Interview: Ernie Button Weaves Whisky Art Into A New Book

, | March 31, 2022

An artist, whether the format is painting, sculpting, or photography, can find a muse in the most interesting places.

For photographer Ernie Button, he was staring into the bottom of a nearly empty whisky glass, and noticed that it was a thing of beauty.

He studied the intricate patterns formed in the residue at the bottom of a whisky glass, each as different as a snowflake, and started to photograph them, experimenting with varied lighting techniques.

Those photos made their way to The Art of Whisky, his new book that features images evoking earthly landscapes and extraterrestrial visions.

Button, an award-winning photographer based in Phoenix, Arizona, has exhibited his work around the globe and has been featured in National Geographic, The New York Times, Whisky Advocate, as well as on limited edition packaging for The Macallan.

He recently visited with The Whiskey Wash about his new book, the muse that is bourbon, and about his art.

The Art of Whisky

An image from Art of Whisky (image via Chronicle Books)

The Whiskey Wash: How did you find Scotch, and more importantly its residue, as a muse for your art?

Ernie Button: “The images for the book The Art of Whisky were all created with Scotch whisky.  The patterns were discovered after enjoying a dram of Scotch the previous night. As I was taking the glass to the sink after the glass was sitting out overnight, I noticed these fine, gray lines filling the bottom. I took the glass into my studio and started experimenting, which led to the photography project Vanishing Spirits: The Dried Remains of Single Malt Scotch.”

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TWW: What is your connection to the whisky world?

Ernie: “Purely as a fan of the liquid and the dedication of the many, many people involved in the process of whisky creation. My wife came from a Scotch drinking family, so she was able to introduce me to the whisky world and I learned to appreciate a fine dram of Scotch because of her.”

TWW: Tell us more about your background as a photographer and how you got your start in the industry?

Ernie: “I have been a passionate photographer for most of my life and for more than 20 years have been showing and sharing my work through exhibitions, journal articles, etc.”

TWW: How does artistic, almost abstract photography differ from a more journalistic form of photography?

Ernie: “The obvious difference would be how subject matter is conveyed. Journalistic photography implies a more faithful documentation of reality … what’s happening … whereas abstract infers an impression or interpretation of a subject and doesn’t necessarily represent its full reality. However, the image still boils down to what a photographer wraps the four sides of the frame around, the way that the photographer composes the image to keep the eye moving around the frame.”

TWW: What was the feeling that was first evoked when the idea to photograph the bottom of Scotch glasses arose?

Ernie: “Curiosity and the feeling that this could be something interesting to work on photographically.”

TWW: What other subjects do you find make an unusual yet evocative subject for art photography?

Ernie: “I’ve explored many themes throughout my photography career including but not limited to portraits and landscapes created with breakfast cereal (Cerealism), the disappearing grocery store rides (Back and Forth), and my childhood toys (Toying with Memories).”

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The Art of Whisky, by Ernie Button, is a 9” x 9” color photo book, 176 pages in total. It will have a suggested retail price of $24.95. Published by Chronicle Books. ISBN# 9781797213828.

For more information, check out www.chroniclebooks.com.

Drinks

Gary Carter

Gary Carter has been at the helm of metro newspapers, magazines, and television news programs as well as a radio host and marketing manager. He is a writer/editor/photographer/designer by trade, with more than 30 years experience in the publishing and marketing field. Gary enjoys working to build something great, whether...