Artistic Workout

Starting with a rigid morning regimen, production artist Aaron Butcher works his creative muscle daily

For Aaron Butcher, it all starts with setting an alarm clock. Each and every day, he wakes up hours before sunrise and commits time to his artwork.


“I get up at 4 a.m. every day,” he says, laughing at the apparent absurdity of that daily regimen. “It’s early, yeah. But later in the day, there are so many things that would get in the way. There’s family stuff, there’s cooking supper. At 4 a.m., there’s no one else awake. There are no distractions.”


Butcher typically spends a little over two hours working on his pieces each morning, perfecting his craft within a small studio in his basement.

Butcher poses next to his work at an art show in Dubuque.
Where the magic happens ...

His artistic passion took root early, with his earliest inspiration coming from 1980s kids’ shows.


“I was doing a ton of crafty stuff at home when I was a kid,” Butcher recalls. “I’d make drawings while I was watching cartoons—the stuff on TV was kind of an early inspiration.”


In his adult years, he draws inspiration from Ralph Steadman, a British illustrator known for doing the “screamy” images and illustrations that accompanied the work of the eccentric writer Hunter S. Thompson. This influence is reflected in Butcher’s evolving work, which often features surreal faces with elongated and exaggerated features.


The unique works have certainly captured eyeballs.


Butcher has been entering his work into art fairs for the better part of two decades, frequently earning awards along the way. His paintings are now on display in a half-dozen art galleries scattered across the Midwest.



Facial artwork

The way he tells it, though, art isn’t about sales or awards.


“It’s hard to describe,” he says. “I don’t know if I really love it. It is more of a need.”


Butcher pauses for a moment as he contemplates his connection to art.


“It almost sometimes feels like a curse. There are times I wish I didn’t have to go do it—there’s other stuff you have to get done in a day, you know? But creativity has a way of building up inside of you. You have to find a way to get it out.”


This creativity follows him long after he leaves the confines of his studio.


Butcher started working at McCullough Creative in 2016. As a production artist, he’s responsible for bringing the creative team and the clients’ visions to life. He’ll determine the optimum build techniques, substrates, engineering aspects, and more, and then apply his craftsmanship to creating the quality products our clients expect from us.


The early morning hours in his studio have helped him hone that craft.


“I think things definitely cross over from my art to my job,” Butcher says. “In the studio and here in the fabrication building, I’m always working on different techniques and skills, learning new things, and perfecting them. I’m always experimenting with new materials, getting to know how to use them, and learning how to work with them better. It’s really about building out your experience.”

Butcher applies his skills to a project at McCullough Creative

Sometimes, the 4 a.m. morning routine feels meditative to Butcher. Working on art can instill a sense of calm, allowing his mind to wander and bringing a measure of peace. In another sense, though, Butcher feels like artwork is a way of building strength.


It’s not all that different from hitting the gym at the start of a new day—in fact, Butcher often calls those predawn painting sessions his “morning workout.”


“To me, creativity is a muscle you have to work on,” he says. “I am exercising that creative muscle when I get up in the morning, and I am still doing that when I come to work here.”