Since I have been a parent, my typical day as a painter starts with waking up between 6 and 6:30 am. I have a clear head in the morning and I have learnt to appreciate this early start as it allows me to catch up with any writing l have to do.
Everyone else in the house is up by 7:30 and then l enjoy spending quality time with the family. I help my boys with their homework and get them ready for school. I really appreciate these enjoyable family moments. I look forward to the short walk to school. On the way back I have the opportunity to start thinking about my first tasks in the studio.
For the next three hours its time to put my head in the rabbit hole. First, I remove all distractions from the studio as I don’t want to be reactive to any outside influences. Then l immerse myself in painting. This typically takes me until my stomach lets me know its lunch time.
If I have managed to achieve all this by lunchtime I feel like I have already won the day. I have completed sixty minutes or so of writing. Ninety minutes with my family and two to three hours of painting. Now that my main priorities are achieved, I see the rest of the day as flexible. If I still feel inspired, I can return to the studio or I can get on with business or home tasks until it’s time to pick the children up from school.
I always look forward to walking to school and being able to ask the children about their day. I then spend the rest of the day with the family. I may do some reading, writing or play games with the family or even do fitness exercises. If I have any free time, I try to catch up on what is left of my business tasks or studio tasks.
Then the only task left to do is to decide what am going to paint the next day.
Ernest Hemingway offered this advice for writing, but I think it suits any creative activity. “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel, you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.” I have found the advice very valuable.
I recently read a book by Malcolm Gladwell called David and Goliath. The theme of the book highlights how we are misled about the nature of our advantages and disadvantages. Gladwell explains that it isn’t always correct that our disadvantages preventing us being successful in life. “We have a definition in our heads of what an advantage is — and the definition isn’t right. And what happens as a result? It means that we make mistakes. It means that we misread battles between underdogs and giants. It means that we underestimate how much freedom there can be in what looks like a disadvantage.”
In chapter four, Gladwell starts with the question, ‘You won’t wish dyslexia on your child, or would you?.’ Gladwell explains that when you’re dyslexic to overcome reading and writing issues, dyslexics really have to work extremely hard. That extra effort to compensate for your disadvantages develops into new advantages. Malcolm says, “If you take away the gift of reading, you give the gift of listening.” In my case rather than listening I developed the gift of seeing.
While battling with comprehension as a dyslexic, I had to concentrate extremely hard. I learnt to look harder and more deeply while fighting to understand and comprehend what I was reading.
Related posts; Benefits of adversities – Wishing for dyslexia
The usual strategy for learning to read is to be able to break down words and understand each syllable. Enabling the reader to form the words by saying the sounds. I was told by a psychologist when I completed a dyslexia test that I have learnt to memorise thousands of words whole. For this strategy to work, I have developed an advanced visual memory to compensate for my weakness. To me, this makes a lot of sense as I am not good with reading and spelling words I am less familiar with.
I believe that what Gladwell talked about in his book is very interesting. I think this idea broadens as Gladwell noted and is the reason why many dyslexics end up becoming artists. Through seeing and thinking thoroughly, they continue to struggle to understand the world. Dyslexics are often resourceful individuals, and they continually look for a solution. Dyslexics develop and build an advanced visual memory, they start to notice what others ignore.
This happens to me, I start to ask questions when I notice something I find interesting. I ask, has anyone else observed this? If they have, surely they would have painted it or draw attention to it another way. I continue looking around to see if anyone has in case I have overlooked it and missed it. After a while, I began to trust that these things that I have noticed have probably been ignored.
Related posts; Benefits of adversities – Wishing for dyslexia
Then I start the journey of processing these things of interest. Looking at them even more profoundly. I play with them in my head and in a sketchbook turning them into a variety of outcomes in order to see what works. The hardest part is to look and see if I can turn it into successful artwork. This is really what an artist’s role is, to think deeply about what hasn’t been noticed and draw attention to it.
