Getting started in the studio

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, the painting process comes alive

Getting started in the studio

If you talk to people who procrastinate when in the studio they will often say…

“First I have to open the door and tidy up the mess from last time.  All the equipment needs tidying or putting in some sort of order, to make my space workable. In the winter I need to turn on the heater to warm the room up.  Then I have to change my clothes, so I don’t get paint on them.  Next, I have to think about my mood and the music that goes with it.  I often feel the need for a tea or a coffee before I get started.  Somehow during this time, I find myself on my phone.  All this stuff in my mind needs to stop! I need to get focused on what am I going to do first?”

However, if you talk to an artist who doesn’t have this problem, they might say, ‘you just pop into the studio and start painting.’ If you then ask them about a strategy for getting started in the studio, they will say, ‘there is just one step, you just get started.’


Shall I paint, today? – Stuart Bush Studio Notes

What is your creative secret?


I often think about the things that need to be done and choose instead to find something to eat or something to entertain me.  Of course, that takes me away what I should be doing. I want to paint, I want the painting process to come alive.  However, when the moment of decision comes; when I ask myself shall I paint, today?  If I am not careful, instant gratification often wins. Once I start down the path of distraction, time disappears, and it often becomes too late to begin.


I have established a bad habit of checking emails, social media or the news before every task which has encouraged me to become addicted to my device.  My mobile comes out and I start looking for something interesting.  I begin to avoid what I am meant to do.


What is doing on?  I feel like an amateur, as here I am procrastinating again. My mind looks for relief. It is easy to understand why l am drawn towards reading, l love learning.  However, in spite of all of that, I want to paint.

Getting started in the studio

One brushstroke at a time

Ernest Hemingway offered this valuable advice to a young writer:


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.” 


When I started out on my own as an artist. I didn’t know what I wanted to make.  At school, I was given all this education, this massive a range of choices.  I spent several years playing in a creative way, experimenting and trying things out.


Ten thousand hours later, I now know what I want to do with my work.  But I have formed the practice of allowing and encouraging my mind to wonder.  Now, however, it has become a bad habit.  It is the outlook of an amateur.  As a professional artist, I need to change.  I know what work I am going to make, I just need a new routine to go with it.  The indecision needs to stop.  My work has turned a corner, now my mind needs to catch up.

Shall I paint, today? – Stuart Bush Studio Notes

A Daily Mindful Walking Practice - Mindful

I need an automatic routine, something I don’t have to think about.  Where each action, will lead to the next.  If the studio and canvas are ready in preparation for my arrival or the last thing I was working on is left out to be finished, that would be a good starting place. Either way, the studio needs to be ready before I arrive.

At the end of each day, I organise my work with a pencil and paints layout ready for my return.  These quick pieces of work help me to get started. By leaving my work prepared for the next day, I just arrive at the studio and start working. There is no need to stop and reflect on what to do.

It also means that by preparing what I am going to do means I have the night to ponder it sub-consciously while I am asleep. Allowing new insight to come forward.

Getting started in the studio

Painting Freedom – Albert Oehlen review

Additionally, I need to give myself permission to think before I enter the studio to start work.  I need to give my mind time to contemplate my subconscious. To discover the topics it wants to raise.  A regular routine of going for a walk or doing mediation before l paint can help my focus.


On a walk I allow my mind to go through the everyday ups and downs.  I listen and obverse my mind, I gently return my focus on what is around me.  To my full field of vision and how my body and mind feel.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes

Why do I paint?

If an earlier conversation, memory or mistake jumps in my head, that’s fine.  I’m not trying to stop these thoughts but to encourage a calm mind.  By letting my mind go through all my recent issues, it clears the backlog. If I don’t clear the backlog, it will interrupt my studio time.  I am trying to step back from my thoughts and become aware of them.  In doing so, as I notice them popping up I can gain control of them.


When l walk I put my concentration on my feet.  As one foot touches the ground I notice how it feels. As my foot rolls flat on the floor and my second leg raise and goes forward l put my mind on the single, simple concept of motion.  I want to encourage my mind to stay on the thought of the movement of walking.  When other thoughts pop up in my head, I bring my mind back to the feeling of my feet and how it feels to walk.

Getting started in the studio

My new painting in my last painting

I return to my studio with a clear head, feeling refreshed.  I make a cup of tea and change my clothes.  Now I am excited, I am able to ignore all further distractions.  As soon as I enter the studio I have the instant satisfaction of starting and not stopping until my work is complete.


As Chuck Close tells us its, “Bread crumbs’, by working, stuff comes.  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.”


Things I am not allowed to do anymore i.e. ‘My new studio rules.’ 

All office and business-related tasks, even if they are urgent have to wait until after my three-hour block of studio time.


My phone is not allowed in the room.  To avoid wasting time selecting music, my music playlists must be ready to go.  It must be a news, tv and video free zone.  I need to make sure the studio is free of social distractions, this means no friends dropping by and no emails or direct messaging is allowed.  Also, there must be no internet research unless it is related to the current work.  Therefore, l will be distraction-free and ready to tackle getting deep into my work.


Squeezing out the paint on my palette, my mind feels crystal clear and l focus with sharpness on my task.  I make sure l do not allow it to drift away, my studio rules help to stop that. I notice how the brush feels in my hand.  My consciousness is in control. I am focused and I am ready to paint.  The painting process comes alive as I take pleasure in the first mark.

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