The life of an artist/parent
I drifted through life as a young man, socialising, travelling and not saving a penny, I use to reflect on this period when I was a single childless twenty-something, as a time when I squandered a lot of my time and energy. At 27, it all started to change. I wanted to take my art practice seriously, so I returned to university, and shortly after I started a family. Once I had responsibility in the world, I had a strong drive to start painting again. However, I had a challenging time, applying my abilities, attention and resources to understand my new parent and artist priorities and going to work. There was only one thing for it, I had to grow!
Up to recently, as an artist, I looked back on my time, when I was free and single, exasperated that I didn’t make the most of it. But now that I have children, it is impossible to escape the truth, that time is so precious. However, I only recently I realised you had to live a life to do original work.
Stuart Bush Studio Notes: Artist Parent
Somehow, from a young age, I knew that if I was going to find fulfilment that I shouldn’t be doing what everyone else was doing. That would be the wrong direction for me. I don’t think you dictate what your purpose is. On my meandering journey, I had to uncover it in my own way.
It has always been a vital requirement of mine to have variety and revelation in my life. After all, they say, variety is the spice of life. Either consciously or subconsciously, I needed to believe in what I was doing. Through trial and error, I realised what I loved was getting variety and uncertainty from being creative. I felt I could see the world from a different perspective. It felt like I had something profound that had to be said. With a young family to take care off, I headed to the studio in the brief moments l had to figure out a way forward.
The more I made, the more I learn, and the more alive I felt. I realised if I could find a way, my own unique way to be an artist, I could find a sustainable way to be fulfilled in life. However, I didn’t realise until much later, that being creative not only meets my needs for variety, it also satisfies my need for certainty, significance, connection, growth and contribution. In truth, I had found what will make me truly fulfilled.
I have spent time in the USA, I went travelling to Asia and Australia, I have enjoyed having a good time often centred around my favourite sport, rugby. I have also had a full-time job to support my family. But in the early days, in idle time, I appeared directionless. I now appreciate this was when I learnt about the world.
Stuart Bush Studio Notes
By building up my confidence, I have learnt many valuable lessons that I want to pass on. They help me to inform my values as an artist and as a parent. I love spending time with my family. I have always prioritised family life over time in the studio. But I found the secret is to invite the family in the studio.
I wouldn’t miss the experiences of having a young family for anything. Once I had kids, I found myself producing better work. But to fit it all in, I had to learn to change, widen my knowledge, outlook and patience. Family life still takes priority, especially when the kids are home from school. However, I also relish the solitude of my time in the art studio.
I have realised that people with less time learn to be more efficient. I found that constraints helped me to learn to make the most out of situations and to develop more discipline. The incubation period, when I am mulling over ideas in the shower, when I’m in the car travelling around or when I am cleaning my son’s rugby boots. This is the real informative period when connections pop up in the head like a lightning bolt.
When I was young, without any self-imposed time limits, I thought I had to learn some hard-core time management skills to be productive. I needed to get rid of some of the laziness and take advantage of every moment. I certainly had to get over procrastination. But when it comes to being a parent, you become way more efficient than you were before.
Stuart Bush Studio Notes: Artist Parent
Often people think that if you’re serious about your art, you can’t have kids and make it work. But they don’t realise the value of leaving time for playing. The great thing is, I believe that my children benefit from me being an artist. I want my kids to see what it takes to pursue a dream. By coming to my studio, they get to express themselves and to see what it takes to believe in your dreams. If you’re determined to do something, the secret is consistency, perseverance and determination to find away.
When I’m 80, and in my rocking chair, I don’t want someone to say, ‘So dad you use to be an artist, what happened?’ I personally don’t think you get further ahead by not having kids. They are not a hindrance, they are a delight, and they help to keep you grounded. I think my best ideas come, not when I’m busy, but when my subconscious unintentionally finds a way to express itself and things start to pop. The last ingredient and the most important and one of my favourites from Philip Guston, reciting a comment by John Cage,
“When you start working, everybody is in your studio, the past, your friends, enemies, the art world, and above all, your own ideas, all are there. But as you continue painting, they start leaving, one by one, and you are left completely alone. Then, if you’re lucky, even you leave.”
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