Gladwell highlights this fact in the book, “An extraordinarily high number of entrepreneur are dyslexic about a third…There are two possible interpretations for this remarkable fact. One is that this extraordinary group of people triumphed in spite of their disability. That they are so smart and so creative, that nothing, not even a lifetime of struggling with reading could stop them. The second more intriguing possibility that they achieve in part because of the disorder. That they learnt something in their struggle to be at an enormous advantage. Would you wish dyslexia on your child?”
George Bernard Shaw, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress relies on the unreasonable man.”
Related posts; Benefits of adversities – Wishing for dyslexia
I found the question of where to start as an artist after art school an easy one. I had a desire to capture something about now; the present moment in the city. My camera seemed an obvious place to start. I picked up my camera and took pictures. Cartier Bresson labelled it the “the decisive moment.” I wanted to capture a split second of an ever-changing mad rush. By doing so, I found a way to make art; I discovered a painters approach to street photography.
My walk with a camera started with no intention of where I was going; not in my steps and not in my art. Each time I went out with my camera, I spent more time reflecting on the photographs I took. Looking for a breadcrumb to follow.
Out of the hundreds of photographs, I knew there was a way forward. My own unique way forward. I know I was interested in something significant, but it was impossible to put it into words. I was interested in elements of form, of architecture and individuals, and formal qualities of a composition. Over time this vision developed into a kind of transcendence. A nowness of this specific point in time. Of my time and our time.
Related post to; A painters approach to street photography
My camera works an extension of me, I use it as a tool to capture my artistic vision. I am looking for the right something. When the right individual with the right background, in the right composition, comes together in the frame. I hope to capture an emotion and feeling of being there. To add a sense of place.
When I am out taking photographs is not essential for me to communicate with the people I am photographing. I try to be invisible, I don’t draw attention to myself. I very rarely use a direct likeness of the individuals in my paintings, only sometimes in my drawings. If I was ever asked what I was doing which I never have, I don’t think people would understand. How can I explain I am capturing the randomness of life. This quest to me feels unique.
Related links; A painters approach to street photography
I paint what I photograph rather than exhibit the photographs. The are many reasons why. I have become less interested in narratives and less interested in the details of the image. I want to abstract something out of those moments. To strip away the visual noise, to look for something beneath, where people and the city emerge in a meaningful and surprising way. At the end of the day, we all see and notice these fleeting moments. I am trying to ask what does it say? What does it all mean?
A fated poise, a combination of colour, texture and cut of the clothes translates into our culture. Street photography can become quite obsessive. It takes dedication to capture that moment. That purely visual moment. It is gone so quickly there is hardly any time to capture it. I see it all being about chance. An accidental chance. In that accident, it says something about being here on this rock in this moment of time, that I don’t think can be said in any other way.
Related post to; A painters approach to street photography
When I was starting out as an artist, I was having trouble with feelings about the purpose of our human existence. I related to Karl Marx talking about the problems of consumerism and the alienation of labour. Marx stated that if you are cut off from the fruits of your work, then you are cut off from your creativity, and you lose your sense of self. This introspection on existentialism and the influential work of Francis Bacon lead me to become a painter as a creative outlet for my thoughts.
I realised I was happiest when I was making something. It needed to be something for me that doesn’t have the main aim of making money. I feel that this is one of the main problems with the western consumeristic society. People often lose connection with their output. They complete a task just to make money, just to survive. I believe the goal of making money causes psychological problems with our individual purpose and happiness.
Related posts: The influential work of Francis Bacon lead me to become a painter
During the process of making art, I feel the artwork becomes an extension of me. I get closer to my deeper self. Through painting, my purpose stretches out before me. I realised no one else can make another painting precisely the same. No-one else has my thoughts. This powerful idea that I am unique and I can communicate what I feel really resonates with my heart.
After learning about Francis Bacon at art school, and seeing Bacon’s work at several exhibitions in London, including his major retrospective at the Tate in 2008, I saw the way forward. I immediately related to his work and understood it. As Bacon puts it, “art is about trying to make something out of the chaos of existence.”
