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When I decided I wanted to be a painter

Stuart Bush, Hopes and Fears

When I decided I wanted to be a painter

As a young man, life at times felt so hard and unfair. I had all these feelings of angst and alienation, and I realised they felt heightened when I walked around London.  In the city, I was drawn to the extreme differences between abundance and scarcity.  All the beautiful and contentious moments from the streets, the architecture and the mad rush of daily life swept through me with amazing speed.   I asked myself, why are these feeling of anguish heightened in the city? I wasn’t sure, but I thought there had to be a higher purpose and reason for all this.  That day I realised, at that moment, the hopelessness that I felt, had changed and it becomes one of the best days of my life. If I can take this stormy day, and these feelings of anguish and use it to make it my best day, I can serve others by learning to communicate and paint my feelings.  That is when I decided I wanted to be a painter.


Logically I thought to myself, ‘I can’t be the only one who feels like this?’ If I could paint it, then I can see a sense of reprieve in it all. Then life will be to come to pass for me and not to me. I also thought by painting what I felt as a consequence l could help others, make them feel that they are connected to someone else who feels the same way—l could help them to be connected rather than be alone.

I decided I wanted to be a painter, Stuart Bush

Stuart Bush, Hopes and fears 2007 detail.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes

Getting started in the studio


I felt like a small, new-born baby on its first day of life. Wandering around using my camera to shoot thousands of different things. The more photographs I took, the more my conviction leads me intuitively to certain types of moments.


When you’re in those moments of creativity, emotions swarm in your head, they buzzed and throbbed. I slowly realised painting has no boundaries or limits. It is impossible to calculate all of the potential options. By painting a figure in my paintings, it could be like a metaphor for all complexity and chaos of the inner troubles that are building up inside of me.

Stuart Bush Rugby Art Gallery and Museum installation shot 650px

Stuart Bush, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum installation shot

I decided I wanted to be a painter.

Jealous of other artist’s work

As I documented the shapes of the forces, of the people and buildings, I tried to get a transcription, a line drawing, a linear structure of the visual experiences from my memory and photographs.  I looked deeply at the transient moments and completed a handful of sketches and paintings that recorded my feelings and emotions for prosperity.


It wasn’t until I looked at these new images I had made, that I started to notice a hint of something, which at the start was inevitably a mystery. But through persistence, consistency and patience; from taking photographs, working in my sketchbook, and returning to the studio to paint, I slowly, through practice began to create a vigorous rendition of what I felt.

Stuart Bush, Hopes and Fears, 2007, oil on canvas, 150 x 85 cm

Stuart Bush, Hopes and Fears, 2007, oil on canvas, 150 x 85 cm

Stuart Bush Studio Notes

What is your creative secret?


I feel like I achieved that in ‘Hopes and Fears’ (2007) oil on canvas, 150 x 85 cm.  A flâneur is known for aimless idling and exploring, and that’s how we imagine the artist at work. However, there can be up to two million bits of data that we can see at one time. Our brain becomes confused as we can’t focus on so much information.   In these moments, by bringing my attention to bear, I imagine to an outsider, watching me over the years, it would appear to be a terrible waste of time. Watching my aimless wandering and making work trying to find a way forward. At times, that is the way it felt to me too. However, I believed if I stuck with it, and I was patience, I would learn to filter out what wasn’t important, deepen my sensory acuity.


After processing my environment, aspects started to show up.  The degree of my focus, by looking at the environment in a particular way, allowed me to notice things that had always been there. Slowly by using the repetition of looking at what was there allowed me to let extra stuff in.  Who says there is nothing to look for?

Stuart Bush, The Kingdom (2009) oil on canvas, 150 x 85 cm

Stuart Bush, The Kingdom (2009) oil on canvas, 150 x 85 cm

I decided I wanted to be a painter.

One brushstroke at a time

The strange thing is that I can’t put it into words. The more I noticed these moments, the more I realised there are many things we don’t we see —like the enjoyable pleasure of being open to discovery. Every day as a painter, you learn something new, and it is a surprise. It keeps the journey of the artist free and open to revelation.


Looking back to the classic European painting I realised, at that time, they had a similar interest to mine.  They found an interest in finding the beauty in the common experience. In perceiving the beauty in the formal qualities of the everyday. I could see this beginning to take preference in my work.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, artist's time, art for sale

@Stuart Bush, Response to the flux, oil on board, 41 x 31 x 4 cm

Stuart Bush Studio Notes

Pretending to be a painter

As I caught a glimpse of a moment in a certain way, I realised how it could become mind-blowing. The deeper I got into my work it felt that I was really born, and l had to bring this extraordinary element of the basic vocabulary of surface, scale, colour and image forward in my work.  If I had gone out intending to capture something specific from the start, I would never have stumbled on to my own unique meandering path. I won’t of found what I was looking for.


