15 things I learnt from Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art speech

©Stuart Bush, The Kingdom, oil on canvas 150 x 85 cm
 
In 2012 Neil Gaiman gave a commencement speech for the University of Arts in Pennsylvania.  Neil Gaiman is a writer of novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and films. He was born in Hampshire, UK, and now lives in the United States near Minneapolis. Neil’s most notable works include The Sandman, Stardust, American Gods, Neverwhere, Coraline and The Graveyard book. He has also been honoured with many international awards.  His speech is packed full of helpful advice for creative people.  
 
I thought I would write this blog post and highlight many of the learning points l found in it.
 
  1. “Instead of having a career plan, make a list of everything you want to do and just do the next thing on the list.”
  2. “Goals are like mountains in the distance.” Set them and be clear what they are. 
  3. “Do things that feel like an adventure. Learn to write by writing. [For a painter, learn to paint by painting]. Stop when it feels like work.”
  4. “A life in the arts, is sometimes like putting messages in bottles on a desert island, and hoping that someone will find one of your bottles, open it and read it, and put something back in a bottle that will wash its way back to you: appreciation, or a commission, or money, or love. But you have to accept that you may put out a hundred things for every bottle that winds up coming back to you.” 
  5. “Nothing I did where the only reason for doing it was the money, was ever worth it.”  If you do things you’re proud of and if you don’t get paid, at least you will be proud of your work. 
  6. “The problems of success. They’re real, and with luck, you’ll experience them all. The point where you stop saying yes to everything is because now the bottles you threw in the ocean are all coming back, and you have to learn to say no.”  
  7. “Write fewer emails, write [and paint] more.”
  8. “Get out there and make mistakes.”
  9. After you have finished copying things remember,  “The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”    
  10. “Do the stuff only you can do.”
  11. “You should enjoy it, let go and enjoy the ride. Don’t worry about the next deadline or the next idea.”
  12. “Make up your own rules.”
  13. “Pretend that you’re someone who is already successful… and pretend to be wise.”
  14. “Make good art!”
  15. “And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break the rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.”
 
Here is the full speech:
 
If you would like to learn more about Neil please click this link below. 

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An artist’s advice to finding art

©Stuart Bush, Law of the jungle, oil on aluminium panel 38 x 76 cm
I have a modern house and l love having modern art on the walls.  I try to make my art collection personal to me.
 
I also enjoy spending time in London visiting museums and galleries.  I appreciate having time to look at a variety of artist’s work and considering their different styles and types of work.    Artists are generally in the know and are usually very helpful.  I also try to go to alternative spaces to meet artists. I learn a lot by talking to artists and uncovering who they admire and who influences who, and what they think about other artists.  If the same name keeps cropping up l take notes and do my own research on them.
 
I often go online to find which dealers are working with particular artists. I sometimes go on Artnet.com to see the prices that artists sell their work for, it gives me a better understanding of the art market.
 
I like to visit art school on their open days like the Royal College of Art or the Royal Academy Schools. It’s an added advantage to spend time in an art school, l may come across a piece l like and try to remember it’s been done before. Having knowledge of what has been done in the past is particularly important if you are looking to buy or make modern art.
 
I listen carefully to the advice l get from galleries, curators and collectors. Personally, I’ve never used art consultants but l have heard that they can be very helpful. I don’t follow trends, l like what l like. I am interested in art that is personal to me.

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Picasso paints want he knows rather what he sees

Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy, Tate Modern (8th March – 9th September)  
 
Installation view of The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy with Pablo Picasso’s Girl Before a Mirror (1932)  © Succession Picasso/DACS London, 2018
 
The subject of this exhibition is the influence of love, fame and tragedy on Picasso’s work over a one year period.  This year long output is a rich visual diary which gives away a great deal about the artist; from his professional career, to the way he worked and his personal life.  There are more the one hundred pieces of artwork, showing his entanglements with love and fame, his convolutions with colour and form, and his intricacies as the 20th century’s most influential artist.  
 
