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.
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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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.
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.
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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.
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 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.
My motivation as an artist has to do with my intense need to communicate something that only I can do or say. I have a meaning to fulfil through my work, and I am declaring that as an artist that I am responsible for finding answers.
Painting is the best way for me to communicate. I believe that painting and playing with form has the potential to capture the most important kinds of expression. I see it as a foundation for thinking itself and solving life’s complexities.
I’m interested in expressing the physical vigour of the human body in the city landscape as a means of exercising the freedom and dynamic expressions of space. Through my work, I am confident I can widen and broaden the visual field, thereby revealing a whole new spectrum.
The outcome of my work evokes a surprise and a revelation to me in much the same way as it does to the viewer. The finished painting is never good enough. In order to fill this gap, I have the motivated to make another piece of work.
Throughout my career, I have tested things out and applied my knowledge. What I learn I will share, from practical advice to techniques and any other information l think might be useful. I will be fighting in the trenches with you, explaining and demystify how an artist can support a creative life.
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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.
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.
“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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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.
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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.
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‘All too human, Bacon, Freud and a century of painting life’ at Tate Britain, begins by following British painting after the Second World War. At this time in our history rumours about what had happened during the Holocaust were trickling into the media. During this period many books and essays were written as people tried to come to terms with what had taken place. This experience encouraged intellectuals to look inwards and ask hard questions about the purpose of human existence.
It was complexing to hear about the atrocities and then to consider how humans could behave in such a way. The central theme of this exhibition looked at what British representational painting achieved during this period. Artists including Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Stanley Spencer, Alberto Giacometti, Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff, R. B. Kitaj and David Bomberg amongst others explored whether painting life as it is had any answers. They took on the battle through the depiction of the figure, the flesh and the surrounding. The painters were asking, how after this experience, could art depict man with any conviction.
The lead curator Elena Crippa, and assistant curator Laura Castagnini from Tate Britain, laid out the show in chronological order. The hanging of the show highlights how the artists were influencing each other. The relationships and rivalries between teachers, mentors and friendships runs throughout this exhibition. The whole show contains approximately 100 works tracing the startling impact of this shocking time and the coming effect on following generations.
In the first room, I was drawn to the works of David Bomberg and Stanley Spencer. David Bomberg painted the rugged landscape of worn-torn cities capturing the light on structure and scenery. With his speciality handling of paint he tries to get a grip on the subject, simplifying what he saw. He records memories and emotional states in almost abstract shapes. Meanwhile there is forcefulness of the work of Spencer. He paints a representation of the life, of a person in the flesh. The direct and honest painting opens up the sitter to the viewer. The painting becomes about looking more deeply at the painting itself and the process of applying it.
Freud, ‘In Girl with White Dog by Lucian Freud’, 1950-1 sees life for the mystery it is. Freud highlights the estrangement and coldness of the body. He once said, ‘I want the paint to work as flesh does.’ It indeed does that under his intense observation. The romance is undoubtedly removed, and there is a feeling of distress in the compelling moment of the life of his sitter.
In Frank Auerbach’s painting, ‘Head of Jake,’ 1997 Auerbach tries to find a new way to depict life and capture the horrifying experience. He uses shapes and colours as symbolism to show what he saw. He created a vibrant, profound visual language that extends beyond the outer appearance. There is deep emotional charge in thick impasto style penetrating loss and depths of physical structures into evidence of the forgotten moments.
A lot of the work in this exhibition is influenced by the existentialist view that we live to suffer. Francis Bacon’s ‘Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud,’ 1964 depicts going beyond surviving and suffering through painting. Bacon sees art as “about trying to make something out of the chaos of existence.” He looks into the human condition like we are carcasses. He focuses on our alienation and disorientation of the visible world to stir emotions and tell the truth about the darkness of human characteristics.
At the end of the exhibition after seeing many great revealing and fascinating works of art, I felt I had learnt something about our purpose as humans in this world. For me, this exhibition highlights our existence while words can only fail to define it. When words are used to try and explain the physical experience they often come up short. Painting and art, in general, adds to our understanding in a substantial and meaningful way. Any outcome to these big questions without art is missing a truly more profound understanding.
The show concludes with a Lynette Yiadom-Boakye painting, ‘The Host Over a Barrel’ 2014 and Celia Paul ‘Painter and Model,’ 2012. Yiadom-Boakye invites the viewer to construct their own view of what she sees and ask questions about what painting is. While Paul’s meditative self-portrait captures herself as an artist contemplating and scrutinising her own form and presence as a painter of life.
I thoroughly enjoyed what this exhibition says about the human experience. This exhibition to me says yes to life. It questions life’s purpose and is like going into therapy. I would be interesting to know what the impact would be on an individual who has lost his way in life and whether they would say yes to life after visiting the show.
One of the artists that I found the most inspiring as a student was the inspirational work of Egon Schiele. At aged 16, Egon enrolled in the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. He died at the young age of 28. In those few years, he made some of the most enduring and intriguing work. I am very interested in understanding what it is in Egon Schiele’s work that encouraged me to follow my interest in art.
Egon Schiele was known for drawing mainly portraits and self-portraits. He worked in a striking graphic style that challenged the notion of beauty. Egon had a concise way of working, similar to a poem to conveys rich experiences and emotions.
It would be easy to have a fleeting look at Egon drawings and mistake them to be only about sexual arousal or pornography, but that misses the intent and the reason why I am drawn to his work. Egon not only shows sex as beautiful, but he also demonstrates how he questions and adores life through his work.
Egon was a prolific artist making over 3000 works over his short life. There is satisfaction from the artistry, extracting something from the seductive delights of life. Each one has an intensity and beauty capturing our physical existence and our desperation in being a person.
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Egon showed a unique and anguished look at our situation. I enjoyed the cropping of the frame with low direct angles in his drawings. The tortuous crooked fingers and appendages ask questions about our function, design and purpose. Each artwork generating meaning in its own way I have really enjoyed returning to look again at the work of Egon Schiele. I understand why his work gave me a purpose to be an artist. Egon Schiele’s fact-finding mission to record evidence about what life really with anger, sexual frustration and bewilderment helps you to remember how you saw the world as a young adolescent. Creating a porthole to a greater understanding of the human condition and the beauty of life.
In Egon’s drawings, he cultivated his own unique view to add to deepen our understanding of life. I continue to find his work easy to identify with and through writing this, I have a better understanding of why I followed the path into becoming an artist.
Please share with me the artists that have given you direction, purpose and sense who you might become. I recommend you check out Egon Schiele’s if you haven’t already.
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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.
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.
Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy, Tate Modern (8th March – 9th September)
The subject of this exhibition ‘Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy,’ is the influence of love, fame and tragedy on Picasso’s painting 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 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.”
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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.
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 the 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.
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.”
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