Reflections on art and leadership

I use my art to reflect an artist and a senior manager in the financial services industry. I notice that the deeper I understand myself the more I succeed to impact others; in both art and work.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

New style for the Subconscious Power concept

The Subconscious Power concept aims to get in a sort of flow, work in a high pace and then create a very complex composition that still shows clear harmony. The idea is to shut down my rational filters; little voices in my brain that tell me to stop, not take a risk of ruining what has already been made, go for simple compositions, reduce the number of colors, etc.

Until now I worked with specific mixes of acrylic paint, medium and water; on a wet surface in order to force myself to create large strokes, work rapidly and accept to let go of rational control, the desire to directly create an aestetic composition.
At the same time I had been working on large amounts of drawings for the Creative Spam project where I post (until now close to 200) drawings in Amsterdam for anyone to find and take home. With these drawings I have also been building my 'vocabulary of shapes and colors', which has become now part of the natural language I use when painting.
And for the La Valise Noire concept I created several drawings based on experiences, darker thoughts and sending it then in the black suitcase.

For a long time I have been a bit hesitant to use oil paint again. In general it is quite difficult to work with (meaning I did not yet fully master it to use it completely organically) and therefore would be difficult to get in a sort of flow when I would still be thinking of 'how to actually put the paint on the linen'.

Recently I decided to engage with the challenge; I bought some large surfaces to paint on, completed again my set of oil paint colors, and brought them to my apartment in Paris where there is lots of light. And one morning I just started; I had prepared how I would work, installed all materials and then just followed my brush. I introduced one break to go out for a walk and then came back. It lead to the painting you see attached.

So, am I happy with the result ? Not sure yet, will make a few more of these pqintings and see how it works. Not even sure if it is ready actually; which is part of the regulare torture an artist faces... Had some very positive feedback from friends who visited, but some others made no comment at all...well in the end the only reference for whether this is the right art work As my friend  and much more experienced artist Frederik beerbaum said to me some time ago: "95 % of the people have no clue what you are doing, so only you can be the reference of what is good". Well, I'm not sure yet, guess we will see in the coming weeks.

Previous articles on Subconscious Power:
The way of making the art works
Freezing experiment in the snow

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Launching the Art Burshy Cartoons website

Introducing a cartoon based on a recently developed character:  Art Burshy
I started drawing in my sketchbook for the La Valise Noire concept, and then this character somehow evolved.
After several positive reactions about this new silly cartoon that was created for this art blog, I decided to publish them now on a separate blog page.
Website address:

Reason to go there: I posted some previous cartoons and also some new ones (some in colour), so check it out. I expect to upload a new cartoon at least once every week.

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By the way - if you want to keep updated on either this blog or the Art Burshy site - just click on the "join this site" button in the left column to get subscribed.
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Hope you enjoy the cartoons, and keep enjoying this page as well. Feedback and input is always welcome.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

La Valise Noire (6) graveyard of projected guilt

In this article you find several drawings I made for the La Valise Noire concept.
A few questions I asked myself.

Follow my feeling
and adrenaline
1. The objective was to visualise my dark behaviour and related guilty feelings. How did that influence my thoughts on that dark behaviour and thinking...
I have now made several drawings. I would think of some behaviour and specifically think of someone I might have hurt with that behaviour. It is interesting to phrase like that, as I am not sure I actually hurt someone in all of these cases. In some cases it would for example not (yet) be visible to others, and still drawing away my energy. In other cases I now wonder if others would see what I did as 'a big thing'. Basically I realised that I feel guilty based on my own values, and the way I project those on my own behaviour and that of others. And not speaking my mind on these topics or not expressing that guilt makes me digest it multiple times, and with every digestion it grows and touches me more.

Mother fighting Beatrice
2. Does it actually work to send the images into the black suitcase, reducing the guilty feelings and the loss of energy ?
In short, yes it helps dealing with dark behaviour and thoughts (at least for as long as I am now working on this project). Then I wondered why it actually seems to work. Explanations could be:
(i) I tell myself it should work, so it works. Basically the placebo effect. Well, that would by itself not be a problem, "no better person to manipulate than yourself"
(ii) letting go of negative images releases the pressure and removes the negative feeling. This is a bit like elements from the Neuro Linguistic Programming, where you visualise your negative thoughts and send them into the distance.
(iii) giving the dark behaviour and the 'victims' attention makes me feel like I have respected and accept the related lesson(s). I do accept the thought that I can not do everything right, and I can not always prevent others from being hurt. Important is the respect and the fact that I learn from my behaviour. This would allow me to 'accept' my failures and think I have suffered and learnt enough to respect the other person.
Storm surrounding
silent creation
(iv) just a coincidence or correlation; when starting the project I was feeling unstable and it would be logical that after some time I would feel a bit more relaxed than before, and maybe in some time the pressure will go up again.
(v) the guilty feeling is not the real cause (bit related to the previous point) and there is another element driving my reflections; earthly powers impacting my well-being, work related pressures impacting my other observations, finally getting blessed by God, escaping in my drawings (creating a different focus, distracting my thoughts), adding structure to my art and expression, etc. Some being more exceptional than others, but intentionally would not want to rule any of it out.

