because, depending on what I’m listening to when I’m creating, different elements of a song can influence the scenario I’m depicting. Each of my paintings has a story, and listening to music while I’m painting helps me to better tell the story and bring the piece to life by developing a strong narrative and greater depth.

Á: What would you consider to be the biggest influence on your work? 

RB: The biggest influence on my artwork is probably photography, particularly street photography. I like to collate a range of stock images as reference points for certain parts of the painting, because when I paint these detailed scenes it’s almost impossible to paint completely from memory. For example, I often paint water droplets and it’s not possible to remember how the light hits each individual drop purely from memory.

Á: Can you talk us through the process of creating a painting, from ideation to execution?

RB: I always have multiple ideas in my head. After I compile a range of stock images, I’ll see which ones best fit the narrative that I have already started developing for the painting. I make a rough sketch (even though I hate sketching!) and go from there. I don’t like to think about the idea for too long, otherwise I’ll start findings things wrong with it and pick it apart before I’ve even started. I like to get it on canvas as soon as possible. I post a lot of sketches versus paintings on my social media and the paintings never look like the final piece! I always immerse myself in one painting at a time, rather than doing multiple at once, which usually takes about a week. Once I’m finished, I move on to the next idea in my head and begin the process again. 

Á: What is the most complex piece of art that you have ever created?

RB: The most complex painting I have created so far, is a piece called After Hours. It’s the largest scale I have ever painted. As well as being large, this piece is covered in really tiny raindrops, which I had to hand paint individually. I usually opt for a smaller size because rain drops are quite repetitive and tedious to do. It was definitely challenging but once it was complete, it was very satisfying to see; and because I love painting so much, I would comfortably do it again.

Á: What do you enjoy most about painting?

RB: I would say the end stage, when you see everything coming together and get to add the final details. The first few stages, you’re just trusting yourself and trusting the process. It’s very easy to second guess yourself and think that it’s not turning out the way it should and that you should start again, which can be quite stressful. By the end though, you’re really flowing and enjoying yourself. That’s the part I love.

Á: Has being a person of colour impacted your experience as an artist in any way? 

RB: Being Indian, I haven’t really seen many people like me pursuing a creative career with this medium, particularly here in Manchester. There’s a strong focus on academia in our culture, and so when I began painting, I initially explained it as something that I was just doing alongside my Master’s degree. I definitely felt the pressure to do well with painting, as people were less likely to frown upon it if I had a greater level of success. The best thing to come from it though, has been having other People of Colour artists approach me and tell me that I’ve inspired them to pursue their creative goals.

Á: How did you decide to start sharing your art on social media?

RB: I used to paint for fun in university and a friend encouraged me to start sharing them on Instagram. I would post every couple of months or so and that was it. Then in 2020 when lockdown hit, I had nothing to do for three months and I thought why not try TikTok. That’s when things started taking off. It’s been a positive experience for the most part. When you do well, it’s such a euphoric feeling. But it sort of comes in waves because of the algorithm, which can mess with your head a little bit at times, but other than that it’s been great to see my work reach more people.

Á: Which artists do you look up to the most?

RB: Gregory Thielker paints amazing rainy window scenes that are so realistic and large. He’s just incredible.

Á: What is the biggest lesson you have learned from your work so far?  

RB: Probably not to be so hard on myself when posting finished work and receiving feedback. It’s so easy to think that it must not be good if it hasn’t got lots of engagement on social media but you need to take pride in the time and effort you’ve put into your art, regardless of how much engagement it gets. It takes a lot of discipline and patience to create this type of art, so I’m learning to step back and admire that. So in a way, I’ve also learned a lot about self-love.

Á: What tips would you give to someone who also wants to start painting nostalgic scenes?

RB: I would say look on Pinterest for inspiration. If you type your idea into Pinterest, there will be thousands of images that resemble that concept. It really helps you to get a colour palette together. I would also say to not overthink the idea. Just put it on the canvas.

Á: What are you hoping to achieve creatively in the near future? 

RB: I’ve mainly been showcasing my work online, so I’m hoping to exhibit my paintings in person soon. In Manchester to begin with and then in other locations. I would also like to work on bigger scales, so that when you walk into a room, the painting is the only thing you see.

Á: Any final words for our audience?  

RB: Don’t give up on your passion – keep going.

You can find more of Riona’s work here and here.

Interview by Mary Ojidu

In conversation with

Riona Buthello

November 2022

“I like to paint scenes that
we see often but don’t
think too much about;
somewhat  mundane but
beautiful scenes that are
easily forgotten, yet at the
same time buried in our
memories.”

Riona is an oil painter based in Manchester, UK.

Á: Can you tell us more about the type of paintings you create?

RB: I paint dark and moody landscapes – realistic scenes that viewers would ordinarily see with their own eyes in day-to-day life. Like when you’re looking out of the window on a rainy day or when you’re driving to work. I like to paint scenes that we see often but don’t think too much about; somewhat mundane but beautiful scenes that are easily forgotten yet at the same time buried in our memories, so a sense of nostalgia is evoked when you look at them.