To enable me to communicate my feeling of angst and estrangement with the world, I realised I could paint the figure in the city. Since I grew up in the country, I found the city fascinating and it is where I felt increasingly heighten feelings of alienation.
Related links: The influential work of Francis Bacon lead me to become a painter
I was in a trance by the power of Bacon’s large canvases. Bacon depicted the complexity and chaos that was going on around me and inside me. His paintings focused on the invisible forces that underlie me. I strongly relate to the feelings of angst and disorientation.
I realised Bacon wasn’t only interested in directly painting a representation of life. He wanted to heighten the viewer’s feelings. His paintings were created by using raw instinct and chance. Often there is a single figure in Bacon’s paintings, the individual that creates a tremendous force that twists, contorts and stretches out. Bacon’s striking depictions stirred my emotions with the immediacy, and with the deep and lasting impact of his art.
I deeply related to Bacon’s paintings and felt painting was the perfect way I could communicate my thoughts. What I like about Bacon’s approach is that he is not trying to understand the human condition, Bacon realises he cannot. If he could explain it, there would be no reason to paint it. Bacon was instead trying to get you to feel what he feels. He portrays a figure, not as an educated, cultured, pillar of the community but instead as nothing but a raw piece of meat. It is direct, honest and compelling. Francis Bacon explains it eloquently, “the job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.” Francis Bacon had a tremendous impact on me. Inspiring me to follow in his footsteps and to become a painter.
Related posts: The influential work of Francis Bacon lead me to become a painter
I avoided practising my reading and writing skills as I grew up. I easily slipped through the net due to changing schools several times. It took me a long time to read a book, however, I started to enjoy reading in my twenties. At 27 years old I was diagnosed with dyslexia. It took me a while to realise that dyslexia wasn’t going to stop me.
I didn’t enjoy writing before I had a blog. I always felt my writing was poor. The way I used to get my ideas down on paper was confused and in a jumble. In spite of that, I believed that my ideas and content were good. It used to take an enormous amount of hard work to take my ideas and make them into a finished piece of writing.
It is almost impossible to become an artist without being able to communicate clearly. I needed to not only to be able to write about my work but also talk about it. Hearing that there are lots of successful people with dyslexia encouraged me. I thought to myself, ‘It didn’t hold them back, so it isn’t going to hold me back! I need to face my fears”
The only way I was going to improve was through practice. One of the main reasons l started writing my blog was for myself, for my own improvement.
My purpose and the reasons why I write has developed over time. Now use my blog to explain and demystify how to establish a successful artistic practice. I give a raw unfiltered analysis, sharing what I find with others in order to help them develop a way forward with making art and becoming successful. Through collaborating as artists, we can figure things out together. When you read, comment or purchase a work of mine you are collaborating with me on this journey.
In the beginning, writing this blog stuartbushstudioblog.com was like a type of therapy. However, because of this journey, of facing what I fear, I now feel stronger as an artist. The best part is that I now enjoy writing! I wonder if I have a book in me.
Congratulations! You have just started reading a blog post that encourages you to be idle in order to improve your creative work. So relax, put your feet up and read on to find out how being idle can be turned into the art of being idle.
Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America said, “It is the working man who is a happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man.” This quote reflects a common misunderstanding about the benefits of being busy versus the benefits of being idle. It is important to clear this problem up for us creative people.
I am not denying working hard is needed to be able to achieve success in all fields of work. It clearly does take quite a lot of hard work to be successful in almost every domain. However, over time I have come to realise that a key part in becoming a successful artist is by not making yourself so busy that deep work becomes impossible.
To resolve creative problems and break through with new ideas finding quality time in the studio is only part of a bigger picture. Of course, if you’re not in the studio making new work regularly then you need to make some adjustments to your working week. My main point here is that it is also it is important to have idle time in your week for reflection and contemplation. If you haven’t already got this highly valuable time in your week it is advisable to make some adjustments too.
