By Bruce Weber, President of The Desert Art Center
Palm Springs, CA
Is it a midlife crisis when a successful radio personality decides to change careers? Couldn’t he just buy a sports car? No, he’s going to become an artist. That’s just what Terry Masters did, and at 38 set out to be a professional artist. After spending most of his life in the desert, he painted what he knew.
Terry began his studies with Ken Auster, a Laguna Beach painter. He started studying and searching out all the great western landscape painters. Terry worked very hard at his craft, sometimes he worked all night on a small section of a painting only to scrape it off in the morning and start over. From knowledge gained through years of observation, he could capture the atmosphere and the changing light. What separated his paintings from others was his ability to capture the light. Whether on the skirt of a palm tree or skipping across a field of brittlebush, he had confidence in placing that dab of bright paint. His compositions were always striking. He didn’t manipulate the subject to reach his composition. “No, it’s there. You just need to find it.” Looking at Terry’s landscapes with their spacious turquoise skies and intense light source are reminiscent of the American artist Maxfield Parish. There is a peacefulness, something very serene about his landscapes. Palm trees feel majestic, radiating light from within, mountain ranges cast in purple blue shadows.
He began winning awards and was eventually honored with the status of Signature Artist of the California Art Club.
Eventually Terry opened his own gallery The Desert Painter on Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs. The gallery soon became a mecca for local and visiting artists. Terry began sharing his knowledge, first teaching at the Palm Springs Art Museum and later at The Desert Art Center. Spreading the gospel of plein air, he captured the desert’s beauty before it disappeared.
Terry’s body of work was not limited to the desert. His paintings of vintage cars, street scenes, and mechanical equipment reflected his interest in perspective and the unlit shadow. Terry’s beloved cat was the subject of numerous paintings.
A kind and generous teacher, Terry always encouraged his students. He had to be really pushed for a tough critique. He introduced many of his students to plein air painting and helped ensure that landscape painting would always be a very important part of DAC. It remains so today.
On Christmas Day 2021, Terry passed away at 66.
The Desert Art Center will open its 74th season with a special curated exhibit, “Catching the Light: Terry Masters, a Retrospective.” Paintings from private collections from family, friends and collectors are being loaned to DAC for this show. The show will open on October 6th to 15th, 10:00-4:00. 550 Palm Canyon Dr. Palm Springs, California.
About the Author: Bruce Weber is an artist and teacher. He studied at The Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. He retired to Palm Springs, California, in 2012 and is currently the President of The Desert Art Center.