One of my mid-life obsessions is the concept of mastery. I have spent most of my life trying to do a little of everything, art wise, and being distracted by every new shiny thing. This is worse for printmakers, because even under that mantle there are SO MANY VARIABLES. So here is a very brief story about my friend, the artist Bruce White.
If you are old like me, you may remember seeing paintings on black velvet being sold, usually out of a van, parked by an on-ramp or at a flea market. Subjects ranged shallowly from Elvis to Jesus, and stalking tigers or galloping stallions. You may have owned one for the irony, in college. You probably never thought what might happen if a really talented artist got a hold of this idea, what might happen...
But Bruce White did. An experienced and well-trained artist, with a gift for portraiture and a penchant for pop culture put it all together to create wildly fun, nostalgic and endearing portraits of beloved actors, characters and creatures from a variety of sources. He put all the work, and thought, and time into a medium that most of us never thought worthy, and created something special. You can check out Bruce's website and blow your mind!
Think about what you might want to master, and how you might go about it. Some say that in five years, Bruce has perfected techniques in a difficult medium that many would like to steal. (if you ever tried to paint on velvet--- it's a total chafe. It has a nap.) I am trying to become the Mistress of Mixed Media Guerrilla Style Printmaking Techniques. Maybe I could, in five years.
Might I, like Bruce, find that perfect marriage of subject matter and medium? Might you, if you found something to grab onto and not let go until you, too, achieved Total Mastery? There is no substitute for repetition or exploration when perfecting a skill, so think about something you can really dig into. And take a look at Bruce's pro wrestler portraits from his show at Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles. And then go make some art! Or whatever!
PS This isn't a rant , really but an emphatic statement. I don't even think Bruce knew or expected to be celebrated, or even appreciated for the work he has done-- not on the scale of success he is achieving. I just want people to think about becoming really good at something, or sharing what you are really good at with the world. True mastery is an inspiring thing to witness, and makes us each want to be better at our chosen avocations. Mastery is not perfection, that's a trap; we have to step around it.
PPS, You can still hire Bruce to paint your ideal velvet subject, but hurry, because he is getting more famous every day!