Sharing in an Artists’ Dream

This is an online article that artist and writer Cheryl Rezendes Rulewich did for the Minds Island website, (now ArtID).

Have you ever dreamed of a small cottage by the sea where you could be at one with the universe? A place where your creative spirit could be nourished by the rich warmth of the sun’s rays while dancing freely in the sea breeze? A magical place where the rhythmical sound of the waves at night would pound out a mantra that settles deep into the heart of your dreams and unconsciousness? An exotic, mystical place where your soul can sing and radiate out through the pores of your body the very essence of who you are as a person, as an artist, as a creative being? It is probably safe to say that artists world wide and through out history have shared this dream.

Robert Masla, an exhibiting artist for over 25 years made his own personal version of this dream come true. But do take heart. Masla’s vision may have started out to be an artistic haven for himself and his family, but it now encompasses the embodiment of an alluring artistic retreat for all of us as well.

Located on Mexico’s gorgeous west coast just 10 miles south of Puerto Vallarta is the small fishing village of Boca de Tomatlan. It is here that Masla has established his southern studio. Nestled dramatically between the tropical jungle mountains and the Pacific Ocean, “Casa de los Artistas” beckons us all to attend any number of artist workshop retreats.

Facilitated and taught by Masla, along with a selection of celebrated guest artists these workshops are one-week long, all-inclusive experiences of wonder and magic, yours to spend in any number of ways. The workshops offer flexible hours as Masla wants to honor his students and why they are there. Many simply see it as an unusual vacation. Others may come to refuel their own personal visual banks, banks that may have been emptied out because of a hectic artistic professional career, or because of the lack of art in their lives, sometimes spanning over many years. These workshops are for everyone. Whether you have been painting and drawing all your lives or have simply wanted to.

Masla also offers an astounding array of other activities to enrich your creative souls and adventurous spirits. A sample day would find you at 8:30 eating a communal breakfast. At 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. you would be creating art in either plein aire style (outdoors) or in the magnificent 1500 square foot rooftop studio that is open to the elements on 3 sides! Lunch, the traditionally biggest meal of the Mexican day would be served at 1:00. After which is siesta time where you can either lay around in a hammock, go kayaking, hiking, fishing, snorkeling, exploring the village or using the time for open studio work. Three to 6 p.m. there is more art making, then dinner at 7:30 where you will literally sit by the ocean and feel the sand between your toes. You will eat scrumptious Mexican food choosing from a varied menu and drink ‘til your cup runneth over.

 One day out of the week will be reserved for tourist time in Puerto Vallarta. Here you might go shopping, gallery hopping, or if you have brought your significant other with you, this would be your opportunity to have a romantic dinner for 2. You may also want to enjoy experiencing the lively Mexican nightlife. Another adventure away from the Casa, if you choose to join in, will take you boat sight-seeing, feeding the angelfish, snorkeling, hiking to a secluded lagoon or sketching in the town square of El Tuito, a small mountain village.

 This dream of paradise all began over 20 years ago with Masla’s growing passion for Mexico and the rich Mexican culture. Before having children Masla traveled often his wife Monica to the mountainous region of Mexico that borders Guatemala. But when children were part of the picture they began to search for a place that was safe for their newest small family members, but still exotic enough to satisfy their own needs to be transported. A friend recommended the west coast seaside resort area of Puerto Vallarta. The scenery was breathtaking and the people friendly. Returning to the area every 2 or 3 years they began to take excursions, exploring areas farther south that weren’t quite as built up for the tourist trade.

 While hanging out at the beach one day they happened to notice a sign across the river that said “For Rent” and another further down that read “For Sale.” Masla met the Mexican woman who owned the land, she eventually sold a partial to him. Her sister was married to an architect from San Diego who had built a number of buildings in the Puerto Vallarta and Boca area, the architect agreed to design a structure and oversee the construction process. The dream went from cottage, to bed and breakfast, to Casa de los Artistas. “It is the perfect Feng Shui,” exclaims Masla. An artist’s getaway set in rural Mexico with all the modern amenities. Set with the mountains behind and the ocean in front, every room in the Casa has a view of the sea from bed. All construction supplies had to be transported by boat to the site. The boat was loaded by hand, slow and steady and literally brick by brick. Two years later the Casa was ready.

Masla himself was born in New York City with a formal art education that began as early as eleven years old while studying with Alton S. Tobey, a prolific 20th century Realist painter and Muralist (a former president of the National Society of Mural Painters). Masla later went on to receive a diploma from Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts, a Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree from Tufts University and a Masters Degree from City College, City University of New York. Masla has taught art and design as well art history at institutes of higher learning throughout the Northeast. Masla has also been the Artist in Residence for the city of Springfield, MA where he was the creator of the A4E program (Art for Everyone) for 4 years. The program received 3 consecutive grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for bringing art into the inner city schools.

Masla has authored the book “Windows to the Spiritual World.” The dust jacket of the book states that in the 1970’s Masla opened his own alternative fine art gallery and coined the word 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 everyday of our lives,” says Masla. “Creating art is a form of worship, a form of spirituality born through creative living.”

Masla understands well the desire and quest of all artists, as we strive to reach beyond the technical language of our visual educations back to the spontaneous and innocent artwork of our childhoods. “As children,” states Masla, “before we become separate from the creation around us, we marveled in our explorations and were awed by our discoveries. This state of consciousness still comes easily to some, but more often blocks created during our growth process inhibit the flow of this creative life energy. Being a part of Creation we are all by nature creative beings.” Masla feels strongly that being passionate about art and life is the same thing.

“The goal for me is to act as much as a participant, as a facilitator and guide in the creative process, not for people to draw or paint as I do. For me the art process is a spiritual journey. I experience individuals as sparks of creative energy and awareness, part of the Whole of the ongoing Creation,” explains Masla. “To express creativity through drawing and painting is a joyful process, one of many paths that can connect us to our true self.”

Through the workshops at the Casa, Masla along with his staff of professional artists/teachers offer technical instruction and demonstrations as well as provide you with the freedom and encouragement to pursue and discover your own creative vision and process. Masla’s intent is to provide a safe haven for adventure. To take care of the details of each artist’s needs, creating a feeling of safety, thus giving them the freedom to create and take risks. Masla operates 10-12 workshops a year at “the Casa” featuring numerous guest artists who facilitate workshops along with himself. The tip of the iceberg for this years schedule features such luminaries as; renowned pastel artist Jane Lund (cover article in the October issue of the Pastel Journal), internationally known watercolor/collage artist Peter Kitchell and Time Magazine published artist/illustrator, James Steinberg. The workshop schedule is full of variety focusing on a range of mediums including watercolor painting, acrylic painting, digital photography, drawing, pastels, collage, and unique “combined creative activities” such as “Yogart” (yoga and art), “Parent and Kids Creative Connection”, (a very special Holiday for parents to share with their children, 9-15yrs of age) and “Painting the Undersea World” (combining a healthy dose of scuba diving, snorkeling, and underwater photography with painting and collage), to name a few. In addition, Masla acts as a gracious host encouraging and accommodating artists of any level in whatever adventure that piques their interest.

Workshops run from December through June and can have as few as 3 students to as many as 20. Total cost including ground transportation from the airport is $1,995.00 per person excluding airfare. Early bird special is $1, 895 if registered and paid in full by October 31.