Á: How long have you been painting for?

RB: I’ve been painting professionally since 2020, but I have been painting my whole life. Painting has always been my medium of choice and I am completely self-taught. Even at school, painting is always what I gravitated towards. I used to only paint seascapes but as I developed my personal style, I realised that I love creating paintings that trigger collective memories.

Á: What inspires the art that you make?

RB: I’m really inspired by music. A lot of the titles of my pieces are song lyrics. This is because, depending on what I’m listening to when I’m creating, different elements of a song can influence the scenario I’m depicting. Each of my paintings has a story, and listening to music while I’m painting helps me to better tell the story and bring the piece to life by developing a strong narrative and greater depth.

Á: What would you consider to be the biggest influence on your work? 

RB: The biggest influence on my artwork is probably photography, particularly street photography. I like to collate a range of stock images as reference points for certain parts of the painting, because when I paint these detailed scenes it’s almost impossible to paint completely from memory. For example, I often paint water droplets and it’s not possible to remember how the light hits each individual drop purely from memory.

Á: Can you talk us through the process of creating a painting, from ideation to execution?

RB: I always have multiple ideas in my head. After I compile a range of stock images, I’ll see which ones best fit the narrative that I have already started developing for the painting. I make a rough sketch (even though I hate sketching!) and go from there. I don’t like to think about the idea for too long, otherwise I’ll start findings things wrong with it and pick it apart before I’ve even started. I like to get it on canvas as soon as possible. I post a lot of sketches versus paintings on my social media and the paintings never look like the final piece! I always immerse myself in one painting at a time, rather than doing multiple at once, which usually takes about a week. Once I’m finished, I move on to the next idea in my head and begin the process again. 

Á: What is the most complex piece of art that you have ever created?

RB: The most complex painting I have created so far, is a piece called After Hours. It’s the largest scale I have ever painted. As well as being large, this piece is covered in really tiny raindrops, which I had to hand paint individually. I usually opt for a smaller size because rain drops are quite repetitive and tedious to do. It was definitely challenging but once it was complete, it was very satisfying to see; and because I love painting so much, I would comfortably do it again.

Á: What do you enjoy most about painting?

RB: I would say the end stage, when you see everything coming together and get to add the final details. The first few stages, you’re just trusting yourself and trusting the process. It’s very easy to second guess yourself and think that it’s not turning out the way it should and that you should start again, which can be quite stressful. By the end though, you’re really flowing and enjoying yourself. That’s the part I love.

Á: Has being a person of colour impacted your experience as an artist in any way? 

RB: Being Indian, I haven’t really seen many people like me pursuing a creative career with this medium, particularly here in Manchester. There’s a strong focus on academia in our culture, and so when I began painting, I initially explained it as something that I was just doing alongside my Master’s degree. I definitely felt the pressure to do well with painting, as people were less likely to frown upon it if I had a greater level of success. The best thing to come from it though, has been having other People of Colour artists approach me and tell me that I’ve inspired them to pursue their creative goals.

Á: How did you decide to start sharing your art on social media?

RB: I used to paint for fun in university and a friend encouraged me to start sharing them on Instagram. I would post every couple of months or so and that was it. Then in 2020 when lockdown hit, I had nothing to do for three months and I thought why not try TikTok. That’s when things started taking off. It’s been a positive experience for the most part. When you do well, it’s such a euphoric feeling. But it sort of comes in waves because of the algorithm, which can mess with your head a little bit at times, but other than that it’s been great to see my work reach more people.

Á: Which artists do you look up to the most?

RB: Gregory Thielker paints amazing rainy window scenes that are so realistic and large. He’s just incredible.

Á: What is the biggest lesson you have learned from your work so far?  

RB: Probably not to be so hard on myself when posting finished work and receiving feedback. It’s so easy to think that it must not be good if it hasn’t got lots of engagement on social media but you need to take pride in the time and effort you’ve put into your art, regardless of how much engagement it gets. It takes a lot of discipline and patience to create this type of art, so I’m learning to step back and admire that. So in a way, I’ve also learned a lot about self-love.

Á: What tips would you give to someone who also wants to start painting nostalgic scenes?

RB: I would say look on Pinterest for inspiration. If you type your idea into Pinterest, there will be thousands of images that resemble that concept. It really helps you to get a colour palette together. I would also say to not overthink the idea. Just put it on the canvas.

Á: What are you hoping to achieve creatively in the near future? 

RB: I’ve mainly been showcasing my work online, so I’m hoping to exhibit my paintings in person soon. In Manchester to begin with and then in other locations. I would also like to work on bigger scales, so that when you walk into a room, the painting is the only thing you see.

Á: Any final words for our audience?  

RB: Don’t give up on your passion – keep going.

You can find more of Riona’s work here and here.

Interview by Mary Ojidu

© AJIFA Limited 2022

© AJIFA Limited 2022