The desire for control is common with people.

Executives want control in business.

Parents want control of children.

Artists want control of the creative process.

But there comes a time when we must do one thing.


Here’s the main point of the article….

Point 1. Letting go is essential to successful growth .

It is impossible to control everything.

Astonishingly, with the right conditions, people grow by themselves. Like a tree.

And growth shines light in the darkness.

Aireys Lighthouse 771x1024 Creativity and Leadership: The Freedom in Letting Go

‘Aireys Lighthouse’ by Simon Brushfield (2004) Acrylic, Oil & Charcoal on canvas. 1m x 80cm $3200

However, it’s sometimes difficult to let go.

But we must surrender.

It builds confidence .

Plus, life can become extremely frustrating holding on.

Here’s the reason why…

Point 2. The energy needed for surrender is much less and accomplishes infinitely more, than the energy needed for control.

Furthermore, too much control stifles people’s growth.

Plus, it promotes laziness.

And irresponsibility.

Individuals need a sense of freedom and responsibility to grow.

Only then will they gladly give their best performance.

Natural motivation.

It’s really quite simple.

Here’s the truth about human beings.

Point 3. For best results a person needs to feel happy and relaxed.

If an authority figure has too much control, we become demotivated and confused.

Even worse, we become irresponsible.

This can be a challenge, a balancing act for leaders.

For me, leadership is all about not being attached to a specific outcome that must be controlled.

It’s very clear… (and a little weird)

Point 4. I’m not in control of my creativity or my life.

It’s true.

Likewise, when I create an original painting, I totally surrender to the creative process.

There’s no other option.

For my abstract art to be successful, I must let go and let the paint fall naturally on the canvas of an original painting.

Eucalypt painting by Simon Brushfield Creativity and Leadership: The Freedom in Letting Go

‘Eucalypt’ (2001) by Simon Brushfield Oil & Acrylic on Canvas 1.8m x 1.4m (Sold: Private Acquisition)

The same for my life.

To achieve natural results, and manifest the organic growth I want, there’s one thing I must do.


Just let go.

Zen Buddhism teaches the mind should become like an empty rice bowl.

Who knows how things will turn out?

Here’s the great benefit of letting go…

Point 5. Surrendering control refreshes the spirit.

I like what Jesus said about this concept.

“Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will keep it.”

Losing control is truthful and honest.

It’s beautiful too.

Because we’re never totally in control in the first place.

Especially creating original abstract art.

Accepting this reality creates freedom.

It lifts a heavy burden from people.

And produces a joyful natural motivation.

Breathing space.

Plus there’s an added bonus.

It’s exciting.

Things might become a little confusing at times, but here’s my experience.

Point 6. With a little faith everything eventually works out fine.

Writing this creative article is a perfect example.

I felt led to write these words.

When I began the creative process of writing, all I had was a few words.

An idea.

But once the creative seed was planted in the ground, it contained the amazing potential to grow by itself.

Words and ideas came effortlessly.

All without human control.

But like my original art, I needed to let go first.

Allow myself to be led by the creative spirit.

Coral Fish 916x1024 Creativity and Leadership: The Freedom in Letting Go

‘Coral Fish’ by Simon Brushfield (2011) Acrylic on canvas 1.2m x 1.2m For Sale $8,000

This creative process produces delicious fruit that people enjoy consuming.

No need for behind the scenes manipulative power plays.

Or unproductive gossip.

Growth occurs naturally, like healthy plant life. By itself.

True leaders are not highly skilled individuals at manipulative, behind the scenes, power games.

Point 7. Quality leaders are led by the creative desire to see people to grow and flourish.

With wisdom, they trust people.

Granting genuine freedom and responsibility.

This calls for the ‘empty rice bowl’ approach.

A little courage and some creative thinking.

Rather than imprisoning others through a myriad of deceptively authoritative ways, successful leaders empower individuals.

Giving them one very special gift.

A deeper understanding of the authority in themselves.

Motivating people to use their creativity, in unique and powerful ways.

Not for their own financial advantage.

But for love.

Inspiring personal growth.

At every possible opportunity.

© Copyright Simon Brushfield – Creativity and Leadership: The Freedom in Letting Go

Abstract Art: How to understand the value of modern art

This creative article will help you understand the origins of abstract art.

It will give you greater confidence to evaluate and feel comfortable understanding weird modern art.

Below, I broadly outline the development of abstract art and conclude with reflections and examples on how abstract art relates specifically to our modern era.

But here’s the main point of the article….

Point 1. Abstract art helps create freedom for people by challenging conventional thinking.

fountain 1917 866x1024 Abstract Art: How to understand the value of modern art

‘Fountain’ sculpture created in 1917 by Marcel Duchamp. The work presented an enormous challenge to conventional thinking about what exactly is art?

