How Long Did It Take You to Paint That?
When a someone looks at your painting (or photograph, or sculpture, or mixed media art,) do you ever get the question “How long did it take you to do that?” People who ask are almost guaranteed not to be artists. It’s an honest question on their part. They are accustomed to equating a product’s value with the time involved to produce it. And, of course, if you say you spent a thousand hours on it, they are usually duly impressed. In the right venue, this might even be a selling point.
My standard short answer is X number of years (my age) plus the actual hours put in. Because every piece of art that I create embodies who I am at that moment and reflects my life experience and lessons I’ve learned along the way. That moment in time distills all of the ways I’ve learned to see and feel. It reflects my own habits of working, developed over years of trial and error, learning what works for me and what doesn’t.
But the longer answer for me is that some things are a complete battle from beginning to end. I may not even know how to begin without a lot of thought and perhaps even some research into some new technique that I want to employ, or what the right medium needs to be. The thing I’m trying to create may just be causing me fits just because it wants to. I may go around in circles for weeks before abandoning the whole idea and starting again — or not. It might just as easily end up in the trash. But there again, lessons learned! There are many paths taken and much back tracking. It all goes into the mix.
Then there are other works that seem to just need a vehicle of expression, a means of entry into the world. All that’s required of me is to enter the dance, make a mark, smear some paint, and when they appear, be able to recognize their worth. Those rare pieces seem to come about like magic and I’m always amazed.
But that doesn’t mean those pieces happened instantaneously. They are products of a long string of moments.
I have a few questions for you:
1. Have you ever created something amazing, that made you say “Wow!” and which came together quickly and almost effortlessly?
2. If so, did you tell anyone?
3. If you did tell, was that person a casual stranger or was it a trusted friend?
If a piece took you five minutes or five hours to create, it’s really no one’s business but your own. You need a standard answer, a BS answer if you like!
Note: The process of painting the above canvas went pretty fast as large canvases go. It was completed in a day. If you were to ask me how I painted it, I would honestly tell you “I don’t know.” What brushes I used, how many layers of paint, etc. – unknown. I do know that it’s one of my favorite paintings and it has earned its keep many times over, though I still have the original. Here is a giclee of this painting in an upscale model home. As you can see, it likes being on its side too.