What to paint – The recipe for failure

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, What to paint, The recipe for failure
Stuart Bush, Hopes and Fears, Oil on canvas, 85 x 150cm. All rights reserved by the artist ©Stuart Bush
I remember just starting out as an artist, and I didn’t know what to paint. The choice seems so vast and momentous. I was often lost in thought as I was worried about making the wrong decision. I wasted a lot of time and energy when l should have just got started. Recently I heard this advice from Herbert Swope (b 1958) the editor and journalist, “I can’t give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: ‘trying to please everyone all the time.” Although these words of wisdom do not come from an artist, it is excellent advice.  It took me a while to figure it out that l shouldn’t be trying to please everyone, in fact, that was the last thing I should be trying to do.

What to paint – The recipe for failure

Why do I paint
It is quite common when you’re new to painting to work on getting between three to ten points of interest in a painting. My main point of interest in my early paintings was the angst I was feeling. I wanted my audience to feel what I felt.
I made it easy for people to easily understand this feeling and point of view.  However, l have learnt that l need to leave each painting open to interpretation.  A strong painting works on many more levels.  This allows everyone to look deeper and to see different things in the work. The sleigh of hand is to take stuff out rather than put things in.
I paint the painting I want to see.  As I know, there is a lot of people who have the same tastes as me.  I ask myself what really excites me?  What can I uniquely achieve on a canvas? If there are some tough steps I need to do to achieve my next painting, then I need to do those hard steps.

What to paint – The recipe for failure

Why painting still matters - Interviews with 5 contemporary painters - Guardian Newspaper
I have done this by learning to say no.  Often painting is a choice of what not to do.  I now know I don’t need to be worried about whether people like it or not. I have learnt that whatever I choose to do will be worth the hard work.  As long as I live a life of total engagement with my work, I will be content.  When that commitment comes through my work, the choice of what I paint doesn’t matter.  Apparently, there are 100,000 people with similar interests to me somewhere in the world.  l paint a painting that I would be thrilled to see.  My audience is a stadium of me!
the recipe for failure, stuart bush studio blog, what to paint
©Stuart Bush, Strange Heart Sings, oil on board 30 x 40 cm

What to paint – The recipe for failure

A painting has to stand up by itself

Why do I paint?

Stuart Bush, Untitled study, Why do I paint? Stuart Bush Studio Blog
©Stuart Bush, Untitled sketch book, oil on paper
The need to make sense of this world through painting began a long time ago. The oldest known cave paintings where more than 64,000 years ago.  Why do I paint? I feel a deep need to communicate something.  Something I can’t put into words.
 
Painting is my way of finding kindred spirits. When I look at art from the past, I realise I am not that dissimilar to my ancestors and painters of the past. Studying art from the past allows me to explore the many different ways that artists saw the world during their time.  It helps me to broaden my perspective and understanding and allows me to see how today’s art records the present moment that we live now.
 

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A painting has to stand up by itself
 
Although many people see painting as being based on traditional values and having a limitation in its ability to address contemporary issues, I believe that art offers the challenge of finding new meanings. I see art as a way of creating new insight and uniquely capturing people’s imagination. However some might see this view of painting as naive and believe that nothing is truly original in this postmodern society.
 
But for me, other forms of communication cannot compare with the excitement of art. They don’t come close to allowing me the opportunity to look in detail at interesting and unexplained concepts.  As a painter I have unique relation to the world and I am interested in what I can discover through art. 
 

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What it takes to paint something original
 
I find myself drawn to expressing an alternative views of life through my art.  I want to communicate what I see and explore what I can’t see.  A pencil or paint helps me to digest and reflex what is taking place. I make work about the things I think need interpreting and understanding.
Why do I paint? Stuart Bush Studio Blog
©Stuart Bush, Untitled study, oil paint on paper
Through painting, I have a chance to investigate something that is evasive, beyond what can be explained in words.  I continually ask myself what it is that I see. I try hard to identify what it is, as it continuously slips.  It is utterly instinctive and for me the process of painting is addictive.  I never get a chance to wonder what it would be like to do something other than painting because what l love about painting is that one can never undo the last mark.
 
“Art helps people express experiences that are too difficult to put into words.”

The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health, by Heather L. Stuckey and Jeremy Nobel
 
I’m always hoping for improvement through my art.  However, I realise that grasping the frightening clarity of the world is unattainable. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop me coming back to the easle to try again. But the question always arises; have l finished, do I risk spoiling it by continuing or do I start a new painting?  I love taking risks, as l try to unlock the world about me.
 
I have a deep down urge to try to master this form of expression which allows me to communicate my unique view. When I am painting I feel like I have found what I am here for. I get deep joy along with despair, anxiety and yet confidence. I feel more alive. 

