Below are excerpts from two letters my younger sister, Bethany, recently sent me. She is a practicing artist and has been since her childhood. I believe the excerpts below inspired her current study, which is under one of the world's most accomplished realist artists/painters, who runs an Atelier in NYC. 

The spirit of accomplishment runs deep on the list, starting with the Chair, who has been inspirational as both a great practitioner and a teacher. It also includes everyone else who lives a life of continual learning and self-betterment. For this reason I thought others may enjoy reading the excerpts below, even if the full context may be missing. 

I think the late 20s, early 30s is the perfect time to focus one's energy on understanding how to master one's craft…

I finally figured out that things that matter in life are in fact lifelong pursuits that are to be obtained through years of study and devotion. One must grow, learn, and struggle. One must walk in one's own path at the right pace. I think it's awesome to understand this and to honor it. I think in doing so, it is the highest honor to the self, and to one's own life. I had spent a month working on a single pencil drawing, as the masters had done, and it's really awesome that I have this sort of patience now. I think that mastery is the sum of time, focus and love all put in.

I think it is the right time for persons in their 20s to experience unease, spirited desire and impatience. These years have certainly led me to some good discoveries about the limits of my skill and focus. I am not angry at my younger self but I am actually grateful for my shortcomings and the impatience of my early 20s. It was the right place to be at the time.

…And now I see that I had a deeper experience, a gradual process of lifelong development–I do not treat immediacy as god anymore.

Some may be surprised to learn that the techniques required for artistic mastery are no longer featured or prevalent in most art schools. Mastering one's artistic medium or tools is almost frowned upon or even acknowledged as a goal, as modern art typically does not require this … It is viewed as stifling or restrictive. In the mainstream of the art world, the mastery of traditional artistic mediums is almost a lost art itself. My sister has the following to say about her current studies:

This school is an incredible opportunity and for the first time in my life I actually feel like I belong somewhere. It feels like I am surrounded by like-minded people who are all quietly and intently studying a craft that they are really serious about. There is no b-ll—t in art school. This is not about self expression, it is about mastering an age old craft in order to have boundless skill someday at executing your ideas. It's humbling in the most inspiring way.

The best thing about it is that it is such a quiet, deeply focused technique of teaching. It's the rebirth of a classical style of learning/teaching of the old masters that has been all but completely extinguished in our day. J—- C—– is a true visionary. He has a vision of that rebirth, of classical realism being taught in the traditional atelier again. It is awesome. The amount of patience and focus and reverence it requires is awesome too. The fact is that it is not a bunch of self important art school teachers, rather it's these really cool, focused, breathtakingly talented guys–most of them in their 30s who all studied under J—- C—— for years throughout their 20s and mastered the technique–who are teaching.

 I for one found meals for a lifetime in her letters.

James Sogi comments:

One of life's greatest challenges is aging. Even in later years the thrill of learning new things such as statistics, programming, markets, new books, keeping the love of knowledge, new frontiers is fulfilling and give great meaning to life. The mastery of existing skills can be deeply satisfying.


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