Have we seen the last of the masters? by Valerie (Valry) Drake

Let me preface these comments by saying that I do not have a formal art education and that’s a shame and one day I am going to get it. One area I am particularly sketchy is in art history and, again, I regret this because there is always a great deal of value in knowing the history of any field.

That said, here is my take on a brief overview of art history:

Primitive Art Master ArtistPrimitive people made art because they felt a compulsion to create and to adorn the practical items in their lives. They probably did not have a lot of “masters” at first, although I expect that certain people developed reputations as making particularly attractive baskets or pots or arrowheads. Some art was reserved for religion or magic which makes perfect sense to me since I still think there is something divinely inspired or magical about art.

Along about the middle ages the church monks had a monopoly on art largely based on their being the only ones who were literate. They worked on developing things like ink and paint and surfaces that could accept the medium and create more polished pieces. Then, both the church and royalty wanted decorations and monks could not be taken away from more sacred pursuits so there became a market for decorative artisans and then some of the more talented artisans started working more as artists.

Van Gogh Self Portrait Master ArtistThen came schools of art and snobbery and some people got rich and others starved and some got extremely weird and did things like cutting their ears off. And some people were genuinely passionate about learning how to make great art just for the sake of the art. Things continued for a while like that and we got museums and art galleries and a good artist could actually make a name for himself or herself. And some of them continued to be weird but that seemed to be okay with everyone, almost like being a little weird was expected from artists.

Bob Ross Self Portrait Master ArtistAlong came television and color printing presses and Bob Ross. Now Bob Ross made a huge impact on the world of art and the art community almost unanimously criticized him. They said that Bob Ross was cheapening art and that what he did wasn’t “fine art.” (One day I will write a blog about that term “fine art” but not today.) Gradually, however, the art community seems to have become reconciled to Bob Ross and said that he was increasing the public’s awareness and appreciation of art. Anyway, Bob Ross is gone but his show lives on and I like watching it and I really like the idea of “happy trees.”

Now we’ve come to the 21st Century and TV continues to influence us and it has been joined by the world wide web. Have you seen those TV shows where the decorator takes the family and they go outside and put a few canvases down and just do this and then just do that and just a little here and then just like that it’s done and it’s their art for the room and they hang it and everyone is just so impressed and happy? And have you got any idea how many artists have web sites with a whole bunch of art for sale (including me)? Some of the art that is for sale on the internet is very, very good stuff. You can buy posters at any large discount store or small corner gift shop. There is excellent and mediocre art and photography on calendars and greeting cards. There is original and reproduction art for sale everywhere – in restaurants, malls, discount import stores. I even have some of my paintings for sale in my local car dealership.

Frankly I think this is all fantastic, but I also think we may have seen an end to the era of the “masters.” I will even go out on a limb (not an unfamiliar place for me) and make a prediction: I believe that people are reclaiming ownership of art, similar in some ways to the pre-history of art, with everyone making art and enjoying both the process and the finished products. I don’t know what that does for your plans of becoming the next big name in the art world but I’m not quitting my day job just yet.


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