Ep 70 Featured Image Podcast

Noticing What You Notice – Philip Buller – Ep 70

February 22, 2023


We are who we are. The artist’s journey (and the journey of life) can take many paths, but all of them are fueled by knowing self. Why do you notice what you notice? And what direction will that “why” take you when you discover the answer? Meet Philip Buller. I’ve followed his beautifully figurative work for years as co-inhabitants of the Julie Nester Gallery, but I’m thrilled to finally meet him and have a conversation. Join us as we dive into going to art school in your 30s, the tools and techniques of Philip’s art practice, and the power of commitment and curiosity in art-making.

Listen if you are interested in…

  • Getting to know Philip Buller [2:14]
  • The triumphs and challenges of going to art school in your 30s [8:25]
  • The three levels of art [20:42]
  • Diving into Philip’s process, tools, and art-making techniques [25:18]
  • The limitations of AI art and the road ahead for Philip [39:41]
  • The power of commitment and curiosity in art-making [46:10]

Take the first step

Going back to school in your 30s is not for the faint of heart. However, that’s exactly what Philip Buller did when he found himself at a career crossroads in the early 90s. After spending some time as a carpenter building houses, he felt it may be time to get his contractor’s license. But Philip’s wife asked him a question that changed his trajectory: Is this what you really want to invest in? Philip’s heart couldn’t help but answer no. He wanted to be an artist, so he enrolled at Sonoma State. Fast forward to today, and not only is Philip an artist, but he also teaches art to others! The moral of the story is this: Just like art is a compilation of one decision after another, so is the painting of our lives. Learning how to make decisions that are increasingly authentic to who we are is what it means to grow as an artist and as a person. By deciding to go back to school, Philip took his first big step on the art journey he is still traversing to this day.

Decide what you want

At the time Philip attended art school, the teaching culture was one of breaking students down to build them back up. This was challenging for Philip because, as someone in their 30s who had lived quite a bit of life already, he didn’t sign up to be recreated by pretension. However, this environment helped him figure out the “why” behind his work. Simply wanting to paint wasn’t enough to build a career and a body of work around. It’s easy to run out of steam when we don’t know what we want out of our art. No matter how much time we put into it. When Philip searched within himself, he found what fuels his creativity. He realized he was drawn to paintings that elicit an emotional response and that it was the kind of work he wanted to make. But he would have never come to that conclusion if he didn’t take the time to decide what he truly wanted.

Art in three parts

One of my favorite aspects of interviewing so many artists is getting a window into how they view art. Not just their work but the concept of art-making as a whole. During my conversation with Philip, he gave a wonderful example of how artwork operates on three different levels. Art operates first on a formal level. Forgetting subject and content, this is all about how art enters our eyes on the most basic level with composition, shape, contrast, and pattern. Next, art operates through the level of thought. It travels from the eyes to the mind and stimulates ideas. Finally, and often most importantly, art operates through the heart. Deeply personal art has the ability to form deep connections with those who appreciate it. All three levels supporting each other is how you paint a masterpiece. You can make beautiful art, but work that moves people ultimately connects to their eyes, mind, and heart.

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Philip Buller

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Nicholas Wilton

Hi! I’m
Nicholas Wilton
the founder of Art2Life.

With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.

Join me and artists from all over the world in our Free Art2Life Artists Facebook Group or learn more here about Art2Life.

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