Live, paint, repeat

When starting as an artist rather than waiting for a big idea, I took my camera to the city. I took pictures of everything and anything that interested me. I just pressed and released the shutter. When l reviewed my photos, l realised that l was naturally discovering interesting material. My ideas came from living, painting and repeating.

When returning to the city with my camera, l followed my natural curiosity and my ideas deepened and expanded. At times it was hard to choose which way to take my work. It was essential to review and understand what l had. I took many directions but kept returning to taking photos of the city and taking them forward by painting them on canvas. The trick is not to give up Helsinki Bus Theory link.

I realised over time that my original idea was chasing some obscure knowledge through a simple process that I could repeat.

I feel like I have been painting the same painting for ten years as now I realise that my original ideas just got the work started. The original idea is still in my work but it has changed and developed in ways l could never have predicted. My work has grown to portray something unique that help us to understand our life on this earth a little better.

These seeds begin to germinate in many different directions like a plant does when it is attracted to light and water. It has taken many years for my original ideas and intentions to bloom into flowers. Now the interesting thing is not my original ideas or intentions. It is that l have found my way to communicate; my unique voice and inclination. As my work has deepened and expanded, it has lined up with natural talent, unlocking bigger ideas. Bigger ideas that l could never have predicted ten years ago.

The point of this post is that it is impossible to know where your practice as an artist will take you. One of the biggest challenges is learning to trust the decisions you make and to stop doubting yourself. Instead, l have developed confidence in my inner voice even when l can’t see where it is taking me.

My advice is to play, as there is no such thing as a mistake. Anything can lead to a breakthrough. If self-doubt is getting the best of you put your trust in a process and live, paint, repeat.

Over time when you review your work a way forward should reveal itself. Trust yourself and your creative process. Rather than paying attention to your own intentions, pay attention to what the work actually does. When the thinking and doing come together the work becomes more convincing.

Finding time for your priorities

©Stuart Bush, You don’t understand me series 1-4, 2015 gouache on paper
I recently watched a video on TED titled, ‘How to gain control of your free time’ by Laura Vanderkam.   Laura spoke about how we are always so busy, but if we come home and needed to resolve a situation like a broken boiler, we know we must prioritise it, and we always manage to find the time.
 
In Laura’s story, it took 7 hours to deal with the emergency, to clean up the mess and get a plumber to come and fix it. It is surprising to think that is possible to find 7 hours to deal something like this in a very busy daily schedule.
 
As I watched the video, I wondered how I could make better use of my time.  How much time do I spend in the day doing unproductive things that don’t work towards my goals?  If time is a choice and I take some time to decide what my priorities are for the long and short term I know l need to plan for the next year in advance and put these priorities over other requests for my time.  Then I can fit in scheduled time into slots in my diary and make sure my time is focused time.  Then the results will follow.
 
A final piece of helpful advice from the video to help manage your priorities is for when you receive requests for your time, rather than say, “I don’t have time because of X, Y & Z,” is to say, ”I don’t do X, Y & Z because they are not a priority.”  

Drawing, The creative act

©Stuart Bush, I’m not mad at all, oil paint on paper

 

Allowing freedom in the studio for creativity exploration is essential. When I work on a plain sheet of paper or in my sketchbook, I seek to have an openness in my drawings that allows and embraces a large number directions and options that can be pursued. A chain of evolution takes place in my pictures over an extended period of time and patience is essential. Working on and towards a finished piece too early can make the outcome contrived and often can leave me frustrated.
This explorative phase is more like problem-creation stage than problem-solving stage. I am looking to generate new ideas to stimulate my visual imagination and leaving space for creativity and ambiguity. I have often found that without this freeness, the development and exploratory of my thoughts are restricted, and the work comes to a dead end.
With creative freedom in my drawings, my insight and intuition give me an inkling of what to do next allowing me to focus on specific issues and open questions. I can then remove certain details and concentrate on the whole by copying and repeating to expand conceptual ideas and structures by following a hunch.  
Inspiration is an essential ingredient and can come from chaotic and imprecise work made with an open mind or by viewing another artist’s work or for me, by being inspired by the city. Accidents and chance can lead to seeing embedded ideas in a different way. The freeness leaves space to suggest moods and emotions and enhancing abstract concepts. I often feel the need to revisit unresolved ideas and expanding on them. Sometimes this leads to radical changes and often, exciting new artwork.
It is always important to remember that overworking can remove the essence, spirit, the actual original thoughts, and potential. The outcome is successful when the liberty and pleasure are still visible. After all seemingly effortless art signifies greatness and shows the way forward for an artist who can then capture what is immaterial into the material.

