What do I enjoyabout my time in the art studio?

 
©Stuart Bush Hard to concentrate, oil on board 30 x 40 x 3.5 cm – £1000 + shipping enquiry
My art studio is on the top floor of an old shoe factory in Northampton. I have been working in this space for over ten years now.  The space is quite full.  Ten years means ten years of equipment, ten years of paperwork and ten years of ideas on paper and canvas.  
 
I have weekly access to London where I go looking for inspiration to bring back to the studio and process my ideas.  It is great to have the exposure to view the best galleries and exhibitions and to be able to walk the streets of London with my camera.  
 
A studio is a place of unique freedom; it is a place for me and my thoughts where I can figure things out.  It is a place to use my intuition to look for problems, get things wrong, make mistakes and follow a hunch. I have learnt a way to lie to myself, and accept whatever comes out of the creative act is good enough.  
 
I feel a strong need and desire to process the world.  Thinking about my artwork is done in pencil and paint as I process what I see, as I look to figure how to process it.  I believe that what I am trying to grasp through my art practice is of importance, to get a better understanding of the seemingly meaningless void, what we call life.  
 
Through my practice as a painter if I painted nature I would want to paint the treeness of a tree, something that resonates strongly with us.  In the lines and colours of my ephemeral moments I look to reflect a visual equivalent of the rhythm the city.  The work deepens and expands to harmonise the whole.  I paint my inclination of form from the structural elements of the figure in the city to express us.   A simplified and symbolic vision that selects what is essential through reduction.  In between representational and abstraction, reality and painting.   
 
Josef Albers said in the Interaction of colour, “In musical compositions, so long as we hear merely single tones, we do not hear music.  Hearing music depends on the recognition of the in-between of the tones, of their placing and their spacing.” This quote is important to understand how I see individual pieces of my work in the studio as linked into a wider conversation I am trying to have.  My blog is titled “The Poetic Painter, Painting in pictures rather than words” because music, poetry and painting have a lot of similarities.  Like David Salle said, an iconic image has the “visual equivalent of a tenor reaching a high note.”
 
I enjoy my opportunity to communicate my thought and ideas.  I like to hear what you enjoy about your creative time.  Please join in the conversation in the comment box below.
 

Productivity in the artist’s studio

©Stuart Bush, sketch book study 78, oil and charcoal on paper
 
I am taking positive steps to make me more productive in the studio including things like planning and reviewing what I am going to do in the studio before I arrive and creating some studio ground rules.
 
I have a list of current projects and series of work l am trying to complete. Before l go to my studio I write down a short list of next steps l need to take, often between two or three depending on long each one will take.  This brief list is hand written in my diary, so it is clear to follow.  This way I know what my first task is, therefore avoiding beginning with an extended period of uncertainty.  Of course, uncertainty when painting is always present, but I try to remove it at this stage with preplanning.  
 
To choose the right tasks, I ask myself a series of questions; If l only achieve 2-3 tasks in a day what would these tasks be and would l be satisfied if l only get these done? If I made only one work of excellence, which one would make an enormous difference and have the greatest consequences? 
 
To help keep my mind clear and on creative studio time I write down all the distractions l might encounter on a to-do list.  Plus l avoid all office and business related tasks while in the studio to avoid all low-level activities.  Even if these task are urgent, I still try to do them after my creative block of time of one to three hours.  The creative time must come first.
 
The rules I have put in place while working are;    
Phone on silent, select music quickly (if I choose to listen to any at all), no tv or video, no newspapers, no friends dropping by, no emailing, no internet research unless it is related to making my next work therefore, hopefully, no diversions and distractions from the creative task ahead.
 
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My new artist statement

©Stuart Bush, Strange Heart Sings, oil on board 30 x 40 cm

I have an inherent need to communicate and express something. I am constantly looking for a new way to read the world to understand the physicality of forms. I see my practice as an exercise of being a painter/curator of moments of our lives; reclaiming a more agreeable melody, restoring, reordering and decluttering to focus on what is truly important.

By focusing on the space and the possibilities of structure and composition, I hope to emphasise the beauty and harmony from the chaos in the city, to invoke a new reading of its noise, movement and pattern. By revealing things through a slow open process, my work uncovers the importance of the positive and negative space. Where rhythm, colour and form play off each other, and each shape takes it configuration and meaning from the next, as a metaphor for the qualities of a seductive poem or an intriguing piece of music.

There is truth in the paintings as I try to deal with the present tense and how these ephemeral junctures were for me. A situation and context where discoveries and revelations happen. There is a layered time as I grapple with evidence of awkward moments, aspects of failure and changes of direction. Leaving the physical traces of responding to mistakes, that relate to intrinsic qualities of being human.

An artist’s complicated journey of generating ideas and new work

I like documenting the world with a camera as a way to stimulate my visual imagination.  By viewing the world like a voyeur, I can focus on aspects to home into, capturing a moment in the viewfinder. I am constantly looking to find a way to make the invisible visible.
 
