10 Minutes with Robbie Bushe
A short interview with our Award-Winning Course Organiser Robbie Bushe.
What’s your background?
I trained in drawing and painting at Edinburgh College of Art. I lectured in drawing, painting and fine art for many years at Gray’s School of Art, University of Chichester and Oxford Brookes University. Throughout my career I’ve developed an interest in possibilities for “non-traditional students” applying to study art & design. It was on the strength of my work on part time study at Chichester that I got the role as course organiser for art & design short courses at the University of Edinburgh.
As well as organising our art and design short courses, Robbie is a successful figurative artist. He exhibits his work regularly and he won the nation’s most lucrative art prize, the W Gordon Smith Award earlier this year.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy the fact that art is not a linear career. People can come back into education in art at any time throughout their lives.
I also love that our short courses are led by practice and are about a having a conversation between tutor and student. This is something that applies to art in general.
What does it take to make it as a professional artist or craftsperson?
You have to have commitment, self-discipline and a thick skin. In my role here, I’m most proud that we’ve had several students doing short courses who have continued their practice and gone on to exhibit their work and have meaningful careers as artists. However this didn’t happen overnight, it was a gradual process with most of them working full-time jobs at first and creating their art around other commitments. Then starting to slowly scale down the time they spent on their jobs and scale up the time they spent on their art.
What advice would you give someone who would like to make art for a living?
Become aware of the market you want to enter. For example, if you want to become a landscape painter, find out what type of landscape painting are currently in vogue, what galleries are showing, and who buys it. Then you have to go back to basics and re-discover the elements of landscape painting that you like following what you’ve learned. It’s important not to impose a style upon yourself, just allow a voice to emerge.
Design is a more collaborative process. In design, you have to learn the trade and skills and be aware of the context you operate in.
If you go into art or design to make money as your first priority though, you’re unlikely to be successful. You have to engage with the public, discover what you care about and find your voice. Always remember to do little and often, as the accumulation of small advantages is what it’s really all about.
Are the University of Edinburgh short courses just for people who are really serious about their art?
The great thing about art and design is it’s a great leveller. In our short courses we focus more on the “why” in art and design than the “how”. Therefore, it doesn’t actually matter if you’re not great at drawing or painting as we focus on helping you to use the tools and skills that you do have to express the ideas, thoughts and feelings in your head. We help people develop this skill. It’s a bit like writing a good story without a good vocabulary!
Robbie's latest sketch work in progress
Robbie is a strong believer that the best art materials you can use are the ones in your bag. Robbie is known for his imaginative and surreal biro sketches often drawn in meetings and breaks around the office and he shows us some of his recent work.
Robbie is gradually making a big piece of work from many small drawings. He doesn’t know where he is taking the work when he starts but simply begins his next panel as a continuation of the previous squares. Art is all about “the accumulation of small advantages” he reminds us.