How I Found my ‘Muse’ by Gill Bustamante

by Aileen Mitchell 8. September 2016 12:00

I dedicate these ramblings to all those artists looking for their muse and all those art buyers who are helping artists to survive. Thank you! Gill

Many artists are trying to find their inspiration, their creative influence or their USP (Unique Selling Point as marketing people call it) and it will be distinctly different from person to person.

I was brought up in the London suburb of Bexleyheath and I hated it. I wanted the sea and fields and trees and I did not get this in Bexleyheath. Moving to Sussex was like finding a supermarket after 20 years starving in a desert. I needed space and I found plenty of it in the countryside and coastline of the south of England. That was the first step to finding my muse.

November Stirs - A Large Autumn Landscape Painting by Gill Bustamante

I was painting for quite a while before I could define what my personal style was though. It took learning to draw accurately, learning to paint traditional animal portraits, trying all sorts of mediums and techniques before I finally realised I did have a painting style. This only became obvious to me around 10 years ago and it only happened once I had enough technical skills under my belt to feel confident enough to be more experimental. I found that what I wanted to paint was places and things that were a little bit mystical and that I could escape into.

I wanted to paint things that were reminiscent of real places but with something else enchanting them a little. I wanted paintings that could lead me elsewhere entirely (along with anyone else who wanted to go there). This was my step two and this quote by Mary Lou Cook (actress, humanitarian and artist) sums up well what I found to be true for myself.

"Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun." - Mary Lou Cook

Bluebell Fields - Original Oil Painting by Gill Bustamante

I began to use bigger canvases (so I would have more room to play about and try things out) and I began to walk regularly. I became an absorber of my environment. By that I mean that whatever I see tends to lodge in my mind and I often have no idea what I have absorbed until I paint and then I see what I have observed. My landscapes became largely painted from memory combined with imagination and often start with a simple sketch with pleasing shapes in them but not much else. I like my landscapes to grow organically just like a real landscape does. Sometimes this went horribly wrong. About 20% of my landscapes were so bad I had to paint over them and start again but that was no problem as it all added to the texture of the next painting (I pity the person who X- rays one of my paintings in 200 years time hoping to find a masterpiece as they will be very disappointed).

Step three of finding my muse is in progress. Art is about observing something or imagining it and then finding a way to present that viewpoint to others. Everyone can do this but true artists keep evolving in how they present their viewpoints and how they present the message the wish to get across. If your art is not evolving, it is dying.


Hart Of Winter - A Winter Landscape by Gill Bustamante

I am immensely grateful to online galleries such as and the internet generally for levelling the playing field for artists and for those who buy art. Anyone can make art and anyone can present it to others. A big name artist can be found next to a 13 year old artist living in a slum in India and they have equal opportunity to sell their art which I think is fabulous.

By Gill Bustamante - Artist and Art Tutor, ArtGallery Contributor


Artists | Being an Artist

Was Rembrandt the King of the Selfie?

by Aileen Mitchell 6. September 2016 13:20

"I'm just going to take a selfie" – a sentence that is now almost unavoidable. The selfie (short for self-portrait) has become a cultural phenomenon from an entire exhibition in Shoreditch to a published book of Kim Kardashian's oeuvre.

Before we give this craze a deeper look, we need to give it a bit of artistic integrity in the form of Rembrandt van Rijn: one of the greatest painters in European art history. Appearing in nearly 100 of his own works around a mere 50 years after the birth of the self-portrait, was Rembrandt a master of chiaroscuro, capturing the nature of mankind and also king of the selfie?

The history of the self-portrait

The first known self-portrait can actually be traced all the way back to Ancient Egypt 1300BC, beginning with Pharaoh Akhenaton's chief sculptor, Bek. Bek created a chiselled self-portrait of himself and his wife, which is considered by many Egyptologists to be the first known instance of a portrait actually carved by the artist.

The art of painting self-portraits was not used in the European art world until late into the Renaissance period (1300 – 1600) with artists such as Albrecht Durer (1471 – 1528) and Jan van Eyck (1390 – 1441) in the 1500s.

