How to Make a Masterpiece

Starry night

“Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most well-known masterpieces.

A quick disclaimer: I have never created anything that would be confused with a masterpiece, so the thoughts shared here come from conversations I’ve had with professional artists, professors, and art dealers.

This week I sat down and chatted with the two exhibiting artists at North Bank Artists Gallery, Mary Alred and Lynn Nadal, about art and what makes something truly great. What we came up with is that it takes some kind of combination of heart, skills, and vision to create a masterpiece. All of us who make art strive for an intangible perfection, yet we cannot contrive to achieve this consistently, or sometimes ever. But we try to improve, to expand, and to reinvent our work regardless of the outcome.

This conversation begs the question, “How does one make a masterpiece?” There is no clear answer, but rather pointers in the right direction. Here are a few of these pointers:

  1. Does it have heart? Any great work of art, whether it’s a song or a painting or a poem will have an emotional pull that is undeniable.
  2. Does it have skill? Though it’s easy for some folks to dismiss the extraordinary commitment it takes for artists to develop their skills, any artist knows there is sacrifice involved.
  3. Does it make sense? Most masterpieces seem familiar to their audiences, in some way. Either there a pattern or a subject that is immediately recognizable. This makes the work something people want to come back to and enjoy again.
  4. Does it have staying power? A masterpiece looks as fresh and beautiful five hundred years after it was created as it did on day one. This is the most difficult quality for an artist to create: timelessness.

I’m sure I’ve missed something about what makes a masterpiece, and please let me know if you’d like to include something. There is a reason masterpieces are considered priceless- because for a person to make something with all of these qualities is rare and extremely difficult to do. What a gift to humanity that some people are able to do it.




Maureen Andrade

Maureen Andrade

I am the Executive Director of North Bank Artists in the Vancouver Arts District, as well as an artist and writer. Living and working in Clark County for most of my life, I have an appreciation for the good things this community offers. Also, I understand the creative lifestyle from many angles and hope to share some of what I know with my readers.

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