Using this review, I am seeking to unpick how a highly accomplished artist approached and explored form, colour and space in his work with the intention of helping me in my journey as an artist.
 
The Dream, 1932 Oil paint on canvas 1299 x 968mm Private Collection © Sussession Picasso/DACS London, 2018
 
The first room of this impressive exhibition starts in January and moves forward throughout a particularly special year in Picasso life.  Most of the work is referenced to a single day in 1932.   My first thoughts were how impressive his daily output was. It is hard to imagine working at such speed day after day and producing such high-quality work.  Picasso made his paintings feel like a grand and confident experiment.  He gave himself permission to trust his instincts and senses.  Rather than using direct observation, he preferred to work from memory, focusing beyond what he could see.  The result was an operation of his mind. Picasso said, “I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them.”
 
Picasso started each painting with a simple outline drawn on the canvas.  The free and loose drawings of curves, contours and form feel as if they spring from discovery. They give his paintings a visual rhythm and a harmony of fragmented structures. The abstract shapes work independently but at the same time together, as they each have a direct impact on the next form.  They all come together creating striking compositions, filled with movement.
 
In working this way, Picasso is always looking for a new way to read the world and express a new visual vocabulary. As my eyes wandered around his paintings l was amazed and intrigued by how effortless Picasso makes his beautiful pictures look.  The colours and forms of the painting respond to each other.  
 
The Rescue 1932 oil paint on canvas 1300 x 975 x 25mm Foundation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Sammlung Beyeler ©Succession Picasso/DACS London 2018
Picasso was interested in colour and had the intention to outshine his closet friend and rival Matisse in all areas.  After visiting ‘Matisse: The Cut-Out’, in 2014, and comparing the two artists work, in my view it is clear that Matisse had the upper hand when it came to colour. Picasso often used a joyful palette to create a warm and expressive ambience and at times with paintings like, ‘Seated Woman by a Window’,1932, Picasso’s use of colour creates dynamic energy and audacity of simplicity.  But to me, colour came second in Picasso work. It is not a fundamental part of his work; instead, it is often an afterthought.  
 
Picasso creative genius lays not in the use of colour as an integral part of his work, but in his ability to understand and manipulate form. Picasso could view structure from multiple directions, clearly shown in his cubist work, and combine these many viewpoints.  In capturing three-dimensional forms, in two-dimensional drawings, paintings and in his sculpture, Picasso clearly shows a highly advanced genius. His creative talent and mastery are distinctly evident in the subtleties of his advanced spatial awareness. Picasso plainly indicates he has the self-belief and confidence to push this as the dominant theme in his work and this is where he can outperform his friends and rivals.
 
Installation view of EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy with Pablo Picasso’s Nude Green Leaves and Bust ©Succession Picasso/DACS London 2018
I found the exhibition and following one year in the life of Picasso immensely successful.  It enabled me to consider what was going on in many parts of his life and how through evident self-confidence in his own abilities he was able to handle all that life threw at him. This exhibition will have a significant impact on my work. I see similarities in Picasso’s processes and topics that I can learn from.  I think the biggest take away for me from this exhibition is Picasso self-belief and confidence and how prolific and dedicated he was to his work. Picasso’s bristling energy unquestionably comes through.  
 
From the radical simplification of a form, you can see the building blocks of abstraction. He uses his artistic skills to the full to capture three-dimensional understanding.  Each shape seems to be the product of another shape.  Picasso said, “Cubism is neither a seed nor a foetus, but an art dealing primarily with forms, and when a form is reloaded it is there to live its own life.”
 
Installation view of The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy with Pablo Picasso’s The Three Dancers and Woman in the Garden ©Succession Picasso/DACS London 2018

The ideas behind, ‘Empire State of Mind’ painting

©Stuart Bush, Empire state of mind, oil and acrylic on canvas, 85 x 150cm
Any further questions about this painting please email me here.
As humans beings, we have an extraordinary ability to recognise an image and label it.  A silhouette of a person is instantly recognisable. A two-dimension shape of the figure is not human, but we can read it as an image of a person.  I am interested in using this extraordinary ability to record and to explore the structure and nature of reality.
 
