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Thinking about this question has made me think a lot about why I have chosen to be an artist. There are many things why people give up on the dream of being a successful artist. For example, because there is no stability and no regular income. The chance of making it into a household name like Jeff Koons or Damien Hurst are highly unlikely.
Michael Craig-Martin once said, “when you’re 20, there are 50,000 other artists, by the time you’re 30, it’s down to 5,000, by 40, it’s 2,000. If you make it to 70, there are only 12 of you left, and you’re all famous.” As the decades go on many understandably give up and realise it very hard to bring up a family on the small amount of money.
The Guardian wrote an interesting article titled ‘Can you make a living as an artist?’ and is worth a read. https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2012/jul/29/artists-day-job-feature?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
For artists that continue their chances improve and after several decades, when most artists have given up, your chances get better and better.
Another way to look it is, rather than seeing success as money is that I am already complete. I can continue what I love to do, to got the studio and be creativity, and I am already able to bring up a family through my full-time job.
Success for an artist could be seen as, how Coach Wooden the highly successful American basketball player and coach sees it; “Peace of mind, attained only through self-satisfaction when knowing you made the effort to do the best your capable of. Your the only one that knows that. You can fool others but not yourself.”
By viewing it this way I can keep a playfulness in my practice. So for me, success does not lay in being rich or famous or in my artwork but my relationship to my artwork and following a hunch in my work.
I think about the present moment, as my relationship is forever changing with my practice and whether I am doing the best work I can with the resources available. I have the urge to direct my life in they way I want and through my art, I realise this is the area I have to most control in my life. Most other relationships in life like, friends, family and occupations are much more of a compromise.
I also believe I am capable of so much more and I have hardly started. By working on what comes naturally, playing off my strengths, using intention, instinct, thought, imagination, observation and curiosity I can make my work a manifestation of me.
I want to use my intuition to reveal meaning and draw attention to something using my skills as an artist. Possibly, making it a lifetime’s work and into what Alex Katz the american painter calls, ‘the big technique’. As I have a yearning to work towards something that is much bigger than myself and add extra meaning and understanding to what it means to be human on this rock.
Maybe one day a little recognition would be nice though!
There are many reasons why l wanted to be an artist. But the main attraction is the creative process. As an artist l can take an idea or a hunch and using my creativity and skill, which has grown over many years, bring the concept to life. The process of turning an idea from a thought to something of significance takes a set of unique skills mainly involving play and experimenting with what works best. The whole process and journey is a stimulating challenge. Once the idea if finally completed, once l am finally satisfied, it becomes an object and an initiator of further ideas for both myself and the viewer. Completing a project gives me an enormous sense of achievement which even overcomes any of the exhilarating ups and downs along the way.
Karl Marx talked about the problems of consumerism and the alienation of labour. He states that if you are cut off from the fruits of your labour, then you are cut off from your creativity and you lose your sense of self. I think this is one of the main problems with the Western consumeristic society. People are not in touch with the output they make or the completion of the tasks they carry out. I believe this causes many psychological problems with our individual purpose. During the process of making art l get closer to my deeper self, the artwork becomes an extension of me, my purpose stretches out before me. No-one else can make another exactly the same, no-one else has my thoughts.
This is an interesting thought provoking short video on Karl Marz on Alienation and about what makes us human.
Being an artist and being creative connects us directly with being human, and that is the main reason I love being an artist.
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With consumerism at the forefront of western society as a purpose to live, we live to work, to earn, to consume, is all a major part of our lives. I find myself drawn to expressing an alternative view through my art.
Although some see painting as being based on traditional values as a limitation to address contemporary issues, I believe that it offers me the challenge of finding new meaning, creating new insight and capturing people’s imagination in a unique way. Even though some might see this as naive, as nothing is truly original anymore in this postmodern society.
Another reason why I paint is when I am painting l would never get a chance to see what it would be like if l did something else because I can not undo the last mark. The process of painting is addictive. I’m always hoping for improvement and possibly perfection, but always realising that it is unattainable. The question nearly always arises; do I risk spoiling it or do I start a new painting?
I am a risk taker and painting suits my way of working and what I want to communicate. I think this is why Francis Bacon destroyed so much of his work, he liked risk.
This painting titled ‘A pocket full of dreams’ is intended for us to just for a moment to stop and think, pulling back the curtain, to consider what it means to be human. By reviewing the influences we allow in our minds our bodies, like the clothes we wear, all creates the consuming lifestyles we choose.
Before I start my story about my key tipping point in my career, this is my first and still my most successful painting from 2007. The painting also symbolises a key tipping point in my career and I am very pleased with it. It has been exhibited in many places from London to Los Angeles and has won two prizes. Needhams Open in Cambridgeshire in 2008, and X-Power International Art Competition in Beverley Hills, California in 2009.
Background to the painting.
“The piece ‘Hopes and Fears’ by Stuart Bush is profoundly influenced by London’s city streets. In the foreground, a well-dressed man blends into the city, giving it a dreamlike quality somewhere between fact and fiction. The work obsessively documents a personal psychological journey relating to themes of guilt and obsession with everyday consumerism. Space, structure, angst, alienation and juxtaposition are all key elements with this work.”
Back to the story…
I was born in the UK in 1978. I lived in several parts of the UK including Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Dumfries and Galloway, Lincolnshire, West Midlands and London while growing and going to university.
My passion and talent for art started at an early age. I found drawing came easy to me and I was drawn towards it. My first ambition was to be a car designer or an architecture. The grades I received at school made me reconsider that direction as ideally I needed to be good at all subjects to meet the university entry requirements.
Nevertheless, l continued my education studying Art and Design, with the intention of being a designer of some sort. However, the foundation course in Art and Design I studied meant that rather than having a design portfolio I ended up with an artist portfolio. The course was not really Art and Design but Art and Graphic Design.
I enjoyed the course even though I had ended up in a different place to where I had aimed. My college tutors suggested I studied Illustration at University. I didn’t know what to do so I took their advice and gained a place at Wolverhampton. It soon felt like it was the wrong course at the wrong university. Things went from bad to worse and I wasn’t happy.
I was determined to make the most out of the situation. I approached my University after I decided things have to change and I said I wanted to transfer universities. I meet with a lady in an office. She said that the university has spare places on an international transfer to America. I had one night to decide whether to apply for the following semester in America which started in 9 weeks time. I was lacking confidence, unsure of myself and very concerned about going.
The next day I applied to go to America on an international transfer to Illinois State University.
I enrolled in a painting and photography class. Very different from Illustration course at Wolverhampton. It suited me better and I gained a great deal of much-needed confidence. It wasn’t easy, at times I had to make some very tough decisions on my own. I really enjoyed the painting and photography classes I was enrolled in, and they have both been a major part of my work ever since. This trip was life changing and it had a fundamental effect on me.
After university I went traveling for 6 months to Hong Kong, China and Australia. I returned and got a full-time job.
I started a MA Fine Art, since passing my MA I have had a rented studio a few miles from where I live.
The decision to go to America was definitely life changing. I am a painter and photographer because of it.