In our instantly accessible modern era, digital photography is taken for granted. It’s difficult to imagine in previous generations photography once didn’t exist.

Painting and drawing was once the only way to capture and record real life. People believed the best art must look real.

Point 2. Therefore, master artists like Rembrandt or Rubens were greatly admired in high Renaissance society.

The intricate detail of horses in battle and aristocratic portraits of noble kings and queens were only accessible by the wealthy class. The gap between the rich and poor was enormous.

In contrast to the instantly accessible digital photography of today, creating a realistic painting during the Renaissance was extremely time consuming and very expensive.

But the industrial revolution and modernist thinking changed everything.

Photography developed. And the printing press too. Suddenly factories were able to print and distribute images and information on a wide scale.

The poor became more educated.

A middle class developed and commodities were produced on mass scale. Goods became less expensive.

Point 3. Modernism encouraged the spread of new ideas, freedom of thought and extensive commercial progress.

With new modern ways of thinking, abstract art began to flourish too.

It offered greater freedom for innovative artists like Picasso. Abstract art is common today, however it wasn’t always a popular way of thinking.

Early abstract artists encountered great difficulty breaking through the public mindset. People had grown comfortable with paintings that looked real.

Point 4. The traditional mindset is always resistant to change.

One famous modernist piece of abstract art by Marcel Duchamp was painted in 1912 and titled ‘Nude descending the staircase’ pictured below. I love the painting but at the time….

It caused great controversy.

Marcel Duchamp   Nude Descending a Staircase Abstract Art: How to understand the value of modern art

‘Nude Descending a Staircase’ (1912) by Marcel Duchamp. Oil on Canvas 147 cm × 89.2 cm Philidelphia Museum of Art

The painting and the artist are famous for encountering massive opposition and public outcry, so much so, that Marcel Duchamp removed his painting from the wall midway through the exhibition.

He later focussed upon playing chess abandoning the art world all together.

One New York Times critic disdainfully wrote the painting looked like ‘an explosion in a shingle factory’ hence the reference to factories – a concept dominant in the minds of people living during the industrial revolution.

However, there is an element of truth to the critic’s comment. It’s no coincidence that Duchamp’s painting contains visual elements similar to the rhythmic repetitive nature of a machine in operation.

Point 5. The mass production of industrial life was changing the way people perceived themselves.

During the industrial, or shall we say modernist era, three towering figures of modern art arose.

Henri Matisse (1869-1954) Picasso and Duchamp who helped define a new visual direction and entirely new way of thinking, gave validity to the liberating ideas underpinning abstract art.

The history of art provides a long list of artists who changed public thinking altering the dominant status quo in society.

Art is a culturally acceptable vehicle for change.

Duchamp, Picasso and Matisse were often ridiculed for challenging conventional thinking. Their emerging abstract style of paintings, were frighteningly bold for the time and excessively unrealistic.

Point 6. Artists have long played the role of provoking society, being the instigators of change and challenging conventional thinking.

Innovative paintings were difficult for the public to accept as genuine artwork during the 1900’s. Once again, new ideas from visionary artists had provoked mainstream society’s traditional comfortable mindset about what indeed was art?

The Joy of Life by Henri Matisse 1905 Oil on Canvas 175x241cm Abstract Art: How to understand the value of modern art

‘The Joy of Life’ by Henri Matisse (1905) Oil on Canvas 175 x 241cm

The shape and form of Matisse’s paintings conveyed emotional force. Heavily influenced by traditional paintings, Matisse was also inspired by his contemporaries Gaugin, Cezanne and Van Gogh who also used colour excessively.

Point 7. Matisse’s use of colour astounded people. He is considered one of the founding fathers of modern art.

Never before had a painter been so pure, unrealistic and imaginative in his approach to colour. He quickly became known for his radical position and always displayed signs of quiet rebelliousness throughout his career.

Matisse was in constant search for freedom.

His life might be interpreted as a continual struggle to break free. Eliminating barriers of constraint. A pattern typified by the history of modern art. Matisse once said,

“An artist must never be a prisoner. Prisoner? An artist should never be a prisoner of himself, prisoner of style, prisoner of reputation, prisoner of success…” – Henri Matisse

Breaking from traditions of the past, Henri Matisse led an art movement called the ‘Fauves’ in 1905. Meaning ‘the wild beasts’. This title referred to the group’s use of extreme emotionalism, vivid colours and distorted shapes.

