Ambassador of the Week: Robert Masla

Meet Robert Masla, this week’s top American Watercolor Weekly Ambassador!

“Sunset from the Spanish Mosque, Chefchouan, Morocco” (watercolor on 5 1/2 x 10 in.)

Robert Masla is an internationally exhibited fine artist with over 40 years of full time professional experience as an easel painter and muralist serving fine art galleries, collectors, art consultants and designers. His canvases, murals and portraits can be found in private residencies, corporations, the hospitality and health care industries, public institutions, restaurants and on film. Masla brings his talent, technical expertise, imagination and masterful craftsmanship in whatever he puts his heart and hand to. During all this time Masla has also remained dedicated to art as an educator, teaching and lecturing in various settings with a wide range of populations, from schools to colleges, museums and workshops. He was the Artist in Residence for the City of Springfield, MA where he created the A4E, (Art for Everyone) program, which received three consecutive grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for bring art into inner city schools that had no previous art program. The Council has honored him with the title of “M.C.C. Teaching Artist”. Masla continues to offer workshops from his studios North, in rural Ashfield, MA, where he lives with his wife Monica and there 3 children, and his studios South, “Casa de los Artistas”, located in the small fishing village of Boca de Tomatlan, on Mexico’s gorgeous Pacific coast, as well as conducting workshops by invitation at different locations.

Masla was born in New York City , in 1957. He began his formal studies at age 11 in the studio of his life long mentor, the 20th century realist master and former president of the National Society of Mural Painters, the late Alton S. Tobey. He holds a diploma in painting from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, a B.F.A. from Tufts University, and received his graduate degree in painting and art history from City College, City University of New York.

“Falls and Mist” (1 1/2 hour demo; watercolor on Fredrix watercolor canvas, 24 x 18 in.)

In the 1970s, Masla coined the term Spiritrealism, to describe how the transcendental can manifest right before us – in the realm of the so-called mundane. Spiritrealism describes how the sensitive artist finds in the ostensibly material elements of artwork and everyday life, a reality utterly spiritual. “We are given the opportunity to participate in creation every day of our lives,” says Masla. “Creating art is a form of worship, a form of spirituality born through creative living.” In 1977 Masla opened an alternative space art gallery in Boston to exhibit Spiritrealism. Since that time his work has evolved through several stylistic developments, although always painting landscapes, his work has also moved through abstraction to the use of trompe-l’oeil in symbolic still life. Throughout his endeavor the artist has been devoted to the development of the technical mastery of his chosen media.

“Throughout my painting career, though I allow creativity and the inate spiritual impulse of creation to dictate the direction of my work, (i.e. the choice of medium, style, technique, genre, etc.), I have also continually been drawn to and focused on the landscape, painting both in plein air, (on location) and in the studio. Nature has played a key role in my life as teacher, healer and guide, her powers and grounding energy nourishing my growth. Thus, the Landscape has been the source of much of my inspiration, it’s archetypical imagery a universal language…”

Masla’s dedication to the aesthetics, ideals and philosophy of Spiritrealism have also remained consistent. “My definition of Spiritrealism has evolved as I have over the years, from a limited vision to one that is more universal, (I realize now, I “know” much less than I thought I did). What I’ve come to understand is Spiritrealim is the process of experiencing my place in the universe as a part of creation and that I as an artist and human being have the opportunity to participate in the creation. I like to think of each work of art, whether representational or non-objective, as the creation of an energy field that effects the environment and people around it. I want that to be a positive, healing energy, hopefully connecting me and the viewer of the work to the place where we are that energy and experience a ‘unity of being.’ ”

“Entering the Market, Essaouria” (watercolor on board, 10 x 8 in.)

For over 35 years the energy fields of Maslas’ paintings have been manifesting most prolifically thru landscapes. A passion that still occupies the artist to this day. Filling the common daily setting with an aura of mystical divinity and the suggestion of other worldly experiences has been one of his goals. One of the joys he has found in painting the landscape around him is to, -“take things that we might pass by every day and bring them into focus. To see them again as if for the first time. Art affords us the unique opportunity to see the world afresh, with wonder, as with the eyes of a child.”

“I always loved to draw since I could pick up a pencil and I remember as a small boy getting excited every week waiting for my fathers shirts, (he was a business man), to come home from the dry cleaners as my mother would give me the sheets of cardboard they were folded on to use as a surface for my endless childhood doodles. I began my formal studies at age 11 in the studio of 20th century realist master and former president of the National Society of Mural Painters, Alton S. Tobey, who had remained for me a life long mentor till he passed away at the age of 90. I went on to complete my studies with a Diploma in Painting/BFA from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Tufts University and then an MFA in Painting/Art History from the City College of New York. I would continue to visit Tobey every 4 or 5 years to see his latest works and to share my own and receive his feedback. Now, more than 40 years later, I strive to continue my mentors commitment to excellence in both traditional and contemporary technique along with creative expression through a versatility of style. It is quite ironic for me that Tobey developed a love affair with Mexico, (exhibiting and visiting there more than 50 times over his career), I would not have guessed as a boy and young man that I would eventually have a studio and be exhibiting and teaching there.”

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Kelly Kane
PleinAir Magazine and American Watercolor Weekly Editor-in-Chief With more than 20 years experience in art publishing, Kelly Kane has served previously as Editor-in-Chief of Watercolor Artist magazine and Content Director for The Artist’s Magazine, Drawing, Acrylic Artist, and Pastel Journal. She has interviewed many of the preeminent artists of our time and written numerous articles about painting, drawing, art education and art history. She is now the Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine and the American Watercolor Weekly newsletter. Click here to send her an email.


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