How many hours in a life does it take to master something? In Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book “Outliers” he opines that the number is 10,000. I am not sure this is accurate as it doesn’t take quality of practice or intention as a factor. It does, of course, take passion, focus and most importantly, time. However, I do know there are specific tell tale signs that your art practice has carried you into this 5th stage, MASTERY.

Are you entering this stage? Are you already there? How can you tell?

Over the past month in this weekly blog post I have been describing the 5 recognizable stages in creative development:

Stage 1 AWAKENING
Stage 2 DISCOVERY
Stage 3 INTEGRATION
Stage 4 RHYTHM
Stage 5 MASTERY

Today I am going to describe the recognizable details of the fifth stage: MASTERY
(In prior weeks in this blog I have detailed stages 1,2, 3, and 4)

Firstly, this stage is marked by increased self-confidence and intuition… specifically your ability to direct your art, and to trust the outcome. Even though the usual ambiguity about direction and where you are headed of course, still exists, it is more your attitude and understanding about this situation that shifts in this final stage. There is now significant more trust in the process. A Process that has possibly taken years to fully comprehend, that just like the countless times before, your art will emerge, once again, probably different but definitely better. It matures as you do.

The Soul, the inner knowing and intuition of the artist, is running a good deal of the show in this stage. And once this occurs, wisdom increases, bringing with it a big, positive shift in your art. Like a parent that suddenly realizes she / he no longer has to worry about their grown children because they finally possess all the innate wisdom, learned information, role modeling and love to make choices for themselves now. You no longer have to worry about them.

And it is in this spaciousness, this time of earned, even confidence, as well as the humility that comes part and parcel with achievement, that the primary realization of the Mastery stage becomes apparent.

And this is it.

That Mastery is actually the ability to hold ALL the previous 4 stages in balance simultaneously while creating the most profound, exhilarating art you or the world has ever seen.

Mastery is about looking forward but also behind you.

Back to the time when you first AWAKENED to the idea that art was available for you was a changing point in your life. You somehow peered over the major, limiting beliefs that often shroud our ability to express our creativity, and instead of saying “no”, you said “YES!”

And then you set about DISCOVERING all you needed to know to move forward with your art making. This passion of Learning becomes reignited in the stage of Mastery. The thirst of learning is actually never quenched.

And once this new learning is gained, using sharpened skills of discernment developed from a mature art practice, what remains relevant, what part is useful for you becomes seamlessly, almost effortlessly INTEGRATED into your art and ultimately your life.

Times of difficulty and ease in your art practice, upon reflection, never actually remain for long. Your ability to hold these two delicious contrasts of difficulty and ease, evenly and with acceptance, allows your Art to remain in RHTHYM with yourself.

The MASTERY stage is an awareness of the sum total of all the stages that have come before. It is a time often marked by a sense of tremendous abundance. There is a steady stream of new opportunities, challenges and infinite directions you may or may not take your art, friends, artists, collectors, students and teachers. It is an endless stream.

Regardless of how long it has taken to gain Mastery, once there, it becomes clear that there is no final stage achievable in the pursuit of your art. The balance of the tremendous amount you now know is perfectly offset by all that you don’t. Curiosity is still ever present.

You never actually arrive. Your practice, your art and most likely a significant part of your life will remain perfectly mysterious. Always.

And now, with this awareness, this gratitude of all that has come before, you get to slip back into the stream of your Art, back into it’s gentle but strong current and begin.

Again.