©Stuart Bush, No exit, pen on paper 43 x 61 cm

The secrets of art and creativity

©Stuart Bush The inception of an unexpressed thought part 1, coloured pencil on paper 22 x 29cm
©Stuart Bush The inception of an unexpressed thought part 2, coloured pencil on paper 22 x 29cm
©Stuart Bush The inception of an unexpressed thought part 2, coloured pencil on paper 22 x 29cm
©Stuart Bush The inception of an unexpressed thought part 4, coloured pencil on paper 22 x 29cm
Art is about using your creativity to make new connections from things around you.  The intention is to reconsider what you previous thought to give you a better understanding of what life is really about.  
 
Creativity in art is really about playing and experimenting. Taking two random things and letting things happen.  Being overly self-critical or self-conscious can prohibit a breakthrough.  You’re not trying to re-invent the wheel; you need to encounter discomfort and ignore any fears and tell yourself, this is for me and try not to worry what other people think.  
 
You could connect something banal like house bricks, reflecting coldness and the mundane, as a wake-up call to the excesses of capitalism like Carl Andre and his artwork, Equivalent V.
 
You take on some of the big topics, like immortality, life and death by linking the cycle of life, with flies living and dying in a glass box like Damien Hirst, titled ‘A Thousand Years’ (1990).
 
Or you could take up a skill like drawing, painting or pottery and just get making and see where it takes you.  The trick is once on a path, you’re bound not to know where the work is heading. If you thought you knew where your ideas are going, your artwork is probably stillborn or dead and lacks any inside energy.
 
The Helsinki Bus Station Theory by photographer Arno Rafaela Minkkinen explains some interesting and worthwhile advice:
 
 
The Helsinki Bus Station: let me describe what happens there.

Some two-dozen platforms are laid out in a square at the heart of the city. At the head of each platform is a sign posting the numbers of the buses that leave from that particular platform. The bus numbers might read as follows: 21, 71, 58, 33, and 19. 

Each bus takes the same route out of the city for a least a kilometer stopping at bus stop intervals along the way where the same numbers are again repeated: 21, 71, 58, 33, and 19. 

Now let’s say, again metaphorically speaking, that each bus stop represents one year in the life of a photographer, meaning the third bus stop would represent three years of photographic activity. 

Ok, so you have been working for three years making platinum studies of nudes. Call it bus #21. 

You take those three years of work on the nude to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the curator asks if you are familiar with the nudes of Irving Penn. His bus, 71, was on the same line. Or you take them to a gallery in Paris and are reminded to check out Bill Brandt, bus 58, and so on. 

Shocked, you realize that what you have been doing for three years others have already done. 

So you hop off the bus, grab a cab (because life is short) and head straight back to the bus station looking for another platform. 

This time you are going to make 8×10 view camera color snapshots of people lying on the beach from a cherry picker crane. 

You spend three years at it and three grand and produce a series of works that illicit the same comment: haven’t you seen the work of Richard Misrach? Or, if they are steamy black and white 8×10 camera view of palm trees swaying off a beachfront, haven’t you seen the work of Sally Mann? 

So once again, you get off the bus, grab the cab, race back and find a new platform. This goes on all your creative life, always showing new work, always being compared to others.

What to do? 

It’s simple. Stay on the bus. Stay on the f*cking bus.

 
 
So play and make random connections.   These new connections you make are only significant if they generate new meaning.  Use your intuition to sense which have potential and to figure out the best to communicate this idea to someone.   Make art from what is around you and try to make a comment about the world.  
 
When telling a joke, the funny part comes when two different separate ideas connect, generating a new meaning, similar to connections within a successful work of art.  Remember art is wonder!  It doesn’t matter if someone else likes it or dislikes it.  What is important is that your audience can’t stop thinking about it.  The possibilities are endless.  And remember to stay on the f*cking bus!
 
 
Related posts

When the need to be creative gets inside of you

©Stuart Bush, The Quality of Absence, oil on aluminium panel 80 x 112 cm – £4000 + shipping enquiry
When you see a successful artist or creative person doing their thing, are you inspired and wish you could do what they do?  Instead of believing in yourself does self-doubt, or the risk of rejection, ridicule or humiliation stop you?  It might be the creative act itself or taking the artwork to the next level and letting other people see it that stops you.  However, the need to be creative is a powerful force.  When I haven’t been to the studio for a little while l feel its loss.  I’m sure many people reading this can relate to the need to be creative and also the need to hide their talents.
 
Have you heard about the sad story about a lady called Vivian Maier who lived in Chicago?  http://www.vivianmaier.com Vivian spent most of life working as a caregiver.  When she died, there were over 100,000 negatives found in a storage unit in her name. Throughout her life, she hid her passion from the outside world.  There is lots of speculation about why she did this, but no one will ever know for sure apart from Vivian herself.  Since her death, Vivian’s work has been compared to the world renowned photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.
 
