How to paint a masterpiece

Hi there, I’m really sorry this is not step by step instructions on painting a masterpiece, but you will have already guessed that I’m sure.

My question is, how do you take that leap towards creating a true work of art rather than just a painting. Is it the painting technique employed, the brushmarks, that do it. Is there a reliance on technique? Do artist superimpose their vision over a scene then attempt to capture that on canvas.

I personally can see something in the real world that causes me to shiver, but at present I don’t know why this is - maybe I don’t want to know either (and besides it doesn’t happen that often). It’s a fleeting feeling, gone in a second, but afterwards I’m always asking myself how can I get that feeling on canvas. This is the Holy Grail for me.

It’s rare for this to work the other way round, that is looking at a painting and getting that shiver, but it has happened right here on Daily Paintworks. One of Chris Long’s paintings did it for me a while back. I’m guessing that it had something to do with the colours and the simple abstract nature of the piece…it allowed my imagination to step in an create something personal to me. The link is below.

Chris Long - Hardwick, VT

Would you care to share your thoughts on how you go about elevating your painting into something special. Share your thought process as you go from viewing the real world and turning it into something that could be called fine art? Can fine art be made, or is it an unconscious act with a liberal sprinkling of happy accidents?


That reminds me of a quote from Matisse: “Seek the strongest color effect possible… the content is of no importance.”

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[quote]Do artist [sic] superimpose their vision over a scene then attempt to capture that on canvas?
If they don’t what’s the point? Why not take a photograph instead?

[Quote]Can fine art be made, or is it an unconscious act with a liberal sprinkling of happy accidents?[/quote] If that were the case, what is the point of all the study and practice many do to develop their skills and vision?
Obviously I am not one who thinks that “true works of art” result primarily from “unconscious acts” and mere “happy accidents.” In fact, as someone who spent years developing a small measure of understanding and technical skills, I find reducing art to mere “happy accidents” rather insulting. But I understand why that would be an attractive notion to anyone unwilling to devote the effort required by a more disciplined and studied approach. Yeah, there’s a lot more to it than luck and happy accidents.
Just my cranky answer.


For what it’s worth here is what I think art is. Art does two things 1. it is unique and not derivative and 2. It conveys a message, feeling, concept etc from the artist to the viewer. A ‘masterpiece’ does both these things much better than the thousands of other efforts we all create. If you walk into a gallery and a painting screams “Come over here and look at me because I am special!” that’s a masterpiece.

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I have often had this experience…and I absolutely believe that some day I will be able to put it down in paint.

[quote=“daily6565, post:1, topic:2482”]
Can fine art be made, or is it an unconscious act with a liberal sprinkling of happy accidents?
[/quote] Both? Some people have the ability to imagine something in their mind’s eye and bring that masterpiece into existence easily. Others just ‘see’ that way, and a masterpiece is just born with very little effort. I believe for me that fine art can be made through careful planning, putting in practice, dreaming big, rejecting fear, beating down and expelling all the negativeities about myself that have kept me from the freedom to ‘get it out’ and a whole list of other ingredients that will enable me to see that accidental element and expound on it and produce that masterpiece! And when I do get there-I will stretch myself to do it again. And again. And again.


I’m not actually sure there is such a thing as a “happy accident” because it’s a choice anyway. Some people choose to paint over the “accident” because it was an accident. And others choose to keep the accident. So there is a choice involved. Which makes it not an accident. If you make the same accident over and over is it still an accident??

“Choice in reaction to chance” might be a better way to describe it. Like in a card game, it is your choice how to play your hand, but the hand you’re dealt is a matter of chance.

Like Sunny said, it’s not one or the other; it’s both.

Some paintings are a struggle for me but sometimes everything about one of my paintings seems to click into place. I am not sure why this happens but I don’t even want the painting to be over because of the feeling it creates. This is what keeps me painting.

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Thanks for all your replies, I think my question was a difficult one, and got a bit convoluted and I don’t think I worded it correctly. I really wanted to know what thoughts go through your head to elevate your painting to another level. Although this is probably a question like what colour is blue, but I wanted to stir up a bit of a conversation.

Interestingly the musician (and artist) Brian Eno has 4125 unreleased pieces of music of which he would like to see go up in smoke when he passes away. The mystery is how the good stuff was liberated from the crud (his words, or similar). Maybe it’s very simple… the secret is simply hard work, prolific output, and being inspired and elevated by the good pieces of work that you do.

If your interested - Brian Eno on why he can’t slow down.

Mystery indeed, because a common problem for artists across the board is that often what we think is our best is nothing special to other people, and often what we think is our worst is loved by others for reasons we can’t fathom.

In other words, I don’t know that we have the ability to sort it out. Other people – and time – are the ones capable of making that judgment.