My new painting, ‘Empire State of Mind,’ has a lot to do with how my mind is working on and wondering about my instincts regarding perceptual information. I am trying to show and paint what I see. I’m not inventing; I’m investigating how things look. I’m an image maker, painting the previously hidden nature of things. I receive an emotional response from an image as I discover an optical relationship and create a striking composition. I have stepped away from the conventional representation of reality in order to be competitive with it.  The deeper I go into this practice of painting, the more mysterious it becomes.
 
Installation view of my recent exhibition at Floor 1 Gallery, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum
 
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What I struggle with as an artist – Starting the day

©Stuart Bush, Saturate Postcards 1-3
On entering my studio, I often find myself in a low emotional state, where I am not in the mood to make work.  This often happens when I have rushed around to get the kids to school, tidied up and done some basic housework.  On those mornings I feel worn out before the day of work has started.  I am very conscious that I am tired and overwhelmed with life and it all pressures. However, I am also often determined to try to move out of this negative state of mind and get back to being productive. 
 
I have realised that by preparing what I am going to do the night before, as explained in a previous blog post, helps me to know what to do first.  But sometimes my energy is so low not even this is enough to get me going.
 
In order to wake me up and change my energy levels, l find a hot or a cold shower helps to reinvigorate me. I follow this by sitting in an upright position and focusing on controlling my breathing. I think about what I am grateful for, what I appreciate and what makes me feel alive.  I appreciate my relationships, I have a lovely family and happy place to live. I am grateful and lucky to have the opportunity to be creative and paint regularly in my studio.  The last part of this re-focusing is to go for a short walk to remind myself of my conviction as an artist.  A change of location can make a big difference.  I feel the sun, wind or the rain on my face.         All this takes no more than 30 minutes. 
 
The real trick is to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. My unconscious mind needs time to sort itself out.  I need space to pose open questions concerning my next piece of work.  I mull over issues and gently filter out my distracting, conscious thoughts. This process stops the excessive focus on myself and feels like a reset and a physical transformation.  It creates a natural high until I can’t wait to get back to work and I haven’t got a moment to lose. 

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Responding to striking art

©Stuart Bush, People are less memorable than the circumstances in which they were in encountered, part 2. Acrylic on board – SOLD
As an artist, my work is an extension of me. Each painting has its own interesting story to tell and I enjoy disclosing anecdotes of how the work came into being.  A painting has its own power. When a striking artwork makes a connection and speaks to the viewer, it invokes a deeply personal relationship.
 
Everyone reads each piece of art differently.  I find it very gratifying to discover how art lovers respond to my work.   I love to hear different and engaging interpretations. I get an overwhelming feeling of happiness when I can see this connection occurring on a persons face as they light up.
 
Art is not about the potential value; what it costs or what it is worth. Art shouldn’t be seen a financial investment or a commodity.  A vibrant, bold and skilful painting should bring pleasure and make you think. It should add an extra dimension to any room it is hung in. 
 
Owning a piece of art is about looking at it and enjoying it. This emotional affinity creates a tremendous, heartwarming feeling. Once the purchase is made it becomes part of its owner’s life and integral to their home and their identity. 
 
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Timeout from my art studio

©Stuart Bush, He has never been in love, he doesn’t even know what love is, gouache on cartridge paper, 43 x 24 cm
After working too much I took some much needed time out.
 
As well as being an artist and working full time, in my ‘spare’ time l am also a RFU rugby coach for an under 10s junior rugby team.  Rugby has always been an important part of my life.  This year for our weekend away, our tour, we played a local team in Herefordshire, near Wales and we also went Paint Balling!
 
The rugby tour is an opportunity to provide memories that will last a lifetime.  It gives the young team and Coaches a chance to get away from home; to get to know each other and build better relationships and teamwork.  There are always many laughs and excellent camaraderie, especially when the boys and men are dressed up as Grannies, and Ladies as Granddads! 

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7 lessons I have learnt on my way to develop a painting practice.