I think we build up self-doubt in our heads and it becomes a mindset that is often overwhelming.  It seems that Vivian hid her gift from the world because of her vulnerability.  I have also been trying to find a way to overcome the self doubt problem.  I found these words of advice from successful artists useful:
 
Vincent Van Gogh; “If you hear a voice within saying I cannot paint by all means paint and that voice will be silenced”.  
 
Susan Hiller; “To a young artist, I would say: just go day by day and see what happens. Don’t worry about other people’s judgment.”
 
Rachel Jones; “Ultimately, you have to understand who you are making your work for: it should be for you, that is the first thing.”
 
This is all very good advice but life isn’t that simple.  Questions like how to find time, how to keep positive while keeping your vision and integrity are extremely challenging.
 
In Eric Fischl’s book, ‘Bad Boy’, he gives some interesting advice, “Art is a process and a journey. All artists have to find ways to lie to themselves, find ways to fool themselves into believing that what they’re doing is good enough, the best they can do at that moment, and that’s okay. Every work of art falls short of what the artist envisioned. It is precisely that gap between their intention and their execution that opens up the door for the next work.”
 
And Chuck Close said, “‘Bread crumbs’, by working, stuff comes out of working.  That is very different from dreaming something up and executing it.  Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us show up and get to work.”
 
One further explanation from John Cleese.  Most of the time we are in a closed mind, think when we are at work.  There is a tension and pressure to get the work done.  There is lots to be done, and we have to get on with it so there is little humour.  It is purposeful time but not creative time.
 
Then there is the open mode, where we are relaxed and playful in what we do.  We follow our curiosity as we are not under pressure.  Through play we find what we like and want to do.
 
Do you have any thoughts on this subject?  What do you do to enable yourself to carry on when self-doubt creeps in?  Do you have any words of advice to help overcome self-doubt and procrastination?  Do you feel held back from following your creative instincts? 

All comments most welcome!!!    Please join in the conversation and make a comment.

©Stuart Bush, The Quality of Absence (in progress) – enquiry

Risk taking with oil bars

Oil bars are an interesting art material to use due to the simplicity of their application.  They are great to have in your toolkit when you want to work quickly and on a large scale to create an undercoat or to work in a sketchy graphic style.  I find pleasure in using them when creating line drawings, outlines or filling large areas with a uniform colour. They are more like drawing than painting in many ways as you hold the stick like a drawing implement.
 
I have always found oil bars challenging to use on their own.  One of the most challenging things about oil bars is the immediacy and expressive nature of the oil sticks as you can’t remove any marks.  When I work with oil bars I don’t smudge the marks, even though they produce a very limited type of stroke. I find some of the outcomes created may need repainting in oil paints to vary the effect and make them more compelling.  
 
Oil bars encourage risk taking but can also produce accidents, as they are extremely direct way of making marks with a lovely, adnominally large waxy oil pastel.  I wholeheartedly recommend giving them a try and being experimental.
 
The sketches below show a comparison of using oil bars and charcoal on the figures.  The background on both studies is mixed media.
©Stuart Bush Untitled study 2014
©Stuart Bush Untitled study with oil bars/mixed media 2014

Have you used oil bars in your creative practice? Feel free to share your successes below.

Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy book review

©Stuart Bush, No exit, pen on paper 43 x 61 cm
©Stuart Bush, No exit, pen on paper 43 x 61 cm
The title of the book comes from a Mark Twain quote. It suggests that if you start the day by eating a frog (a frog is a metaphor for your most important task), you will be happy to know that this is the worst thing you need to do that day.
I wanted to write about the book, ‘Eat that Frog’ because it contains a useful explanation of how to manage your priorities. I have over the years been highly unproductive because of procrastination, and this book has helped me towards overcoming the problem.
The most helpful sections to me were ‘Plan every day in advance’, ‘Apply 80/20 rule to everything’, ‘Practice A, B, C, D and E method of prioritising’ and the advice about removing distractions has had a real impact on my productivity.
©Vilfredo Pareto, The Pareto Principle All rights reserved
©Vilfredo Pareto, The Pareto Principle All rights reserved
The book is relatively short, compact and an easy read considering it is a self-help book.   I’m a note taker when reading books like this, as I feel it helps me digest the many learning points. I even turned a couple of chapters into mind maps, to help me capitalise on the useful advice.  This book has helped me with my productivity, and I would highly recommend it.

