masterpiece n. 1. A person’s greatest piece of work, as in art. 2. Anything done with masterly skill.
I believe most if not all people understand what is meant by the word masterpiece. Though our definitions may vary, we all have an idea of what we think it means. In the west, we associate it with artists, composers, filmmakers, sculptors and the like. Sometimes we use it to convey high praise. That cake is a masterpiece. Sometimes we apply it to every painting an artist ever produced. That works for definition 2, but not for definition 1.
We use it, but don’t usually break it into its constituent parts, master and piece. It implies a level of skill, as an artist, craftsperson or other profession which requires advanced expertise. Here is where the pieces become important. In a very real sense, it can be thought of as mastering all the tools, the pieces you will need to achieve your ultimate goal. These pieces do not even need to be isolated to the specific mastery you are trying to acquire, though they do need to be germane. Being well-rounded, having knowledge of a number of disparate but related subjects and abilities, allows someone to combine this learning into a sum greater the whole.
I decided to explore this topic further when a friend asked how I had advanced so quickly after I started oil painting. While in no way claiming to be a master, as my friend put it, I went from 0 to 90 in nothing flat. I’ve only been painting since late 2008, early 2009, but I’m been accepting in a gallery, chosen in shows judged by professionals and I have received accolades, honorable mentions, special recognition, been a finalist, placed and won in these juried shows. (ArtQuenchGallery.com “SUMMER” 2013 International Juried Art Competition)
Instruction helped, though only a few night classes, but nowhere near the rigors of a classical Academy or Master’s workshop. However, I had pursued and did pursue other creative disciplines, during and after a long career in graphic arts. Though only a production manager, making sure the work was completed correctly and on time, I was surrounded by created art, color and design. I applied this knowledge with and through crafting, quilting, writing and other pursuits.
Semi-private classes specifically to study colored pencil art creation reinforced what I knew about color mixing and blending learned on the job. This knowledge could be applied directly to oil painting. Life itself had taught me patience. A competitive father taught me persistence, durability and the ability to, day after day, start or return to a task which can’t be completed quickly.
The more recent channels of communication, computer programs which can assist us in our pursuit, and various social media have changed not only how we make and view art, but also how we share it and present it to hopefully gain recognition and appreciation. We can now take a multitude of digital images, whether we print them or not. We can manipulate them; use them as a semi-accurate view or views to paint our subject with either paint or pixels. In short order, many more people will be able to print three-dimensional art.
My age sometimes makes it difficult to navigate the vast webscape and sophisticated programs available to me. I often stay on the broad avenues with which I am already familiar. There is so much to see and learn and appreciate that I’m trying to remove my blinders. Everything I can see or hear or learn will add one more bit to the knowledge I need to live a masterly life, perhaps the ultimate masterpiece. And it certainly cannot hut my art or writing.
I want to take in as much as possible, including former paths which are now thoroughfares, and new paths into uncharted territory. There are so many opportunities along the way. Wish me luck.