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ART: What Makes a Masterpiece?

animal art art bold color bold school charla maarschalk whale art what makes a masterpiece Apr 22, 2020

Author: Charla Maarschalk

Can I boldly state that I created a Masterpiece? 

Sometimes you just hit gold with one creative initiative.

// Does a Masterpiece have a story behind it? 

Paths to the Sea was that painting for me. I knew it was special before I started it. Its creation was born out of my parents' moving across the country to live with us. I grew up on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. My home town, called Happy Adventure, was built on the rocky, wind swept island of Newfoundland. My dad was a fisherman. It sounds like a simple life but for being raised in an isolated town of about 2000 it was anything but. My parents were risk takers. They had government jobs which are supposedly ‘secure.’ They left those jobs to fish. Maybe had they known just a few years later the entire industry would change they would have done things differently. But we’ll never know that, will we?

Not long after their risky move they took another one. The purchase of the local fish plant would bring years of success mixed with waves of loss. They never gave up, and they never stopped taking risks. My dad spent a good part of his fishing career 200 miles offshore in the risky business of crab fishing and competing with Spanish trawlers. The sea was his life, was our life.

They literally lived on a rock. If you tripped in just the right place, you’d end up in the ocean! We spent lots of time boating and scuba diving. The air was always damp and slightly chilled, except for a few pleasurable weeks in the summer when it could get hot enough that you’ve have to dive into that chilly water to cool off. They understood the weather patterns and knew how to take complete advantage of a good weather day. When you grow up in a place, raise your family in a place, and retire in a place, it grows roots into your soul that really can’t be plucked out.

My sister and I moved out west. We built our lives there and raised our own kids. Our children were growing up with their grandparents flying in for special visits and leaving again. We’d visit them in NL and their Florida home, which was also on the ocean. It was a nice but certainly would have been nicer if they were closer for longer periods of time.

Then it happened. they packed up their entire lives! They moved out west with us! They moved inland, away from the ocean. Everything would be different. To commemorate the move-in of their first home I created a painting and titled it ‘Paths to the Sea’. It simply was born out all of those memories, a life that seemed so distant but could still be felt and heard in the heart. I can’t deny that those words could be cheesy, but they are so so true. It goes far beyond nostalgia. It’s entwined in those roots that bound themselves to the soul and can’t be removed without removing life itself. I knew that painting was special, but I thought it was only special to us. Then other people saw it.

// Do other people have to like a Masterpiece? 

Other people, not connected to my ‘rocky isle in the ocean’ seemed to be taken by it. My parents had offers to buy it over and over again. Everywhere I post it online people message me to say how it touches them. Each with their own story. I’ve even had friends and new acquaintances come to my home and ask to see it.

// Does a Masterpiece have to be memorable? 

It’s one that most who see it remember. Though I’m a painter of faces, I can honestly say more people I meet say to me, “Oh, you’re the artist that painted the whale!” 

Sometimes you hit gold when you weren’t even trying. When I talk about art and creativity, I like to believe I have a process. This gift that I’ve been given can sometimes be tamed. I can feel it at work and in some ways even control it. I go so far as think I can teach others how to tame it. But there’s a part of this gift that can never be tamed. It surely has a life of its own. And that gives me hope. Anything that I can let out my control and allow to remain in the hands of my Creator, the giver of light, I can be rest assured that the gift or creating will never be depleted.

“The passage into mystery always refreshes. If, when we work, we can look once a day upon the face of mystery, then our labor satisfies. We are lightened when our gifts rise from pools we cannot fathom. Then we know they are not a solitary egotism and they are inexhaustible.” 
― Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World

The reason I believe I can claim this to be a personal masterpiece is because it came from a place beyond my own capacity. To me that means it carries a message, and I am just the instrument used to give that message to the world. It touches almost everyone who views it. It hasn’t received any critical acclaim, it didn’t even go viral. Maybe a more appropriate title would be a cornerstone of my work. Either way I hit gold. I’m more than thankful that it didn’t depend solely on me and I can trust, for this reason, it won’t be the last.

I wish you could all see it in person and tell me if you agree.

Keep creating,


Creativity awaits!


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