Predictably, the Fauves first exhibition brought a hostile public response. One critic wrote, ‘A pot of paint has been flung in the face of the public’

Matisse Les Toits de Collioure 1905 Abstract Art: How to understand the value of modern art

‘Les Toits de Collioure’ by Henri Matisse (1905) Oil on canvas 59.5 cm × 73 cm Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

Point 8. When artists express a vision  people have never seen before, great opposition and vehement criticism often follows.

Here’s 3 things I love most about abstract art.

Firstly, in every sense, abstract art is liberating. Unpredictable and uncontrollable, it challenges people to think differently on a variety of levels. Especially, questioning the concept of commercial value.

People struggle to understand why someone would pay millions of dollars, for what looks like child’s artwork at kindergarten?

Henri Matisse | Patitcha souriante (Patitcha smiling) 1947 | Purchased 1993 with funds from the International Exhibitions Program | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | © Henri Matisse 1947/Succession H Matisse/Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney, 2011

Matisse understood how people thought in his day, but he didn’t allow it to stifle the creative ideas and purity of art he pursued.

Power 9. Matisse understood the power and longevity of an idea, to overcome restrictions created by mainstream narrow-mindedness.

I love creating abstract paintings. And can never predict results. There is freedom in relaxing and ‘going with the flow.’ Allowing the paint control the direction of the artwork.

During this process, the subconscious mind is free to depict what needs to be expressed.

There have been many paintings and drawings I have created whereby an image has emerged I had no conscious control in bringing to life. As an artist, this is fascinating to observe.

The most famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung once taught, the subconscious mind expresses deeply intuitive, often important messages to people through archetypes and dreams. Likewise, Matisse emphasized the importance of intuition and instinct in the creative process.

Similar to abstract art, the subconscious mind creates abstracted fragmented messages unfamiliar to the conscious mind and difficult to process through logical conventional thinking. Salvador Dali expressed this phenomena in his surrealist paintings.

Abstract art accommodates for the unpredictability and irrationality of the human mind.

Point 10. Matisse believed he was not in control of the creative process. But that colour and form dictated the painting themselves.

The second thing I love about abstract art is the variety of responses it evokes from viewers. Some people simply love the shapes. Other people are touched by an emotional reaction to the colours .

Still others have very personal interpretations of the subject matter, discovering specific meaning to their inner lives. One doesn’t have to be a highly intelligent or well educated person to enjoy abstract art. It’s accessible to everyone on every level.

Abstract art offers unique value to individuals. It respects and encourages diversity. Honouring people’s different perspectives.

The Peninsula 1024x835 Abstract Art: How to understand the value of modern art

‘The Peninsula’ by Simon Brushfield (2010) oil & acrylic on canvas, 2m x 1.8m (Sold: Private Collection)

In the painting above I was commissioned by an Australian art collector, who wanted a large abstract piece for his lounge room.

Like Matisse, the painting contains a mix of realistic and unrealistic emotive colours and imaginative subject matter symbolic of the owner’s personal background and happy childhood by the sea.

Point 11. Unlike mathematics, in abstract art there are no right or wrongs.

Henri Matisse wanted to express hope through the purity and power of colour. He acknowledged difficulties encountered in life and saw art as a means of bringing hope and happiness into a troubled world. He once said,

“What I dream of is an art of balance, purity, and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter….a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue” – Henri Matisse

I love Matisse’s paintings because his artwork displays courage, a fierce determination and skilful ability to break into new territory, leaving behind a legacy of artistic and personal freedom for others to enjoy.

Point 12. Modern art epitomises the human spirit and its passionate desire to experience greater levels of  freedom.

From my perspective, the Matisse legacy encourages people to live life to the fullest. In bright, beautiful colour. Even through difficulties, criticisms and vehement opposition. To expand upon conventional thinking in a persons life, increases their freedom. Modern art helps people to expand horizons. Thereby, improving the quality of lives.

This is priceless.

Henri Matisse was an intuitive artist who accepted gracefully the challenging consequences of living, loving and thinking in new ways. Allowing nothing to halt his creative progress. He once said,

“He who loves, flies, runs and rejoices; he is free and nothing holds him back.” – Henri Matisse

These ideals are expressed in his sentimental painting at the beginning of this article, titled ‘The Joy of Life.’ Henri Matisse lived and worked during a time of great change, historians term ‘Modernism.’ An era heavily influenced by the industrial revolution.

Similarly, we live in a time of significant change, characterised by the information age. Historians have broadly labelled our era ‘Postmodernism’.

The abstract painting below is a visual interpretation of my postmodernist life.

