Have you eve wondered what a master artist thinks when the final touch to a work of sublime wonder is complete? What, for example, did Michaelangelo think when his sculpture of David was completed? Were his thoughts along the lines of "Gosh that is great!" Did he see a flaw and feel that he could have done better? While us mere mortals can only believe that the hand of God guided Michaelangelo's chisel in the end the sculpture is still lifeless marble. Michaelangelo probably would have felt that he still had more to say in his artist's journey. That is way it has to be.
What are the stages to mastery? According to a theory, made famous in Malcolm Gladwell's Book Outliers, mastery takes about ten thousand hours of work. This amounts to years of dedication to the task.
“Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good.”
Does the thought of ten thousand hours scare you or inspire you? That is the question and if you are honest with yourself the answer can be liberating. If you paint for a hobby or pastime then you need not worry about mastery. Let things happen as they will and enjoy the present moment. If your answer to the question: What is that you do? is "I am an artist." Then you may be following the road to mastery. It is your life's purpose.
The nice thing to remember is that achieving mastery for this person is not a miserable task. It is what you choose to do because you love it. You design a new computer system in your garage and one day your computers cover the world (think Bill Gates). Perhaps one day you look around you and see the walls of your house covered with paintings and note that hundreds have been sold to people all over the world. It simply happens over time and it may seem effortless in hindsight.
“Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you grab your wife around the waist and dance a jig. (150)”
What are the stages to mastery? These stages have been described as:
I like the painting above by Winslow Homer. It is so simple in composition yet it compels me to look at it. The painting can mean many things. A simple scene of farmer cutting wheat? A testimony to the end of war and a return to peace and plenty? A sense of unease with one one man facing a sea of work, but remaining poor in the process? A harbinger of trouble ahead?
Whatever the meaning is to you it is the work of a master artist. That is why following the path to mastery is so important for everyone. The stages of competence cannot be avoided. Accept them and know that your persistence will be joyful and enriching. If you can face each day with anticipation and energy to get stuck in then you have found your purpose.
When you have your purpose figured out then your journey is simpler. You are an inspiration to others and your work benefits others too. That is the way life is meant to be. Simple when you think about it isn't it?
“My earliest memories of my father are of seeing him work at his desk and realizing that he was happy. I did not know it then, but that was one of the most precious gifts a father can give his child.”
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