The art of being idle explained
Creative ideas never come to me in a full and complete form. Often it feels like ideas are not moving forward and I often have to ponder on a problem to resolve a piece of work. A slow incubation of ideas forms in my subconscious. Sometimes I try to resolve a problem through preparation drawings. I might try sketching, using collage and playing with an open mind to help to move my ideas forward.
At one time I use to sit and procrastinate but over time I have realised that when this happens I need to move on to something else and keep on working. I don’t have time just to sit there waiting for an idea to resolve itself.
I have noticed my best ideas come when I am not directly thinking about the problem I am trying to resolve. In effect my best ideas come when I am not busy but when l am idle. I have discovered that creating a fine balance in my weekly schedule allows me time to be idle.
My subconscious works overtime during a good nights sleep. Then in the following days and weeks when I am carrying out a mundane activity: possibly in the shower, walking, driving or doing some household tasks when I’m not focusing on anything, in particular, my mind wanders, my focus starts to drift and I start day-dreaming. It is in these moments that the answer pops into my head as if by magic an idea trickles through my subconscious as if from no-where.
I do realise however that this creative idleness would not work if l didn’t know my craft well. If l didn’t have the skills l have acquired through practice. If l didn’t have the openness of mind to work through solutions and ideas. Then l would stumble and fail to reach a solution about developing my idea into a finished piece of work.
During the time I am idle, my unconscious mind is always working. There is no disconnecting my artistic thoughts and problem-solving. However, if I was busy all the time I believe the solutions wouldn’t surface in my mind. I have also discovered that once the problem is resolved in my brain I can’t retrace the steps that go into creating that solution.
In conclusion, the art of being idle feels like a mystery, like a journey into the unknown where the mind takes over and small thoughts and concepts bloom with a life of their own. I hope this small explanation into the art of being idle helps you to resolve your own ideas by relaxing and letting your subconscious mind take over.
A group of scientists recently looked into the most effective ways of learning. They suggested that long sessions and all-nighters don’t give us the best opportunity to learn. After reading about this 12 months ago, I changed my weekly studio calendar. I found from a simple change, there are advantages for developing your artistic practice and increasing learning in the studio. I now visit my studio multiple times in a week and do 2-3 hours, I not only achieve more, I also learn more.
Related link to; ‘increasing your learning in the studio’
This is because our minds store information in many different places in our brains. This process strengthens the connections in our brain. With regularly spaced repetition we can make the most out of the way our minds work and achieve better retention of skills and knowledge.
It is mainly down to the frequency and the spacing of the intervals. So rather than visiting the studio once a week, try many shorter visits while repeating creative tasks. When you come and go you strengthened your knowledge. In the absence, your mind subconsciously works to resolve issues in your work. Ideas and solutions pop up when your away from the studio.
The moments in the artist’s studio are under our control. Anything that happens to your work outside the studio after it is made is out of your control. While opportunities to show your work are extra special they not supposed to be the reason for making the artwork. The reason why I am an artist and why I work on my artistic practice is focused on learning and advancing in the studio. By making something purposeful, I am feeding and enhancing my life’s work. I hope this piece of advice helps improvement at a faster pace. Afterall, the journey is the goal.
Related post to; ‘increasing your learning in the studio’
Every day I paint I have an adventure into the unknown.
Every day I am excited by the possibilities in the work.
Every day I paint I enjoy the production of novelty the most.
Every day I paint, I decide what I want to work on the night before. My unconscious mind thinks and contemplates it overnight. The next day I effortlessly to know where to start.
Every day I paint I don’t make it overly complicated.
Every day I paint my studio has to be free from distractions so l can get into a creative flow and stay in it. I get completely caught up and saturated in what I am doing. The painting leads the way, my hand and brush are in control rather than my brain. I have a deep involvement with the activity and time becomes distorted.
Every day I paint, it is not clear what needs to be done. The solution is elusive and an accident. Only when I am in a flow of creativity, unconscious decision making takes place. I surprise myself and produce work I am happy with.
