A Master’s Work: Deceivingly Simple

I’ve always been fascinated by Bob Ross and The Joy of Painting. I suspect he sold his soul to the Devil for the ability to create masterpieces with little effort (and for his epic afro).

However, Bob Ross is an example of a master of his craft: he makes painting look easy but in fact it takes skill and practice to do what he does. He makes viewers believe that if they just take up a paintbrush and set up an easel, they too can graze the canvas with brushstrokes to create happy little clouds and snow covered mountains. But it must have taken him years to perfect his methods.

This seems to be a sure sign of a master; no matter how difficult the task, he/she makes it seem so simple. I’ve found that to be true of authors as well as actors and painters.

Good writing is so fluid, so well put together, it gives you the impression that the author wrote her book with no difficulty at all and got it right the first time. What we don’t see are the countless drafts, the time spent editing and rewriting, and the frustration the author must have experienced to produce the book we hold in our hands.

The same kind of magic is on display on cooking shows. Ever noticed how your favorite cooks are able to chop those vegetables so easily and create scrumptious dishes with a wave of a knife? Try doing it yourself, and the Giada’s 15 minute recipe turns into an hour long gag-fest . . . if you haven’t been practicing your cooking enough.

So the road to mastery–if it’s even a goal we can ever truly reach–is a long one, paved with repetition, hardship, and error, but the end result never betrays the hard work involved. It makes you go “hmm, I could do that!” And you can, but only if you put the work into refining your craft.

And as I resume work on my novel, that gives me some comfort. 🙂

What do you think are the signs of a master?


13 comments on “A Master’s Work: Deceivingly Simple

  1. I often wonder about “natural talent” and honed skill. I used to think that creative writing classes made me worse off-too conscious and trying to hard to be unconventional. But maybe this was only for poetry- which I think should be less editorialized and polished and more emotional than prose.

    Nice shout out to the fro. Ha.

  2. Fascinating. Watching him paint as well as the fro. Thanks for the post Mike, comfort for the novice writer – practice makes perfect.

  3. For a writer, I would say the true sign of a master is the high quality of his or her prose. But I also think that a true master is willing to teach others in order to help those others to become better writers themselves.

  4. Hmm, let’s see what are the Signs of The Master. Is this a trick question Mike?

    I’m trying to remember what happens in Ghostbusters when Bill Murray is talking to the possessed body of Sigourney Weaver (who looked great in that scene by the way) before she wound up being turned into a dog, along with Rick Morano. It had something to do with a Gatekeeper and the Holder of the Key?

    Other signs of the master might include an imposing black helmet and raspy breathing and potentially uttering “Luke, I’m your father…”

    I can’t think of any other signs of the master right now, but you’d probably know better than me. 😉

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