©2016 Stuart Bush, Hopes and Fears, (2007) oil on canvas 150 x 85 cm
I always felt I excelled as an artist when I painted, ‘Hopes and Fears’. The idea and success of ‘Hopes and Fears’ seemed to come out of nowhere. I started painting, and the result just happened.  It just seemed to work without a lot of effort. I had painted one of my greatest accomplishment to date, and now I want to understand its success so I can reproduce the results.
 
I had been overthinking about what was working within my art.  I kept trying and became confused. Then I slowly began to realise that when I am not trying to reach a solution, when I’m in the shower or going for a walk, ideas pop in my head.  I slowly learnt to realise that I need to get out of my own way to allow my creativity come through.
 
1. Remove the pressure I put on myself
 
It took time to realise that l need to remove the pressure l put on myself. If a solution to a problem is not apparent, I need to try to stay calm and have a clear mind. If my thoughts are racing, a walk, mediation or a stretch, helps.  Another way to remove the pressure is to carry out a simple, unrelated physical task, this helps me to halt the tendency of over thinking and trying to find a solution.  Once there is no pressure my mind becomes comfortable, and my natural creative side leads the way.
 
Sometimes it can take six months to realise how to move a piece of work forward. If this happens, I often turn the painting to the wall and work on something else.  I now have many paintings going on at once, so it is no longer an issue.  
 
2. Studio time is play time
I look at studio time as a way to challenge myself and play. I find it is exciting to stretch myself and learn new things. I am often curious and try things I haven’t tried before.  I find that this outlook enriches my world and my work.
 
2. Artists don’t need to know everything
It took me a long time to realise I don’t need to know everything. I only need to be competent in the area I am working in.  It is more important to understand how to be creative and how to get into the creative flow.   
 
3. Creating problems
When a designer works, often they are given a brief, and they need to solve a problem and come up with a solution.  Instead of addressing a problem I am trying to create one.  
 
4. Holding things back
I want the viewer to come to the work with their life experiences and baggage, and see what they see.  I want them to be intrigued by my work.  I look to create ambiguity so the viewer has reasons to ask questions. I am not laying all my cards on the table; I am holding things back.  
 
5. Nothing goes to plan
So many times I have wanted a painting to go well and too often nothing to goes to plan.  I have learnt to come to terms with this and change my expectations.  My new outlook tells me to expect everything to wrong.  Then when a mistake happens I think maybe it has happened for a good reason, and I wonder if l can learn something new from the error.  This change of outlook means I can now quickly put it in perspective. If this does not work I ask myself these questions. Can I save the situation/work? What are learning points? Can I repeat it and do it better next time? How long will this take?  Do I need to quickly move on and forget about it and do something else?
 
6. There is a key to success in every failure.
 
7. After a successful painting, I ask myself can I develop a series?
Sometimes a piece of work cannot be repeated. But I often consider if I could add slight changes and repeat parts would l then be able to make a series!
 
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Stuart Bush’s Charity Art Sale – helping to give something back to the community

 
 
I am acutely aware of the vital role of the Air Ambulance has in getting doctors to the scene of life-threatening emergencies and airlifting people to a hospital.  I am also aware that the Air Ambulance exists only with the help and support of the local community.   I have decided to combine this art exhibition with supporting the local community    For this unique one-off exhibition l have also reduced my prices to allow more people to buy art.   This art exhibition is more than just about me and my art, it is about giving something back, about supporting the community that l live in and the people l live with.
 
 
The paintings in this exhibition are from 2006-2017.  The theme and ideas that have inspired this work are related to my emotional response as an individual to the city.  This body of work started as a realistic interpretation of street photography. It captures feelings of alienation and angst in the human-made environment. However, the snapshots of life caught something that l wasn’t expecting.  The fleeting moments of line, shapes, and space intrigued me, and I slowly became interested in this interrogation of space in the public realm.
 