My favourite paints

©Stuart Bush, A form of confessional poetry, oil on board, 30.5 x 40.6 cm
©Stuart Bush, A form of confessional poetry, oil on board, 30.5 x 40.6 cm – £800 + shipping enquiry
 
I prefer a buttery, creamy paint; that is easy to manipulate and handle.  This is why Michael Harding’s Artists oil colours have become my first choice.  The strength of colour in the pigment is evident.  There is luminosity that speaks volumes, making my work stand out.  The flow, workability, usability and colourfastness of the paint is highly relevant to me.
 
I have noticed some other brands add less linseed oil into their paint, and this affects the usability and finish. Drier paint gives a matt finish while paint with more flow gives a glossy finish.  I have found that tubes of oil paint from other manufacturers with slightly drier contents will become unusable over a year or two, and this is very frustrating, though a hard, dry tube of paint can be useful at times if you require a matt finish.  I found that the best solution is to use a medium as mediums improve with handling and can increase the glossy finish.
 
Do you use any of these products in your daily practice? Your welcome to add your thoughts and start a conversation below.

Refining my studio time – part 2 – The Law of the Jungle

©Stuart Bush, The Law of the Jungle 2015 oil on aluminium panel 38 x 76 cm - £3000 + shipping enquiry
©Stuart Bush, The Law of the Jungle 2015 oil on aluminium panel 38 x 76 cm – £3000 + shipping enquiry
After listening to Tim Ferris’s podcast the other day I checked out one of his recommendations and read ‘Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule‘ an essay by Paul Graham.
Paul Graham describes the difference between two types of time. Makers schedule and the Managers Schedule. I like how his simple explanations defines the two; Firstly Managers Schedule’s are cut into appointments around an hour long, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter for a single task.
While the Makers Schedule, is generally scheduled for about half a day sessions, as an hour is only normally enough time to get started.
This is all fairly obvious so far, it gets interesting when the two meet in daily life. As an artist you need to work with both schedules, to be productive in the studio and for meetings or social time.
A meeting in an artist’s day can really affect the productivity in the studio. Being aware of this helps me understand how to plan my studio time and business tasks for the week. It is important to plan for each day and review the plan the day before. I try to work out 2-5 tasks to achieve and with an understanding of how creativity works it is then possible for me to overcome procrastination and to be a lot more productive in the studio.
When working on business tasks or managers tasks as an artist, it is important not to let these stray into your studio time as this can be a time and energy killer.  Studio time needs the creative, open mind. We need to be in a relaxed, less purposeful mode where we are more contemplative and playful, allowing our creativity to take over.
Whereas Business tasks or managers tasks generally require a closed mind as there is little creativity.  By batching business tasks or managers tasks into blocks of time, they can be done away from the studio.  Putting emails, social media activities, meetings and admin tasks into a preplanned time slot just like the studio time means greater productivity.  Doing business tasks often makes the artist a little bit anxious and without humour. There are lots to be done to become a successful artist and overlapping the Makers time, and the Managers schedules can be counterproductive.
Unfortunately, business tasks or managers tasks have a way to find their way into the studio at times. For this, I recommend reading the book, Eat that Frog by Brian Tracey, and consider his helpful suggestions for removing distractions.

Composition and mixing colours techniques

©Stuart Bush, The pursuit of truth, oil on board, 50 x 70cm
©Stuart Bush, The pursuit of truth, oil on board, 50 x 70cm – £1000 + shipping enquiry

In my painting ‘The Pursuit of Truth,’ I was interested in exploring the composition of an image.  A composition is usually referred to the arrangement of elements within a work of art.  An artist arranges the different elements into satisfactory relationships creating a sense of balance and pictorial harmony, while exploring rhythm, scale and movement. The composition of an image is  instinctive; when it is done well it has remarkable power and originality.  It can make you feel alive, and question; What is this?

Resolving problems when mixing the wrong colour
I was trying to make a particular grass coloured green that would work well with other colours on my painting.  I mixed cobalt blue with cadmium lemon.  Instead of arriving at the colour I hoped for, I had a dullish green mix on my palette which I was not happy with at all.
To remedy the problem I spent an hour or so creating a new colour swatch for my studio wall.  My first task was to make a value scale of each colour with white.  I extended this with a set of colour swatches with blues and yellows in value scales.
This task gives me knowledge of my palette and the colours I could make which can be further expanded with other common colours that can be mixed together.  I realise that the task of doing these tests swatches helps to fit it in my memory which makes the process of choosing the right colours to mix together a lot easier.  It certainly helps to make me feel more confident and decisive when using colour.
blue-and-white-swatch
Blue and green coloured swatch
‘The Pursuit of Truth’ is for sale, if you have any questions please contact me here
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