Self-Portrait – Albrecht Durer

Since then, we have been able to enjoy countless artists carefully cataloguing each stage of their careers through self-portraiture. The practice began to grow in popularity as mirror became cheaper, better quality and more readily available. Some of the most renowned artists are van Gogh (1853 – 1890), Picasso (1881 – 1973) and Frida Kahlo (1907 – 1954) (who could arguably have overtaken Rembrandt for the selfie title if Rembrandt was not quite so revered!)

The benefits of a self-portrait

The Night Watch - Rembrandt

Self-portraits have typically been a type of artwork harder to sell than other portraits and landscapes. Despite this, there are lots of reasons for artists wanting to continue painting them. Artists could use a self-portrait as a means of study when trying out new techniques and styles without the huge expense of paying for a model. In fact, Rembrandt was known to have his students also copy his self-portraits for perfecting their painting skills.

Self-Portrait 1660 - Rembrandt

Before the days of PR agencies, self-portraits were an excellent and less expensive way of producing a portfolio of pieces to demonstrate an artist's talent.

Practical benefits aside, many famous painters had much more artistic, creative reasons for depicting themselves. This was a chance for artists to portray themselves the way they wished for society to remember them.

"Are we to paint what's on the face, what's inside the face, or what's behind it?"- Picasso

Rembrandt and the self-portrait

Rembrandt (1606 – 1669) the Dutch painter and print maker produced some of the most recognisable works today and is regarded as one of the greatest artists in the history of European art. 

Self-Portrait with Velvet Beret and Furred Mantle 1634 - Rembrandt

Many of Rembrandt's paintings are portrait studies and biblical scenes, which achieve an inspiring amount of detail that captures natural movement. As an accomplished artist in portraiture, Rembrandt appears to have inserted himself into many of his scenes. The 1642 painting known as the The Night's Watch – the largest of his paintings - is one of the most well known of Rembrandt's works and an example of how he added himself to the subject of his scenes as a character in the background.

Being a subject in the crowd, however, was not enough for Rembrandt. He also portrayed himself in a number of historical costumes and posed as the subject for many of his paintings – sometimes even pulling faces!

According to the Rembrandt Research Project, Rembrandt's oeuvre of nearly 300 paintings, 300 etchings and 2,000 drawings contain over forty self-portraits. Pervious art historians had thought the number to be over ninety, but after autograph analysis many of these appear to have been painted by students.

Self-Portrait as the Apostle Paul - Rembrandt

Behind the success of his artist career, Rembrandt had a rather turbulent personal life including the death of three of his four children, followed by his wife, and financial troubles owing to a lavish lifestyle. Unlike other artists of the day, Rembrandt's self-portraits give a very clear marker for his true appearance and emotional state throughout his life. We can see a very clear timeline from young, rich artist to the very weathered and troubled face of the old painter. This large volume of self-portraits was not simply created for vanity, but as a means of expression and documentation.

It is this attitude towards the self-portrait, the combination of attractive poses and very real depictions that make us compare Rembrandt similar to the modern selfie. Although many artists have come later and produced just as many – if not more – self-portraits, Rembrandt was one of the first artists to adopt this style so early after its introduction to European art. Unlike his contemporaries, Rembrandt also used them as a tool to display the troubles, the emotion and the drama of his real life – something the modern day selfie is used for by countless personalities and famous profiles.

We have to award Rembrandt to be the true King of the selfie for his revolutionary take on a trend that helped make him one of the most respected and well-known artists in history.

Find a modern take on a selfie or self-portrait and visit our gallery!

[Image credits]

User: Albrecht Dürer - Web Gallery of Art: 

/ Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

User: Rembrandt - 

/ Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

User: / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

User: Rembrandt - mQGjCu2ESqQc_w at Google Cultural Institute / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

User: Rembrandt - LwGcE5lQC5dLUg at Google Cultural Institute / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain


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