How long does it take?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions when discussing my art with folk. I think it was Whistler who said that a painting could take but a few moments to complete, but had a lifetime of experience behind it (I paraphrase), and it’s a good response.

I tend to say “As long as it takes”.

Unfortunately, “How long” suggests a value reliant on an hourly rate.

This is, of course, nonsense.

How long a painting takes to complete is a complex web of many variables: exploring the idea, tackling all sorts of difficulties along the way, not to mention the actual technique one uses.

For larger canvases, I build up myriad layers of acrylic glazes. This means that I usually work on several pieces during a period of time. I move from one to the next, leaving the fragile glazes to dry. The ultimate crime when using acrylics is to over-work them, as they become mud. This process is, unsurprisingly, slow and time-consuming.

On other occasions, I may decide to engage with the acrylic equivalent of ‘wet on wet’ oil painting technique. These works tend to be smaller, made en plein air, and finished in the studio. They capture a moment, but tend not to explore my constant preoccupation with rhythms and patterns in nature that the slower process allows on larger canvases.

Yet the completion of the smaller works is totally reliant on the many years of painting practice I have undertaken and technical knowledge I have acquired.

Generally, smaller paintings are inevitably priced lower than larger works ….. but then we also run into the thorny and unsatisfactory issue of pricing by size. Let’s leave that one for another day!

So – how do I unpick the minutes to hours that I may work on each piece per day?

I say that the length of time to complete a painting, in total, is irrelevant.

It is all that has gone before the painting was even started and then as long as it takes to get to where it needs to go.