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7 lessons I have learnt about painting
 

A section of ourselves as a commodified object

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, A section of ourselves as a commodified object, A section of ourselves as a commodified object
©Stuart Bush, A section of ourselves as a commodified object, oil on aluminium panel, 80 x 120cm
To achieve a successful painting like, ‘A section of ourselves as a commodified object’, I want to understand what it is I am really trying to make. I have a deep need to be creative and communicate something significant about what I see. I love painting, my ambition is to make the best painting I can make. For me, a transformative experience takes place at the level of the ordinary.  
 
When evaluating a picture, it is interesting to consider that the essences of the surface is a pattern of colours, lines, texture, forms and space.  Shape and form fit into the frame, as the structure of the painting creates a visual complexity.  I find a dynamic placement satisfying and enticing as it encourages eyes to follow a predetermined direction.  
 

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What it takes to paint something original
By turning figurative forms into a flat plane, I hope to make a visually engaging and attention holding painting.  I am also creating a comment about how the abstract figure in the history of art is turned into a sign or symbol for market value.  In effect, I recycle, reuse and take advantage of our human form and individuality for the commercialisation of the self and of our human identity. 
 
My focus isn’t on financial gain.  However, an artist, like everyone else, needs to make a living. I like the idea of art for art’s sake but a painting whether you like it or not turns into a commodity. As an artist, I live off what I make and of the form of others in my work.  
 

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Michael Landy's Artange project 'Breakdown'

I cannibalise the individual form into an image for commercial value. The commercialisation of the self and human identity de-humanises us. This is the reason why I paint a section of ourselves as a commodified object.

Compared to the various others ways to make a living this seems an honest and honourable one.  I am not saying there is anything wrong with making a living from art or any other form of making a living.  By trying to make the best painting I can, I wanted to look at this most fundamental part of the art.  Looking at the deal that follows.  The legacy of the history of art is its commercialisation.
 
I don’t have to sell my work, but there isn’t much point in making it unless other people see it. By getting to grips with all this, I hope to make the best painting I can make.
 

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I wish I could paint everyday

A painters approach to street photography – Stuart Bush Studio Blog

©Stuart Bush, untitled photograph, A painters approach to street photography
©Stuart Bush, untitled photograph, A painters approach to street photography
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

The influential work of Francis Bacon lead me to become a painter
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.
©Stuart Bush, untitled, street photography, A painters approach to street photography
©Stuart Bush, untitled photograph, A painters approach to street photography
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.  
 

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Street photography.com
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.
 

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How I see art contributing to society

The influential work of Francis Bacon – Stuart Bush Studio Blog

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Hopes and Fears, The influential work of Francis Bacon lead me to become a painter
©2016 Stuart Bush, Hopes and Fears, (2007) oil on canvas 150 x 85 cm
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.
 

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How I see art contributing to society
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.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Francis Bacon, Figure at the base of crucifixion, The influential work of Francis Bacon lead me to become a painter
©Francis Bacon, Figures at the base of crucifixion 1944, 1 panel part of a triptych
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.
 

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Tate interactive tour of 2008 Francis Bacon exhibition
 
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.  
 
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, The Kingdom, The influential work of Francis Bacon lead me to become a painter
©Stuart Bush, The Kingdom, oil on canvas 150 x 85 cm
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.
 

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The inspiral work of Egon Schiele - Stuart Bush Studio Blog

What it takes to paint something original

paint something original
©Stuart Bush, Strange Heart Sings, oil on board 30 x 40 cm
When I started out on my journey, like most art students, my ultimate goal was to communicate what I see.  I was inspired by other artist’s work. As a consequence, I wanted to make my own significant contribution to culture. When everything has been done before, to have any chance of achieving this goal, I realised it’s important to understand how to paint something original and unique. In this post, I discuss what I have uncovered on my artistic journey.
 
In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell explains his thoughts about his ‘10,000-hour-rule’ as, “the magic number of greatness.”  Gladwell’s idea is that originality only comes after spending 10,000 hours mastering a subject.  This rule makes a lot of sense to me. It is helpful as a guide to appreciating what it takes to paint something original.
Stuart Bush Studio, No bodies fault, I wish I could paint every day
©Stuart Bush Nobodies fault detail,
I believe looking is the most essential part of being an artist, especially for a painter.  Only after looking can you begin to realise what has been overlooked and then you can start to recognise what is already valued. Plus after reading about and viewing a lot of accomplished art you can start to understand the importance of making great art, and that originality is subjective. As I became aware of what art critics and sophisticated people thought l started to develop my own ideas about what was successful or unsuccessful. 

