The Art of Sandra Busby...
Painter of Playful Light in Glass and Still Life


Friday, 27 August 2010

How to get your art noticed...

You may already know that I am a short way through a very long art degree course.

I have mixed feelings about the course so far. On the one hand there is no question that I have learned so much about technique and perspective, but on the other I can't help but question the modern way of teaching which seems to focus more on imagination than skill.

Having completed my first year, as instructed I mounted all of my work and put it into a portfolio, before sending it off to the University for assessment.
Before sending it, I took it to show my new tutor, just to get his opinion on whether it was displayed correctly.

I was rather baffled, because he flicked through the portfolio, barely commenting any of the work I am most proud of such as my Fish on a Plate, Still Life with Shells, my portrait of Codi... the list goes on. All of this was the work of which I was the most happy with and of which a lot of work had gone in to.

So - there he was, flicking past them, barely raising an eyebrow, before coming across this one and saying...

'Ah! Now I really like this!'

© Sandra Busby. Mixed Media.

Can someone explain please???

This was initially an A3 sketch that went wrong. My son came in to the bathroom and honest as kids are, he said - 'Mum, that is rubbish!'  
I was amused by his honesty (though maybe I should teach him a little more tact!) and I told him that since he had not long had a shower, it would probably look more like the bathroom if I simply threw a bucket of water over the paper! 

It was this flippant remark that gave me an idea; Rather than wasting the paper, I decided to use the awful sketch to play around with some paint and to have a little fun and experiment -  and what you see above is the result. 
I called it 'View from Behind the Shower Screen' and I decided to put it in my Portfolio, just to show some more 'experimental' work. But - I never expected it to be seen by my tutor as one of my best pieces!

Maybe I am missing something -  I mean, it seems that if I put half the amount of work in to my paintings, ignore the rules of perspective, and try to paint something as poorly as possible, that this could well be what helps me to achieve a Degree - and quite honestly it would take me a third of the time too!

For those of you that haven't already seen these, here is just a small selection of the paintings/drawings he didn't look at for more than a second... 

© Sandra Busby

© Sandra Busby

© Sandra Busby

Am I wrong to think that these are better than the one he really liked?

Don't get me wrong, I love to experiment - Take my recently posted abstract for example; This was not for my course but more as a fun thing to paint, just for me - but now I think I should actually use it as part of my course!

It seems that these days, imagination is far more important than technical skill.
In fact, it seems that by sawing a cow in half, or painting a portrait of a dead human being, it is this 'shock' factor that gets an artist noticed! Hats off to them for their vivid imagination, but that's just not a place I could ever go.

Maybe my own drawings are simply too predictable. 
In fact - I have made a decision - I am going to make my next required still life far more imaginative! There, I have said it - So watch this space!

I am awaiting my results for the first year of the course as we speak. They should arrive in the next couple of weeks. Fingers crossed that I have passed regardless - and though I now know what they are looking for, I am determined to develop my own style and not be too influenced by what someone says I 'should' be doing!


  1. You have thrown up some difficult questions.. :)

    First of all all the paintings are brilliant. In fact I liked the bathroom one a lot too.

    Art after all is a medium of communication. Art is there because what can be communicated by it can not be communicated by words. And communication always has 2 sides. One giver the other taker. Each taker is different and will react to art differently. You can not have control over the taker's side. So finally art boils down to be a very personal statement of the artist. The taker only evasdrops on your art.

  2. First of all Sandra, I love all your work. But I do prefer work to be more realistic and less. . . 'out there' so I really, really love the lower three that you showed. Especially the one with the shells, and the dog :)

    This is such a tough question, I think a lot of time people who are high up in the art world do look for that shock factor. I think they are looking for art that is different. I remember going to an art show a few years ago where I entered a portrait that wasn't accepted. I looked at the art on the walls and saw a small watercolor portrait, about the same size as the one I had entered. But vastly different, there was no thought given to technical skill, or realistic rendering. It was just a few quick washes in bold colors and a mournful looking face. I thought about it for days. Wondering why that painting was accepted and mine wasn't. I finally decided that my work didn't fit the style of the judge. That's when I finally started realizing that not everyone has to like what I do. And that I simply can't paint to please everyone, especially judges who prefer abstraction and shock. It's not me. I paint what I like, that's all I know how to do.