Postmodernism 791x1024 Abstract Art: How to understand the value of modern art

‘Postmodernism’ by Simon Brushfield (2011) Oil and Acrylic on Canvas 80cm x 60cm (framed)

I would love to hear your thoughts on abstract art and/or living in our postmodernist era. Remember there are no right or wrongs, but I would appreciate a conversation with you. So please leave your thoughts in the comments box below.

Also, if you liked this article and would like to read more creative articles, delivered straight to your inbox, then join my VIP mailing list by leaving your email address below.

The importance of staying strong for long lasting success

This post discusses the essentials of living a successful creative career. Every person needs strong support structures in life to ensure stability, reliability and eventual success.

But how can an artist establish solid structure in life amidst the often chaotic, unpredictable world of creativity?

Creative people need an enormous amount of support to grow.

They need even more to succeed! But it’s a special kind of support.

For people to grow, they need great patience and careful nurturing.

It’s a scientific fact, different types of people need different types of support to grow. Some support mechanisms are easy to find, others are more difficult. But the most important kind of support will come from special people in your life.

Geelong Fine Art School Exhibition Opening. This Art School was my support at the very beginning of my career

Creativity has become a highly valued skill in society today, more so than ever. But supporting a strong minded free-willed creative individual, is not an easy task. Support structures need to be highly specialized and tailored to each individual.

Here’s the main point of this article…

Finding the right kind of genuine support for your unique brand of creativity and special personality is essential.

The right kind of tailored support, designed specifically for you in my experience doesn’t come easy. You need to search for it. People are not going to throw themselves at you eager to give support and unfortunately, it won’t magically appear.

Sometimes family is supportive. But it’s not always the case. Your support might come from strange people in weird places.

When we’re born into this world, it’s never certain what we’re meant to do and who we’re meant to do it with? Support comes on many different levels and from strange often unlikely corners of the world.

But you can be guaranteed the right kind of support for you is hiding somewhere. You need wisdom to find it in the people around you every day.

Surprisingly, sometimes it’s not obvious, because the people who believe in you, might be afraid to acknowledge it!

When you find the right kind of encouragement and guidance it will help you soar higher than you thought possible. With surprising ease, you will fly high on wings like eagles.

Here are 8 ways to ensure your support structures stay strong for long lasting success.

1. Be aware of the people around you and listen carefully to their words.

2. Pay attention to what your intuition tells you, be courageous, it’s often right.

3. Use wisdom to discern people’s motivations during a conversation.

4. Focus upon strengthening those people who encourage you.

5. Learn to politely ignore those who undermine or discourage your dreams.

6. Make it clear to people you are serious about their influence upon your life.

7. Give little time to people who attempt to entangle you in trouble.

8. Protect and reward the people who are your support structures in life.

Sometimes things people say are insignificant, but for some reason, they stick in our mind, especially when young. Jack was my boss, he encouraged a shy creative boy from a small country town, to take on the big city of Sydney.

The video below is my story of my special kind of support.

It came in an unremarkable conversation, a brief comment from Jack. It lasted only a moment, but changed my life forever. His comment had greater significance on my life than he could imagine.

He saw something special in my artistic personality and supported it.

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Are you clear about what kind of support to search for in this world?

The kind of support people need is one that encourages freedom, independence and builds a sense of authority in a life.

Not the kind of support that subtly undermines people, such as gossip, political power plays from behind or maybe a person who argues with every word they hear. Avoid these people.

But be careful. People might pretend to support you because they want something from you. Use wisdom. Not all people understand what true support means and here’s the reason why…

Sadly, most people never received genuine support themselves.

True support grows people.

Even adults.

So, for the people not offering you the true support you need, some times it’s up to you to be their support first. Show them what real support means.

Then once they truly understand it, your special kind of long lasting support designed especially for you, will be in that person.

Here’s the reason why your support will be long lasting… because in the first place you gave someone a learning experience so special, so powerful and unique to them, they couldn’t find it anywhere else.

Encourage, protect, warn and guide them.

Give them the support they truly need. Then, over time, you will be guaranteed in return, to receive the special kind of support you need to achieve your creative goals.

In the supportive process, what do people need most?

They need you to love them , even if you don’t feel like it.

After leaving high school I entered the Geelong Fine Art School. It was an amazingly nurturing campus led by Patty Semmler and Robert Drummond. They gave me the love and creative attention I needed as a baby artist.

I was cared for by two special people, who were very generous offering exceptional guidance and creative encouragement in my formative years. In the video below Patty and Robert give their version of the start of my art career and discuss the people in their lives who supported their artistic drive.

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Please tell me in the comments box below, your story of that special person who encouraged, supported and guided you through life.

‘Australian Pelicans’ by Simon Brushfield (2012) Oil & Acrylic on Canvas 1m x 1m $2,200