Daniel Sprick Painting, “Hero”

Art Appreciation was the class in school that everyone took for that “easy A” to pump up their GPA.

How hard it is to appreciate art, right? It couldn’t be harder than a chemistry class.

What a terrible mistake to dismiss great art like that.

My good friend Al McLuckie, who is a professional oil painter in addition to being a professional martial artists, visited this past weekend, and I had the rare treat of touring the Denver Art Museum with him.

I had my own art expert walking side by side with me educating me about the features and qualities of great art.

As we toured the Daniel Sprick Collection, currently at the DAM, Al gave me a keen insight into art.

He said, “art can be appreciated simply by looking at it and being aware of how it makes you feel,” as that is the point, to elicit a specific feeling.

This is one level of looking at a painting, which is a perfectly acceptable way to view art for most people.

You may not be able to understand exactly why you are drawn to a certain work of art, but rest assured, the artist intended it.

As we examined each painting, Al leaned in about an inch away from the surface, pointing out each small detail, brush stroke,  use of color, shading and contour that create specific effects (we were so close I thought the museum alarm was going to sound and we were going to get kicked out, and I could see the security guard looking at us intently as we looked at the paintings).

This second level of appreciation of the artwork comes from knowledge, knowledge of how the artist applies the principles of painting to create a final work of art.

Part of the appreciation comes from this realization, how difficult it is to produce such great works of art — the time, energy and the obsession to create great art forces you to appreciate it.

Skill and knowledge, for the most part, are woefully under-appreciated. We either want to see hard, manual labor or hold a pricey product in our hands to appreciate the value of it.

Not so with skill and knowledge, of any kind. If the artist cannot “show his work,” we do not value the result.

Being an artist myself (writer, pianist, martial artist), and being surrounded by artists of various sorts, I have come to appreciate hard-earned skill of all kinds because I know the blood, sweat and tears that go into displaying expert skill.

My father-in-law and I were changing a lighting fixture in my basement two weeks ago.

We thought we did everything right, connected every wire correctly, but the light wouldn’t turn on.

We checked and re-checked everything we could think of.

Nothing. No light.

We were stumped, and wasted a good hour of each of our lives trying to figure this problem out, to no avail.

Fortunately, my neighbor is a professional electrician.

So Grandpa Ray trotted over to his house, struck up a conversation with Joe and, next thing I know, I saw them headed for my basement.

It took Joe a few minutes of testing to find two wires touching that shouldn’t have been, preventing the light from working.

He was in and out before I made it to the basement.

Joe, being a good neighbor, did this for free, but I would have paid whatever he asked because Ray and I NEVER would have figured out what was wrong on our own.

We needed Joe’s lifetime of experience, which he could draw on to apply to the problem and solve it in a couple of minutes.

He saved us hours and days of frustration, and the cost of an electrician.

Boy, did we appreciate his expert help.

The next time you encounter someone with expert skill, take a second to appreciate the effort that most certainly went into creating it.

And after you acknowledge, appreciate and value the effort, let that person’s example inspire you toward Mastery of your chosen field.