    And I have to admit that there is a big difference between art that the 'people' like and art that critics like. The awards I receive that mean the most to me are the 'people's choice' award. I want to be able to reach people, to make them feel the beauty of motherhood and children that I do. And I don't think I can do that any way other than with realism. Not that it can't be done, just that I can't do it that way.

    Sorry for the long comment. You bring up some good points. Your work is beautiful Sandra, and I agree that the pieces I like the best are the ones that you care about the most. Best of luck with your results, I am positive they will be great. You have a lot of talent and heart :):):)

  3. Sandra, I would like to saying more than what I am going to write right now. But to me it is not so easy to write in English.....
    First of all, I want say that I had exactly the same feeling you have, when I showed my watercolors to my second teacher. His approach to watercolors was completely opposite in comparison to that of my first teacher.
    The first thing that the second one told me was : when you paint, you must be free, your mind must be free!! Do not try to reproduce exactly what you see, but try to paint the emotions that the subject you have in front of you, raises in you! Easy to say, but very difficult to achieve!
    In general, the majority of us tend to reproduce the reality as it is (like a photo). To me, the extremely difficult thing, is to see the reality with different eyes, or better, to see the reality with the heart....and try to paint!
    It could be that this is what differentiates an "Artist" from a very good painting technician! Despite my effort, I think I'm still a watercolor technician! Un abbraccio!

  4. Ah yes, that age old question. What is art? I came across a definition recently which I think agrees with what Prabal and Cystal have said.
    Art is 'the communication of emotion'. Does an ummade bed, a tent, or a pile of bricks do that, that is communicate the emotions of the artist to the viewer? It must do because people pay a lot of money to purchase or even just to look at such things. Mmm ...

    Back to your comments. I think all your submitted work is lovely and of a very high standard indeed ... but the bathroom sketch caught my interest too so perhaps you communicated your emotion better on that piece ?

    But it's a personal thing, the eye of the beholder. It's that same stuff that makes some of us accept punk, rap, classical or whatever as music whilst others may turn away or even raise their voices in disgust.

    Now you've started something Sandra, expect a lot of replies to this, LOL.

  5. You are not wrong in your thinking at all Sandra. These days it seems that the more outlandish you are, the more of a nutcase or just totally absurd you are the more people take an interest in you. Take the X factor for instance. I have watched this show for a few years now and have marveled at some incredibly good singers, who seem to have been labeled dull because they have a good voice but are not as nutty as a fruit cake, like Cheeko or downright repulsive like those awful self opinionated Jedward. It's the same with art these days it seems, the more shocking or preposterous your work is, the more it gets noticed.

    I totally agree with Crystal, that you definitely have talent, especially after looking at that beautiful aubergine and salt/pepper grinders, though you may be lacking a little in flair - but this will come if you just let yourself go a little.

  6. Well, I know nothing about art but I do know that I would proudly display any of your work (ok, almost any). I wouldn't display something that looked much like William had thrown paint on the floor, rolled around in it and added the picture of half a dead cow on top of it! I do wonder how many of these shock value art pieces would be proudly displayed in someones house!!

    With any art, dance, music, painting or writing, if people go back for more, then there must be something eye catching and special about the work they have seen or heard.

    Talking of the Wow factor, the portrait you did of me was noticed by a work colleaugue on facebook, who you actually met at our wedding, and he had simply said "wow! who did that!"

  7. My's not a modern thing as I experienced the same thing at college 25/6 years ago. I think, as several people have said above, the tutors and the art world like the original (not necessary shocking) and the bathroom shows an originality which is not in your other pieces.The others are technically good, but your recent abstract and the bathroom are a bit different. I think the thing to remember is why you are producing art (technical improvement, to sell etc), what you want from the course, and to have confidence in yourself.

  8. WOW!!! Such a long post and such long comments! It took some time to go through it all. All that I have to say is... respect your tutor's choice, but follow your heart. As long as YOU enjoy it, the work will be good. Paint for yourself. All of them are superb.

  9. Your work is good for my eyes Sandra. It is a matter of perception, what is good for me may not be good for you and vice versa..When you paint for the joy of painting, your expression matters as long as it keep you happy. But when you have to paint in pursuit of a degree, you probably have to keep some rules and other perceptions in mind.

  10. Well, where doo I start? All such interesting comments! Firstly - thank you all very much for taking the time to read my post and to share your own views. I think I will have to break this reply in to sections as I'm not sure how many words I can fit on to this comment form!

