Last night I watched The Monuments Men. A film set in WWII, based on a true story, where a group of guy’s only mission is to find and save art that has been stolen by the Nazis: who’ve planned to destroy all of it should they lose the war. The art they are charged to save are masterpieces: From Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”
to Michelangelo’s “Madonna of Bruges”
These men fought and died to protect these masterpieces so future generations could enjoy them. More than 5 Million works of art were found and saved from being lost forever. What an awesome story.
The whole idea of masterpiece got me thinking… I wonder how many “terrible” portraits Da Vinci painted before Mona Lisa? I wonder how many unimpressive sculptures Michelangelo completed before Madonna? Did they set out to make a masterpiece, was everything they made a masterpiece, or was this just work to them?
Was it about the work? Or was it about creating a Masterpiece?
I think it was probably about the work. I find it hard to believe that Da Vinci would consider everything he made to be a masterpiece or “his best work.” No, instead he probably missed it. He probably never thought that someday people would fight to protect his work or would die so that it could survive. But nevertheless he did his work and a masterpiece exists because of it.
Is making a masterpiece worthy of protecting at all costs in the cards for you or me? I don’t know. Maybe? But I do know this: The best way to miss out on making a masterpiece is to make nothing.
I don’t know if Da Vinci or Michelangelo ever made a bad painting or sculpture in pursuit of their masterpieces, but I do know that they made stuff. A LOT of stuff. And if we are to be artists, creatives, humans, we have to do the same. You don’t just wake up one day and make a masterpiece. Every image you make will not be a portfolio piece. Every book you write may not be a bestseller. But let’s keep making stuff. Let’s keep making art because it’s important. Because it tells a story of us. Because art has never been about making a masterpiece, it has always been about making art. The best way to miss out on making a masterpiece is by omission. Make stuff and make it good.