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Jealously of other artist's work
This was the beginning of finding my own voice and my own unique visual ideas as an artist then an armed with a pencil, a blank sheet of paper and an open mind l can be transported to a place where ideas become instinctive, intuitive and spontaneous. 
 
I realise I am more likely to stumble across originality when I am making and taking risks. Accidents from unintended footprints, coffee cups rings, photocopiers, spills and other accidents all have their place. They happen when I least expect them and I learn as much from these apparent failures as I do from successes.  
©Stuart Bush, He has never been in love, he doesn’t even know what love is. Gouache on cartridge paper, 43 x 24 cm
 
Open creative sessions leave my thoughts uncovered and on display in their raw state and my ego is left aside. The energy and emotions in the preliminary drawings come from this outburst of freedom. They can be refined by repeating on another sheet. These ideas can be further explored and refined, but at that point, the conscious self comes back into the room.  The work from open-ended creation sessions can often be more prized than the problem solving finished work that follows. Getting this balance right is an essential part of painting something original.

External link; What it takes to paint something original

Is originality in art overrated? - Royal Academy of Art
 
After completing the preliminary studies l often don’t know the potential of the work. Often l store it away and revisit it at a later time.  This time away helps me to realise and appreciate its potential. I am always hoping to find an appropriate form that brings everything together in order to discover something fresh and insightful.  
Stuart Bush Studio, the rush
©Stuart Bush The rush 2016 oil on board 50 x 70 cm
Nevertheless, it is important to throw away what doesn’t work and quickly move on. This can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for an artist.  New work can be a shadow or an echo of what the artist has seen or experienced before.  Selecting, editing and reworking is an essential process that leads to originality.  The artist’s studio is a place for demolition, revival 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 have discovered that a problem creation process is much more effective in finding exciting and original ideas than a problem-solving approach.
 

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I wish I could paint every day

How I see art contributing to society

Christo, The London Mastaba, Hyde Park 2018, Stuart Bush Studio Blog, painting blog
Christo, The London Mastaba, Hyde Park 2018
When I saw Christo’s new art project in Hyde Park London and read his quote, “A work of art is a scream of freedom,” I know I needed to tell you about how I see art contributing to society.
 
Every artist contributes to society in their own special way. Artists look to find ways to engage the wider pubic through their work to consider and reconsider the way they see the world. Whether it is contributing to overall health and wellbeing of our society by rethinking about what we are doing and considering in new approaches or by providing inspiration, interaction and joy to uplift the spirit.

Link to a review of Christo, The London Mastaba

Independent: Christo's latest sculpture weighs 600 tons (and it floats)
 
Being an artist for me is a licence to look deeply; to follow my curiosity, to unpick and to make new connections with what I see. We live on this small rock in a massive universe without an accurate understanding of what it is all about.  I perceive making art as a form of therapy to open up the world and open up people’s minds to a higher spectrum. To deal with and come to terms with everyday life.  
 
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, untitled sketch, in the city, How I see art contributing to society?
Stuart Bush, untitled sketch
“The first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in. To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art.” Chuck Palahniuk, American novelist and journalist
 
To my eyes painting is the best way to communicate and connect with others within a collective effort. I am not trying to convey the world as I see it.  As an artist, I absorb it and try to communicate the world as it really is.
 
I have an intellectual curiosity and commitment to bring the truth to light. Through my art making, I want to be known for using my artistic creativity to widen and broaden the visual field.  Therefore, reveal a whole new range of potential meaning.
 
There are many benefits of living in an exciting contemporary culture. I see myself as part of a community whose work can make a significant contribution to society and the world today.  I want to contribute to human growth by joining into the conversation.   

 

 
“If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” John F Kennedy

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I wish I could paint every day

I wish I could paint every day

Stuart Bush Studio, No bodies fault, I wish I could paint every day
©Stuart Bush, Nobodies fault detail, I wish I could paint every day

I wish I could paint every day…

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.
Stuart Bush Studio, No bodies fault, I wish I could paint every day
©Stuart Bush Nobodies fault detail, I wish I could paint every day
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.
 

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Drawing the creative act
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.
 
I wish I could paint every day.
 
Stuart Bush Studio, No bodies fault, I wish I could paint every day
©Stuart Bush, Nobodies fault, oil on board 70.2 x 50.4 x 3.6cm, I wish I could paint every day

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The ideas behind, ‘Empire State of Mind’ painting – Stuart Bush Studio Blog

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Empire State of Mind
©Stuart Bush, Empire state of mind, oil and acrylic on canvas, 85 x 150cm – SOLD

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.  In the painting ‘Empire State of Mind’, 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 but 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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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 – 

Beginning an artwork

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 to 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 patient 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.

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