The Zen of Mastery

Here are some ideas that will serve you well, as an artist (or any other sort of creator):

  1. Simplicity – If you over complicate what you’re trying to achieve or make, you will run a much higher risk of not achieving your goal. Keeping things simple is a very good way to continually make progress.  Of course, things should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.
  2. Mastery – What makes more difference to getting results that you can be proud of is not buying more gear, or adopting the latest new thing, though that can be a good initial catalyst for creative exploration. What helps you become fluid with your creative tools is mastering them.  Learn them in depth.  Get familiar with them, so that whatever your creative impulses direct you to do can be realised without thinking about how to wrestle with your tools.  If your hands can simply do what your mind imagines, you’re in a good place.
  3. Depth – Shallow, superficial approaches and knowledge yield work that appears shallow and superficial. Study your creative field in depth.  Know the rules, know what your options are and then choose which ones to break, ignore and obey.  Going deep, in any field, adds to your mastery and permits simplification.  Being lost or ignorant is not a great way to proceed toward finished work of a high quality, unless you are in that initial, experimental, playful, exploratory phase.  Both are essential.  The more you know about how to make things, the better designer, creator and artist you’re going to be.
  4. Play – There is a lot to be said for just messing about and experiencing the joy of simply playing with your art and materials. Serendipitous discoveries are made that way.  Once you find some new gem, employing your mastery can help you polish it up for presentation.  There is no better way to learn something in depth than to simply play with it, learning the options by experiencing them in a practical, rather than wholly theoretical way.  What could be simpler?
  5. Continually Asking “Why?” – When you are attempting something new, taking on a new project, beginning a new art work, learning some new tool or simply making the next one in a series, always ask “why?” It’s a powerful question that triggers your curiosity and starts you thinking about alternative approaches.  “Why?” is the progenitor of innovation.  Challenge orthodox assumptions.  Try to figure out what else is possible.  Explore the space of equally valid outcomes.  The question, “Why?” very often leads to the thought, “What if…?”
  6. Ask Someone that Knows – The quickest and most effective way to learn anything can be to simply ask somebody that knows. A master is usually prepared to offer the fruits of their mastery.  Asking them “Why?” could be annoying to them, but usually if you ask enough people the same questions and ask them why things are done the way they are done, you get a wealth of different answers.  Nobody really knows everything, so in the panoply of answers you get, you will find something worthwhile, quite often.  The master will also have the opportunity to learn something more about his or her art by thinking about how to answer “Why?”  In understanding why, they can, in turn, deepen their mastery.

There is existential pleasure in mastery.  The making of things can have a peaceful, serene, Zen-like quality about it.  Enjoy.


About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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