Basically makes me feel I should:
- focus on existing theory and research (psychology, philosophy, etc.)
- maybe try this experiment with other people (to improve statistical relevance).

Behaviour shadowing
parental love

3 In which way does this relate to leadership
Yes, I have avoided linking this project to leadership, and anyone is welcome to comment. I do feel that it makes some elements more clear to me:
a. if we can not guide ourselves, how could we guide others. Being aware of our own dark side is important to more objectively see what is happening and which actions are required. If we are not aware we risk basing our approach on perceptions > based on feelings that can be partly accurate and partly resulting from our dark side and how they filter the information that comes in.
b. Coach others; I have observed in coaching/helping other people it helps to understand the functioning of dark sides; clearly addressing the right behaviour, helping someone explore which behaviour is less functional and which elements need to be addressed, being able to provide metaphors for what is happening (will share some of those in one of the following articles)c. Be a role model for others in not-hiding-from-the-dark. Accept and understand behaviour, showing others it is human to have certain not so good behaviour, to look beyond the guilt, to look forward and make the best of it and not let it stand in the way.
Feeling versus 
risk of losing
d. Not letting other peoples negative behaviour reduce your energy level; as a leader you generally need a good energy level (people do not tend to massively follow people who are complaining and show negative behaviour). Remaining positive and constructive and reasonably balanced is key in getting teams have confidence and trust in their manager.

Well, guess those were just 3 questions and my quick replies. Anyone with other questions or wishing to challenge some of these ideas is welcome.

At the end of this I was looking at the right name for this article, and I saw the title of the below image; that is actually what La Valise Noire is: 

graveyard of projected guilt

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Painting in the snow

Yesterday evening I had prepared my painting materials: mixing paint with water and medium, selecting the right paper, adding bottles with salty water I had taken from the sea, throwing in some brushes, etc.

This morning I was excited on one hand; couldn't wait to go out and paint. At the same time a bit worried this mission would prove to be too challenging, as it was -15 °C outside... freezing. Did I have everything with me, wouldn't I be too cold after a few minutes, hoping the wind wouldnt be too strong and blow the sheets away...
Around 9:45 I decided to go out, having delayed my departure with drinking some coffee with my son, but then just had to do it. The good thing about painting in these extreme conditions is that it forces you to let go of full control, especially important for someone like me with a dominance of ratio. Nothing goes the way you want it...

Well first I covered the paper with snow and dripped salty water on it to help the thawing process and have enough water to cover the paper. I looked around, enjoying the morning sun breaking through, and throwing a Naples white/ocher/cadmium yellow shiny layer over the snow; the trees creating shapes of multiple blues on the snow making it all a cold display of shapes cutting up the titanium white.

4 of the paintings in the snow

Then I started...the snow wouldn't melt, and even using the salty water did not make it melt at these temperatures...and normally for my technique I want the paper to be soaking wet, so it helps the colors mix and spread over the paper. Well, after letting go I came into a flow and in the end made 8 paintings. They just got created from improvising.
Getting home was relatively easy; normally the water would drip off the paper, but as they were covered with snow and temperatures were so low I could get them back home quite easily, without dripping too much. At home I had to deal with melting water and paint going everywhere, focusing first on keeping the paintings good, letting go when possible and then cleaning up all the mess. All in all drying took a few hours as well as removing paint from the floors etc.

So, instead of the normal romantic and relaxing painting process it was a bit more challenging, but results were great and will be the first layers of a new series of paintings in the Subconbscious Power series. Curious to see what they will look like in the end ? Me too ;)

Read here another article about this style

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Surrealist Self Portrait - La Valise Noire

Another surrealist self portrait I made last weekend. Interesting to see what is being created when drawing a line and just observing what shapes are being created. Again different patterns show up, some things more clear to me than others.
Things I recognise: my face, tired eye with tears, moon in shape of a child's face, a swan, someone diving in deep water reaching out of the water, an erupting flower, a woman with closed eyes, and more :)

See also for more background the La Valise Noire concept