    Prabal - I suppose I have to decide on whether I paint what I think people want to see, or I paint what I want to paint. At the moment I am not always doing either! This is probably where I am going wrong alot of the time. You are right - art comes down to personal choice. The art I so love to look at is very different than my own, but I think that is because I have not built enough confidence in my skills yet and so haven't allowed myself to let go.

    Crystal - Your art is very special. You manage to convey emotion in such a way that many can't. If you think I have a talent then I take that as a huge compliment :0)
    I would say at this point that I show promise rather than talent, but maybe I am being too self critical. I can imagine just how you felt when your portrait wasn't accepted but the other one was! You are right though - it is personal choice. Luckily there are several people who will be assessing my work and hopefully they won't all have the same views!

    Tito - Firstly, you are most definitly an 'Artist' and not just a painting technician! I'm not quite sure if I am either just yet but I am at least on my way and I have no intention of stopping until I am there!
    It is so true that conveying emotion in a painting is much easier said than done, particularly when it comes to a still-life - I mean, how do I convey emotion in a toilet roll, or a courgette? Lol! It's easier to convey emotion with music and dance, but with painting, it takes alot of imagination and courage which I have got to build upon.

  11. Michael - I'ts interesting that both you and Prabal say the bathroom sketch caught your eye - Maybe there is some emotion in it!
    If that is the case, then what you are seeing is my frustration that I had produced yet another awful sketch and enough anger to resort me to throwing paint all over it from a great height!! Lol! I will never waste a bad sketch again!

    Frank - I completely agree with you about the X-Factor. With a singing competition it is no longer about the voice (after all, technology can fix that) but it's about personality. (And I am right with you on Jedward! Lol!) With music, the more dark the subject, the more fascinated people seem. It's odd isn't it?
    I am so encouraged that you think I have talent - I know that you wouldn't just say that if you didn't mean it - after all, Frank by name, frank by nature (and I love that)! But I agree with you that whatever I have in talent, I lack in flair and I really need to work on that. I've been struggling to understand what it means to 'loosen up', but I am realising that this is more to do with the mind than the paintbrush!

  12. Amanda - I think that I am realising that everyone has such different views on what art 'should' be and that no one person is wrong. My view has always been that I like art that takes me to a place I want to be, or art so colourful that it really does lift my spirits, even if it isn't of anything in particular. Having never learned art at school, and not drawn/painted for pleasure since I was around thirteen, this is still all quite new to me and I have only just found my self giving it any thought at all! It's totally fascinating to see what other people think.

    Sue - You are right. The bathroom and the abstract do stand out from everything else I have done because they are so different. Hopefully, one day I will find my own 'style', which I hope will have originality and flair... eventually!
    It's difficult at the moment because I am painting not only just to please myself, but to improve my technical skill too - It's not an easy balance.
    I think that now I know the basic, fundamental rules of drawing - It's time for me to start breaking them!

    AK - I know, it is probably the longest reply I have made too! But I am learning almost as much from all of you as I am from my course! Not just from all of your work which I love to look at but by all of the comments you leave too.
    I definitely respect my tutor's opinion, but I do want to be careful not to be 'moulded' in to something that isn't natural to me. You are right - often the work I like the best is the work I enjoyed the most :0)

    Padjama - It is certainly difficult trying to work out what I need to do during my course. I find it hard to paint when the subject is dull and when there are so many 'rules', which I thought I had to follow. This often leaves my work looking rather 'sterile'. Since my tutor's comment I have realised that perhaps now I don't need to stick to those rules quite so much. This should make things easier for me from now on and I hope it will show in time :0)

    Thank you all so much! It has been an interesting response!

  13. i really like your bathroom scene sandra ..good luck with your review

  14. Hi Sandra...all of these paintings and sketches are beautiful and you already have your own unique style. I think what is special about the bathroom painting though is that it tells a story. It draws you in a makes you ask questions as to what was behind your idea. Even though it was a happy has led you to explore your work more fully and that's always good! Some of my best paintings have been happy accidents!