The more I painted, the more I developed a set of rules and systems. The detail in the city started to become less important. Rules about representation started to get in the way. There is nothing wrong with rules, they have lots of benefits. It is great how creativity tries to find a way around them. As I responded to these rules, over time, my work started to appear almost abstract.

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 decided I wanted to be a painter.

Is time the artist’s greatest enemy?

I believe when I let go of these needs for a perfect representation of what l could see, that was when my ideas started to become the most promising. Real-life observation will always be the backbone of my new abstract work. My paintings have always been about issues, they are not dreamed up in advance.


The great thing about painting is with the right set of rules, a painting practice can feel different every time. Every time you make a mark, it can be a surprise.  It is a point where thoughts, mental activity and creation becomes indivisible.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, creative freedom

©Stuart Bush, Empire state of mind, oil and acrylic on canvas, 85 x 150cm

Stuart Bush Studio Notes

Artwork archive - 9 things you should give up to be an artist


I realised by challenging the rules, by pushing what it possible, from what I first saw on the surface, I had found a way to paint this feeling of uncertainty. Every time I picked up a camera, pencil or a brush and got in the flow.  It felt exciting and nerve-wracking to discover something new. It becomes an addictive process. Craving a surprise for myself and for the viewer. I realised I was developing the tools of his mind.


I often wonder how do artists try to make an idea in advance. The result must be more decoration than art. I still see what I make as decoration but is it more about levels. The differing levels of what is wall decoration and what is art. Through repetition, there is a discourse where the artwork starts speaking for itself. Where intellectual curiosity deepens, and it starts to become meditative.

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, I needed to find my new painting in my last painting

©Stuart Bush, Inclination of form, oil on canvas

I decided I wanted to be a painter.

What to paint – The recipe for failure

It is teaching me to look and think, and to try to make a better attempt the next time.  Following this path, I realised I was spending a long time looking at things that no-one pays attention to, that they just accept. You can’t help but wonder why.


What I love about following my intuition is that I can make my own decisions throughout. No one tells me what to do. It is like the ultimate freedom. It is a religious enterprise. There is an emotional feeling. We live in a world full of feeling. I am interested in the effect of this on painting and the way it moves me to find a visual serenity.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, Just a feeling and not the truth

Stuart Bush, Just a feeling and not the truth, oil on canvas, 50 x 70 x 3cm

Stuart Bush Studio Notes

I am longing for change

Over time I realised the importance of colour. Colour begets us all to emotions. I wanted the sombre hues and tones to change. It felt like these colours were keeping me in a low emotional state. I felt I wanted to reflect my positivity in my paintings, instead of returning to the feeling of feeling stuck.


I decided I need to be at a higher level of emotion. No longer did I want to live in frustration, overwhelm and worry. I realised; my past is not my destiny. Unless l let it remain that way. I need to be free from my past. The paintings started to be about the uplifting power of colour.  As my mood changed, my work changed. The only thing left was the original subject matter. Which continues to get my creative juices flowing.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, death and art

©Stuart Bush, It won’t make you happy 2020, oil on canvas, 70.4 x 100.3 x 3.4 cm

I decided I wanted to be a painter.

Henry Moore’s appreciation of form

Often the problem is when you make something new, it’s hard to tell if it is good or not. I had to allow my intuitive feeling to build, l had to learn to trust myself, to develop my own pictorial vocabulary and work on my own lyrical relationship of mysterious configurations.


There was one particular painting, I decided I was going to extend this particular view. I thought I had really gotten it nailed down. Then in the next moment, I decided that I am not going to do that anymore. I am going to throw the rules out.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, Great souled way

©Stuart Bush, Great Souled Way, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 x 3 cm,

Stuart Bush Studio Notes

Chuck Close’s process

It felt like I was cheating to start off with. I felt like I should have it nailed down what l was going to do before I started to paint. Not now, I don’t believe in that rule anymore. I am not going to do it, l am not going to create a system of working, it just isn’t serving me anymore.  This is when I believe I took a giant leap forward when I decided I really want to become a painter.

In a way, I see myself like a batsman in cricket.

A batsman job in cricket is to practices hitting various balls. Ultimately he’s just swinging a bat. As a painter, I realised I am ultimately just practising knocking out paintings by throwing out good strokes. However, there is a lot more to it than that in both cases. As an artist, it is my job to make sense of direct experience and of the millions of images that I see every day. All the visual experiences seep into my head, and I feel a compelling need to deal with them. As a painter, I have something that I feel is important to say. By using tools such as line, shape, colour, texture and materiality, I am practising my response to physicality. As I attempt, (occasionally, I hope) to hit a ball out of the park. Images are just stuff, but I see painting as the ordering of the stuff. Join me and subscribe to my email newsletter as I experience the world as a painter, as I try to make sense of this stuff.

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