Every day I paint, I try to be satisfied when the work is complete. If I put unnecessary pressure and stress on myself and let my perfectionist outlook win, the results are never good enough to meet my standards.
Every day I paint I hope something good will come, but if it doesn’t I don’t worry. Whether it is good or bad, that really doesn’t matter. When I finish, I always turn the work towards the wall and quickly move on to the next task.
Every day I paint I consider the work from previous sessions and give myself feedback. This enables me to move forward. I have to decide which ideas can be developed and which direction to take and then l know what to work on during the next session.
Every day I paint I am unsure if I am getting anywhere. Often I take one step forward, two steps sideways and one backwards. Every little while I stop and look back. Over months and years rather than days I learn something new and l know l am growing as a painter and as a person.
Every day I paint I am not interested in money and fame. It’s the pursuit that counts, not the attainment. I always enjoy and have fun within the process.
Every day I paint I work towards achieving something meaningful. My lifelong ambition is to make a significant contribution to culture. In doing so, I hope to help the human condition.
Every day I paint I love what I do. I love the process of making art more than the work I produce.
When I enter my studio I often have times when I need to be inspired. No matter what l do l meet resistance. I walk around the room, or I sit feeling frustrated with a closed mind. My mind doesn’t feel like being creative. Fighting this situation never works. All that happens is that l waste the day. I have to get out. I need to find a place to go to for inspiration.
Over time, l have learnt to embrace these moods and seek solace and inspiration elsewhere. Near my studio, I have a lovely country walk. Whatever the weather, I put my shoes on and head off.
While I am walking, I can consider all my unfinished business and jobs. Then I begin looking at the things around me. I try to move my mind to focus on my breathing and relax. I notice the sounds of the birds, the footsteps in the gravel and the beauty of my surroundings.
A related post to the places to go for inspiration
My primary objective is to cultivate a happy mind. I might sit down on a bench and watch people walk past. Or I might pop out a sketchbook and draw whatever comes into my mind. If I don’t fancy a walk or if I return and my mood hasn’t shifted, I look through some of my art books. I start sketching from what seems interesting.
If I’m feeling at a loss about where to start when that pencil hits the page just start by moving it. I start with anything from a circle to scribble. Like a child, I try to create without judgement or expectations.
I see my job as an artist is to record what I see. For this to work well, and to be able to translate what I see in a new unique way, good quality inspiration is essential. I try to visit the museums and galleries in London at least once a month. I also look for opportunities for collaboration and to engage in useful and uplifting and stimulating discussions. Sooner or later I return to the studio with inspiration for my next step.
Many children spend a lot of their time with their peers. In my childhood, I changed schools five times. This meant l had to learn to start over again and again. At the time I couldn’t see the benefits of adversity. I could only see the challenges of the upheavals. Making friends and building strong relationships was a continual challenge. It felt like before I knew it, I was moving again.
As I didn’t have easy and regular access to friends, I naturally was drawn to the easy path of finding things to do on my own. I didn’t spend my time playing sports. I was shy and it took me a long time to get to know people and trust them.
Like most kids, I enjoyed watching television. For me, it was mainly the A-Team, the Fall Guy and Airwolf. My childhood dream was to become a stuntman. The main activities I found myself doing were building models, drawing, playing lego and riding my bike.
By spending time drawing and making things I become quite good at these activities. l remember that l stood out in my class and was noted for my drawing abilities. This made me feel good about myself and it gave me more encouragement to continue drawing.
As I got older I started dreaming about becoming an architect. The impossible concept of becoming an artist never entered my thoughts for a moment. However, I stumbled into an art degree without a plan. Then I stumbled out looking for a job. When I graduated the thought of making a living as an artist still appeared impossible.
As I look back to where I started I have the benefits of adversity to thank for being an artist. And of course, the Internet has helped me to have a career as an artist. I still would have continued to draw, paint and make things but few people would see them without the Internet. Art is what I love doing, and I wouldn’t change my experiences and path for anything now.
I would love to hear from you if your adversity had a positive impact on your life.