 
This body of work finishes with the beginning of something new.  The artwork moves past looking at the dislocation and fragmentation in our contemporary world to the mysterious and intriguing unknown entity of space. In this new direction for my work, I want to explore the existence of the space that enables everything else to exist.  I want to draw the attention away from objects that people make, to the space around us, to create a portal to somewhere else.
 
 
I hope that by raising funds for the charity through selling my paintings, I can bring even more meaning to life through my art.  Every £5 raised could pay for pressure dressings to control a patients bleeding.  Every £10 raised could pay for enough fuel to fly 11 miles towards the nearest major trauma centre.
Stuart Bush’s Charity Art Sale @ Rugby Art Gallery and Museum

I hope you can help me support the local air ambulance charity.

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What I am struggling with as an artist

About a year ago I met up with a group of artists.  The conversations were varied and interesting.  Then we turned to one question that we all had a problem with.  What do we each feel embarrassed to be struggling with regarding our art?
I was hesitant at first to give an honest answer to the question as it made me feel vulnerable. However, I was pleased I did give an honest answer as I learnt a lot from the response. I have my first solo show for a number of years starting on 18th April 2018. All of the feelings and embarrassment about my art had resurfaced and I thought I would share them with you.
 
My response to the question was that, I don’t feel comfortable selling my work.  For some reason, I thought I was the only one who felt like that. To my surprise, I was relieved when all the other artists agreed that they felt the same way too and l quickly realised fear and doubt are endemic in artists’ lives.
 
Let me explain further.  I don’t enjoy selling my art and the thought of rejection often stops me from trying to. I don’t want to force my work on other people. But I feel that if someone rejects my paintings they are also rejecting in me.
 
The discussion turned into a self-help discussion where everyone had some helpful advice to share on this issue. The first response that got me thinking was, ‘Would I prefer my art to be in my garage or on a potential collectors wall?’  This sentence stopped me in my tracks and made me re-think.
 
Advise soon followed;  I need to change the idea of selling from fear to a pleasure. When I have an exhibition, I need to focus on the positives of building friendships and relationships with other artists and art lovers. I need move away from the thought I am going to sell painting today to, l am going to make a new friend today.  I need to see that I am trying solving a problem for a potential collector by sharing my art.  
 
After all, what is the worse that can happen? I may feel nervous but what is wrong with that?  I could end up educating someone about art.  I could have the opportunity to add beauty and colour to over peoples homes and show them what l see.
 
If don’t show my art, what is the price I will pay?
As a creative person, I would miss out on achieving self-contentment through my work. I would miss out on developing a visual language that holds the viewer’s attention.
 
I know I want to have an adventure. I want to challenge things. I want to gain new knowledge.  I want to achieve recognition for my unique talents. However, l realised that by avoiding what needs to be done, I will always be disappointed and dissatisfied with life.
 
I need to consider the cost to myself of not showing my art. If I avoid showing my work, what might my life look like in one year, three years or ten years time? I guess that there is an easy answer; there will no change.  On the other hand, it is hard to predict what will happen if l do show and sell my art.
 
I thought I was avoiding pain by keeping my paintings to myself but in fact by hiding them away I causing myself more pain.  Everything we do, we do for a reason. I didn’t paint these painting to be hidden away. I need to believe in my capabilities to change, to adapt and to expand.
 
By asking myself two questions, I hope to finally achieve a personal breakthrough by associating pleasure with sharing and talking about what I love to do.
 
What will it cost me if I don’t let this negative belief in the value of my art go?
 
What would the benefits be by attempting to sell, to progress and to move forward achieve? Hopefully success….
 
I am about to find out…
 
I am therefore pleased to invite you to my Charity Art Sale in Rugby Art Gallery, Floor 1, from 18th to the 26th April.
 
Stuart Bush’s Charity Art Sale 18-26 April 2018
©Stuart Bush – These 4 postcards titled, ‘A will to live’ are available unframed for a special price of £7 by clicking on the image.
©Stuart Bush, ‘Saturate’ – These 4 postcards titled, ‘A will to live’ are available unframed for a special price of £7 by clicking on the image.

 

Please click here for exhibition postcards