What to paint – The recipe for failure

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, What to paint, The recipe for failure

What to paint – The recipe for failure

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.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes – 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!



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©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

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