Meet the Artist - Q&A with Whistlefish
Whistlefish are an art, greetings card, gifts and stationery company who sell high quality canvas prints of Buster's work, and some original paintings too. His art is
becoming a popular choice with art lovers around the world and throughout their
galleries based in Cornwall and Devon..
Recently, Buster was interviewed by Whistlefish for their blog and they asked him
questions about his journey to becoming an artist. Here is how the interview went:
Q. Tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming an artist….
One of my earliest memories of art, was of an old lady who lived across the road when I was a child. Her name was Hilda and she liked to paint. She noticed that I had a keen interest and invited me to come and stand at her easel and paint in oils a simple landscape for my parents. We had a busy house, lots of children, lots of noise, in contrast, by watching her paint I noticed a peace whilst she gently handled the brush. My father was a carpenter and I also enjoyed watching him draw. Generally, son’s want to be like their father’s, and so I imitated. After a time, I started to notice in school I was getting positive attention for my doodles and paintings and I enjoyed how it made others feel. I followed my journey in education through to university where I studied illustration. My passion and drive were rewarded with a first-class honours degree which was great because I wasn’t really good at anything else! After university, the reality of functioning as an employed artist was not what I expected. Having always been an introverted, shy type, self-promotion was never my strong-suit. I tried the field of nursing, and even started another degree. I worked in the NHS alongside my degree and decided perhaps it was easier and safer to take a job that would focus on others. After a time, I was seconded to train as a nurse. Even then, I would doodle in the margins of lecture notes and on whiteboards. Towards the end of that degree, I found myself in a deep depression that was to last for a number of years. In hindsight, I believe that it came about because I wasn’t following my heart. I see today that I was blessed to have had my creative skills to help express and understand my inner-self. Whilst taking some time off from nursing to do that, I decided to take the opportunity to give my all to my passion, which was painting. There is something to be said about the therapeutic aspects of painting as I found it to be so healing.
Whilst taking this time, I had built up a portfolio of work and was taking it to an art fair when I got to speaking to another local artist who offered me space to create. This was great and gave me room to really dedicate and develop my art and it was there that I found my niche. Although it was early days, it felt as though the Universe was aligning for me to step into a new line of work. Over the handful of years I was at the studio and whilst still receiving therapies for my mental health, I was able to showcase my work to the general public, I created an online presence and continued with art fairs. More and more people began to notice my work and were asking to purchase. The final step into confidently seizing my dream of becoming an artist was to bite the bullet and register as self-employed. Then I met the work as it came, each day showed me ways to feel grateful as I painted what I loved and loved what I painted.
Q. Animals feature as a main subject in your pieces. How are you drawn to the natural world?
To be at one with nature we recognise a connection with the natural world and find a peace within it. What I admire about animals is their honest connection to consciousness, humans are plagued with egoic mind-chatter which gets in the way of just being. Because it’s in the being that we can really notice the beauty and the gift of living. When I come to paint an animal, they always come with a certain vibration and message that relates to leading me back to being at one with nature. When looking an animal in the eyes I feel only love. It’s like looking at God or God looking at me. Without judgment or expectation, they are just there. And I am just there too.
Q. How has your work evolved over time?
From mental understanding, to spiritual awakening, earlier works were much about giving vision to inner conflictions, to better understand myself. These images were very dark and morose and energetically it only led to further suffering. The mind can be a deep ocean of suffering if you continue to keep searching for pain. At a breaking point, I surrendered. No longer able to peer into the depths of woe, I was left with a simple question. What do I love? When this arose, I was full of exaltation and I wholeheartedly leaned into it. Dark, depressing, self-analytical, surreal, abstract works became free, bright, expressive and joyful.
Q. How would you describe your work? In three words, perhaps?
Celebration of Life!
Q. Do you have a studio space at home?
I tried working from home and it just not conducive to a creative mind-set for me. It works for me to leave home to get into that frame of mind, leaving responsibilities behind in order to create. Currently, I work from a pop-up studio in a friend’s garage. It’s by no means glamorous, but it works as I have light, space and free coffee! I am looking forward to maybe having a studio in an old building somewhere. Although I have the dogs, it’s important to have people around to talk to as the dogs are only interested in walkies, cuddles and dinner-time.
Q. How long does your work take to create on average?
This truly varies, some ideas insist to be painted at once and the energy is such that it could be finished in a handful of days. Others can take months. I had an elephant painting on my studio wall for over a year. This was because I felt it for a day and didn’t return back to that same feeling for quite some time. When tasked with a commission, it can be less fluid as I am trying to connect and interpret somebody else’s imaginings. Of course, I prefer the free-flow of my own personal work as it’s more rewarding and natural. It feels more authentic to my soul.
Q. What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
It’s the peace that I find when in open dialogue with the canvas. I love building and discovering textures and haphazard marks and those happy accidents that can spontaneously lead the painting into a different direction. I also, of course, enjoy the idea the painting will go on living and working to bring joy in the home that it finds. Being a self-employed artist certainly gives you appreciation and gratitude for being able to do what you love and earn a living from it. I feel blessed.
Q. The situation unfolding over the last 12 months has undoubtedly led to a lot of change, have you seen an impact on your work?
Yes. Change for some people, including myself, can be disorientating and can cause the mind to over worry and become anxious. I went from working in a city centre, open-studio within a gallery setting, to attempting to work from the spare bedroom at home, to building a studio in my garden, to having to move house, to a friend’s garage. I strive to be resilient, but I am looking forward to having somewhere long-term, and being around people again.
Q. What are you most excited about for the future?
I am definitely excited about having a dedicated space to work from again and also the unknown. I have been playing with the idea of starting a series of a new subject matter, still full of the same feelings of connection to nature but maybe landscapes. Watch this space!