How do I begin an artwork? What equipment, materials and techniques do I use?

 
 
©Stuart Bush, You don’t understand me part 1-4, 2015 gouache on paper – 
My work starts with street photography. I wander the streets as a Flaneur.  Charles Baudelaire, the nineteenth-century poet described a Flaneur in his essay ‘The Painter of Modern Life’ as a stroller and loafer of the city streets observing modern life. Likewise l wander around the city like a man of leisure as l try to take it all in. Following my intuition and hunches I take pictures of what seems important to me. I look to capture that important element in the frame of my viewfinder, the essence of the importance of life.
 
The photographs I take allows me to record a rich visual diary. By having this source material I always have something to return to if inspiration is running low and I need revisit my original ideas and intentions.
 
The next stage is in the studio with a blank sheet of paper or a blank page in my sketchbook. The main thing that happens in this first stage in the studio is reducing and simplifying the rich source l have gathered and extracting important elements to use. As well as painting and drawing, l sometimes print the photos to create collages or put layers together in a photoshop.
 
Things come together slowly, often my ideas and sketches don’t go anywhere at first. The next time I’m in the shower, or going for a walk, or the next time I am in an art gallery I realise how I can use these snippets of life l have gathered! I then return to the original photographs and sketches and try to refine and develop my ideas.  
 
Often I come to dead end. Then l try to be patience and wait and allow ideas to develop. Allow my mind to bring ideas together. This normally happens when I am not particularly thinking about artwork, but when my mind is open and free to wander.
 
However, once l feel I am on to something, I look to develop a process and repeat the format in order to create a series of work. 
 
This is an ongoing and forever changing process.
 

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.
 

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

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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Starting a day of creativity in my 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 – £350 +shipping (unframed) enquiry

When I arrive at my studio for a day of creativity, I always feel like I have lots going on in my head, lots of external noise in my life that also needs processing. I have personal errands, from checking my bank account, paying bills, checking and responding to emails, following up on loose ends, researching things of interest on the internet plus personal messaging and social media messages. If I walk through the door and allow myself to have unplanned time; a cup of tea, put some background music on and wait for a great wave of creativity to come; it never does. So, I have come to realise this is a very ineffective way to start my studio time, and if I am not careful, I will be waiting all day and possibly all my life for a lightning bolt of creativity to hit me.  
Over the years I have read and researched ways to be more productivity. I have learnt a lot about self-control but I still think I have a lot to learn, however, I am getting there…slowly. I still have lapses of unplanned time, but I continually look to make improvements. For example, I am currently reading, “Daily Rituals: How artist’s work” by Mason Currey, which so far is a fascinating and helpful book. Once I have finished reading this book, I hope to establish a daily routine/ritual that will work for me. I plan to write about my routine here shortly.

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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’

The search for originality in the artist’s studio

©Stuart Bush, Nobodies fault, oil on board 70.2 x 50.4 x 3.6cm – £1400 + shipping enquiry

 

A space to play, where anything is possible is such an important place for a creative person.  Having a space to go to and process the world and its complexities is extremely valuable and I feel very lucky to have the freedom around my full-time job and family life.

 

There is something very special about making work with just a few strokes with an open mind in an instant.  A pencil or brush in my hand with an open mind allows me to be transported to a place where ideas are instinctive, intuitive and spontaneous.  Accidents from unintended foot prints, rings from coffee cups, photocopiers, spills and accidents all have their place.   These studio sessions often leaves my thoughts uncovered and on display in their raw state where my ego is left aside.

 

These ideas can be explored and refined but at this point the conscious self comes back into the room.  The energy and emotions in the preliminary drawings and paintings that came from this outburst of freedom can often be lifted onto another sheet for further refinement. The open-ended problem creation can often be more prized than the problem solving finished work that follows.

 

I find that at this point, just after the preliminary studies, I don’t know what I have got.  I often find a place to store this work and revisit it at a later time.  This time lapse helps me to realise what I have really got.  This is when l contemplate the potential and hopefully uncover original ideas.  After all, everything has been done before, very little is original.  New work is often a shadow or an echo of what the artist has seen or experienced before.  This process can also often lead to selecting, editing and reworking, to look for originality.  The artist’s studio is also a place for destruction, recovery and transformation.

 

Chuck Close, the New York painter, has this to say,  “We often don’t know what we want to do, but we sure as hell know what we don’t want to do.  So the choice not to do something is often more important than the choice to do something.”  

 

I find problem creation as a process is much more effective in finding interesting art than a problem-solving approach, Duchamp said: “the artist has only 50% of the responsibility, and that is to get the work out, it is completed by the viewer.”

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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

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!

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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