Master Advice From Painter Lisa Grossman

"Pale Evening—Pink and Green" by Lisa Grossman; oil.

"Pale Evening—Pink and Green" by Lisa Grossman; oil.

For as long as you can remember, people have been saying how talented you are and that you should be an artist. But where do you start and how do you know if you have what it takes?

Regardless of where you are in your career, there is always an opportunity to learn something new. As recognized leaders in our creative community, we’ve asked the artists in Kansas Masters to share what they’ve learned along the way, including what the word “master” means to them.

Hopefully, through their wisdom, you’ll feel a push in the right direction, or at least the inspiration you need to keep going and keep seeking.

Lisa Grossman says:

There is much about the word “master” that I’m uncomfortable with. Much of the dictionary definitions have to do with having a patriarchal dominance over something or someone, a supreme control, etc.

I can appreciate that artists or craftspersons might have a masterful way with their materials or techniques. But again, it’s usually stated that one has mastery “over” their medium. I wouldn’t want to think that I had mastered oils or watercolors, for example, as that indicates that I’ve got it all figured out and there is nothing left to discover, nothing that might pleasantly surprise me while I’m working. Of course if you work with your materials long enough you develop a certain confidence and facility that should inspire you to risk more, discover more, push the limits of the media, but hopefully never to feel as if you’d “mastered” it.

My greatest fear as an artist would be that I’d taken something to it’s highest level, or “mastered” it. Where do you go from there?

If I’m not discovering something new in every painting I feel like I’m repeating myself and the work is probably lifeless. In fact, when I do feel like I’m in a rut, I’ve discovered that often the best way out of it is to switch my medium or subject to jar myself out of feeling too adept. I much prefer the notion of “beginner mind” and seeing things in a new and playful way no matter how skilled you might be with your materials.

That said, the more skilled you become using your materials the more clearly you can express your ideas, the more you can step back and let the material be what it is. It is wonderful to be proficient with materials but to think of yourself as being co-creators with them. I’ve called this controlled spontaneity, and you bounce back and forth between control and playfulness in the creative process so that you don’t smother the work with your “mastery.” ;-)

Come see Grossman’s paintings at Kansas Masters, which runs September 2 through October 21 at the Sabatini Gallery.