  15. Jane - Do you really? That's interesting how everybody see's something different! It just goes to prove, art is such a personal thing :0)

  16. Abby - I've hear alot about 'happy accidents'. I think this occurs largely in watercolour and this is where I need to let the watercolour contol me as much as I am trying to contol 'it'. Thank you so much for your very kind comment! :0)

  17. Hi Sandra, your paintings a re beautiful the way they are. You already have a style you are a realist That is no easy thing to do. I love the fishy:)the colors and subject and your still lives are spot on. happy painting!I'm off to paint some sunflowers:)

  18. love this link, check it out it is also on my blog roll... you may already have but looks to me like a lot of realism. Beautiful

  19. I have to agree with Cathy you already have a style. I fought with my pen & ink for years because it's realistic and therefore "not-original". However, with realism there is great originality from the artist as to what to paint, which angle,what to include etc. May I suggest you do what you enjoy, do the technical exercises and have fun.

    btw you said to Prabal "The art I so love to look at is very different than my own, but I think that is because I have not built enough confidence in my skills yet and so haven't allowed myself to let go." Relax, you may never paint like them. eg I admire abstract oil painting but will never be able to do it.

  20. Cathy, thank you. What a lovely comment :0)
    Artcolony is a fabulous site isn't it? Like yours, I also love Kaye Smith's work and she puts alot of her paintings on there too. I can't wait to see your sunflowers!

  21. Sue - You are right. Maybe I should stop always comparing myself with other people and just allow myself the time I need for those things to happen in their own time, like loosening up and imaginative thinking! I think this is where sketching regularly might help me to develope! Day one starts tomorrow!

  22. I like your bathroom scene too. I think it shows confidence and energy that adds alot of interest. Your finer work is so well done but I am more drawn to the bathroom scene.
    My sketchbooks have really helped me to develop more freedom in my finer works, I think mostly because they have built my confidence in paint application.
    Good luck with your results.

  23. Thank you Anita, for taking the time to drop by. I have been avoiding sketching for so long because I just have this fear of it for some reason! Like you, I met Sue(only yesterday) for a sketching trip. My sketching ability is not even close to Sue's but she really has helped me to get over that fear of opening up that little book in public! I really think I'll be doing it alot more now - So hopefully I will start to show an improvement soon! Thank you for your good wishes :0)

  24. Hi sandra.
    To be honest this one caught my eye over the others im nearly half way through my painting degree and I feel the exact same. The more i dont try to put effort in they love it, but turn their nose up at drawings or paintings that have taken a lot of time and effort. I think the reason for this is artists should always be seeking the new while being aware of the great art that has come before. Everyone likes to look at a pretty picture but if thats all thats on offer it becomes boring and meaningless. Recently I was in the Prado in Madrid and it had masterpiece after masterpiece next to each other painted by some of the greatest painters ever, I shouldnt admit this as a painter but i got bored so bored i would have ripped my own arms off to see a chopped up kestrel in a box :). By staying in the same place life gets boring so you need to try new materials and new methods. This one piece was different thats why it stands out.In a few years we wont even need to empty the paint from the tubes it will be a masterpiece in its package ha ha. this probably makes no sense sorry what do i know

  25. Hi Dan - Your comment was really interesting to read. Thank you for taking the time! I do agree with what you are saying entirely (apart from the chopped up Kestrel in the box bit, lol!) It is frustrating isn't it when you take such care over something but in the end it is flicked past with no reaction, and yet something you slap together gets such great feed back! Our degrees at least might take half the time!

  26. Sandra, this is a great post. It has sparked a lot of thought and subsequent epic post on my blog. I was going to comment here but it just got too long, but I have linked back to here, so let me know what you think.

    (love the bathroom study!)

    Here is the post:


  27. Hi Sandra. Thanks for looking at the post and for your comments. I have replied in more detail there.



  28. sandra, all of the images that you are proud of our truly beautiful. Love the shells and the dog. however, something makes me want to look at the bathroom painting for longer. this is a struggle I have right now. My clients prefer my tight work that I think is boring, whereas I get happy when I can be more loose and abstract. We should paint for ourselves, but, this is a new struggle that I am experiencing right now.

  29. James - on way!

    Liana - I do understand that it is more intriguing than the others. Maybe it's because the style feels so alian to me that I feel uncomfortable with it. I hope I get over this hurdle with my neatness some time and do more things like this. I've learned that no matter what style we choose, we can in no way please eveyone as art is such a personal thing :0)

  30. Hi Liana,
    I think this is a subject that a lot of artists are struggling with, and the reason the bathroom painting is so good is because it is loose and it's quite spontaneous and as a result it is unique and has a lot of personality. I think it's much harder to reproduce these sort of paintings - but I really think you should do more if you can!

  31. Thank you Katie - I agree, I should do more things like this and I will do. I think I just need that carefree attitute to my work instead of 'trying' too hard :0)


Thank you so much for leaving a comment! Where possible I will respond via email. I really do love to read them! They always make me smile ;0)


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