I don’t think you can ever underestimate the use of play and intuition at this point.  The following work from the photos can go in almost any direction, finding ambiguity in the work is essential.  To stimulate my imagination and generate new ideas I sketch with an open mind in paint, pencil and mixed media. The work itself often directs a change of medium.  This long process is different every time, it involves searching, analysing, selecting, editing, improving and rejecting the photographs, and the prep work, combined with other visual and textual information in the studio creating a multifaceted sketch book.  
 
The paintings come out of drawings, and a significant amount of labour takes place behind the scenes.  The work is often a struggle, and as an artist, I am often overwhelmed with self-doubt.  Afterwards, the work may look as if it was achieved quickly without effort. But I am aware that a reductive sketch, that may seem effortless, can often signify ability and skill.
 
©Stuart Bush, Study for Law of the Jungle
During the problem-creation stage my thoughts and skill are juxtaposed with accidents of the initial rough ideas.  When I was trying to get my thoughts down on paper I recognised the potential in this study above straight away, even though it is a simple coloured wash made in a few strokes that came about by chance.  It is too easy to lose the potential when trying to repeat it or refine it and knowing how to turn it into a finished work.  Over working and excessive labour can remove the movement, action or expression.   At other times it is not easy to recognise potential straight off.  This is where time helps and why I move my work so I can’t see it for long periods of time.
 
The space for play and chance to expand conceptual ideas is part of a process, as work passes through many physical processes.  The challenge of creating a finished work from the prep work is repeating and keeping the problem-creation open.  Often when the process does not allow imprecise marks, smears and stains to inspire radical changes at any stage of the process, the work can be still born and dead.  All the works l make are biographical and very personal.
 
©Stuart Bush, The Law of the Jungle, oil on aluminium panel, 38 x 76 cm – £3000 + shipping enquiry

If you would like to read what other artists have to say on this subject please take a look at;

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2012/jan/02/top-artists-creative-inspiration

10 Reasons to Keep a Sketchbook

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/04/sketchbook_n_6096058.html

Please comment below about your thoughts and experiences related to this post, ‘An artist’s complicated journey of generating ideas and new work’

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.

What is success to me?

©Stuart Bush, A section of ourselves as a commodified object, oil on aluminium panel, 80 x 120cm
©Stuart Bush, A section of ourselves as a commodified object, oil on aluminium panel, 80 x 120cm – £3000 + shipping enquiry

 

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.

http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/book_report/alex-katz-robert-storr-interview-54050

Maybe one day a little recognition would be nice though!

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.

What do I love about being an artist?

©Stuart Bush, The will to live part 1, mixed media on paper 43 x 61 cm – £400 + shipping enquiry

©Stuart Bush, The will to live part 2, mixed media on paper 43 x 61 cm – £400 + shipping enquiry

©Stuart Bush, The will to live part 3, mixed media on paper 43 x 61 cm – £400 + shipping enquiry

©Stuart Bush, The will to live part 4, mixed media on paper 43 x 61 cm – £400 + shipping enquiry
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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Book review – Eric Fischl’s ‘Bad Boy’

©Stuart Bush Blind boy (2007) oil on canvas 50 x 70 cm
©Stuart Bush Blind boy (2007) oil on canvas 50 x 70 cm – £650 + shipping enquiry

Eric Fischl was born in 1948 in New York City, his suburban upbringing and career as an internationally acclaimed American artist is presented in his book ‘Bad Boy’.
Fischl shares his deep wounds when discussing his personal relationships, especially with his depressed and alcoholic mother. These troubling experiences made their way into his artwork creating a dialogue about his personal wounds and ironically they ultimately lead to him getting into trouble.
The death of Fischl’s mother inspired the work he became famous for. It is interesting that after his first solo show in New York at the Edward Thorp Gallery in 1979 and the following success lead to him ‘going off the rails’ as the book title suggests and he enjoyed success a little too much.
Fischl’s book is informative and helpful to other artists. There is interesting advice and tips about how to deal with the process of being a successful artist and he discusses the issues and ideas in his work.

Eric Fischl says in the book, “Painting. Is a process that guides me back through complex experiences that I didn’t have words to describe or understand.  It relieves feelings and memories and brings them forward with clarity and resolution.  Each one of my paintings is like a journey, a process to excavate nuggets of emotion, artefacts of memory, the treasures buried in my unconscious. My imagery evokes feelings that were once too painful to ephemeral or too embarrassing to articulate or even to remember.”
Eric Fischl’s ideas are well developed and considered as you would expect from someone who has had international success as an artist. He uses clear, convincing and honest language. I think the book is a good read and has lots of information and advice about dealing with life an artist. I enjoyed reading it and strongly recommend it.

©1981 Eric Fischl, Bad boy, oil on linen, 170 cm × 240 cm - All rights reserved by Eric Fischl
©1981 Eric Fischl, Bad boy, oil on linen, 170 cm × 240 cm – All rights reserved by Eric Fischl

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
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