Readers Respond: How Long Does It Take You to Complete a Painting?

Why Ask?

Give anyone who asks this, the answer that Whistler gave to someone when asked how long it took to do his “Nocturne in Blue and Gold”. He said, “It has taken me a lifetime to get to where I can even begin to do this”.
—Guest Flora

Ideas Progress as Art Does

I always have multiple pieces in the works. That way, if I’m overworking one or getting bored with it, I’m not rushing to finish. Great art takes time, and art shouldn’t be measured by time. I don’t force myself to paint when I’m not feeling it. I’d rather see my dining room table covered by canvases in progress than look at a wall of completed canvases I didn’t put all my love into.

Depends on the Relationship

A painting is for me like falling in love with a woman… First the emotion of a new relation: the inspiration, then the fantasy, afterwards the involving deepness. This goes usually fast, perhaps some days. Then you get more and more involved with the theme until it captures you. You think and think about it, part of you flows in to the picture and some returns from the picture to you. (This idyllic situation takes maybe a week or so.) Suddenly you become aware of the defects! The crisis comes over you and you begin to struggle with colors, lights, shades, shapes. At this point, let it go for a while, let it cool down, don’t even look at it. (This time can be days, weeks or even months.) With the time, my relation to the painting has become more mature, I take the painting out and look at it through a mirror. And if the inspiration returns suddenly, I see everything what must be done to finnsh it with joy and satisfaction. As a finishing point I can only say: live and love your art.

Speed Painting

Most of my 50 year working life was spent drawing and painting for my income and if I did not work fast I went hungry. I have been told many times I am not an artist because I am a speed painter. My painting career involved painting for a live audience and selling the painting when finished and most times still wet. When actually painting I would set a speed at which I should work which would return $300 in an 8 hour day. This became a calculation, if I charged $15 per square foot for a 2×4 foot canvas it would be finished in less than 2 hours. Small paintings were sold for a higher amount per square foot. I must say most of my work is still hanging in private homes and are cherished by their owner. If I used the “oh it thook me 25 years to paint a picture” as many amateur artists do, I would have to be about 200,000 years old.

Too Many Variables

There are way too many variables like size, subject, complexity and so on. Art isn’t about time it is about passion. I don’t watch the clock I watch the moment and what I am doing in it. I never take a commission with a strict deadline. I explain that it takes as long as it it takes. One shouldn’t rush creativity. Most often I will get to a point where it makes me smile and stop. I will then hang it up and look again later for errors or additions that I may want to do but never so much that my smile goes away. No, my friends I never rush the creative process I just let it flow. Painting for me is all about the soul and the soul is timeless.

How Long…?

I have been contemplating this subject lately. I have, and had, some paintings (acrylics) that everybody said they loved and that they were good, but I put them aside, and took them out from time to time, looked at them and hid them again. Some of them are still hidden from my eyes, but at least three of them been worked over, again and again. And now, three years after I painted them, I am the one who is happy with them. I finally put them in the cafe where they have been exhibited and sold!

Stop Tweaking!

I tend to overwork every painting so have been trying to stop tweaking it. Very difficult. Sometimes I will just put it away for a few days and then look at it with fresh eyes. Other times, I have to have someone take the brush from my hand and tell me “you are finished….stop.” Generally, when I sign it, I am finished. When I do sell something, I figure I probably make 25 cents an hour or less. Good thing that I’m in it for the love of painting and not for a living!

Unanswerable Question

I suppose that I’d appreciate the fact that someone was interested enough to ask, but it’s really naive to ask how long it takes to complete a painting. Art can’t be quantified and narrowed down to a particular time frame. My answer would be “until I’m satisfied with it” or “until I mess it up beyond fixing.” Terry Madden, whose work I admire, said that most watercolorists need to stop about five minutes before they actually do. I believe that. It’s really easy to overdo most watercolors, and that last little touch often does more harm than good.

A Tiny Detail…

For me, the problem is not to know how long it takes me to complete a work. When I am convinced I have finished a painting, I call my wife and son who know me so well and I ask: “What do you think of it? ” If they take a long long long time to answer, I say: “Tell me please where is the problem for you, formulate your opinion.” In general, I agree with them, and it is always just a tiny detail to correct but finally it improves all! So I confessed: “Well I knew vaguely that something was not right, but I didn’t know what and where! Thanks”.
—Guest Yover

How Long Does it Take?

People frequently ask this question. I say “About 25 years.”

None are Ever Finished

I don’t know. None of mine are ever finished. I have gone back to my paintings repeatedly. One that is now on my easel (again) was started six years ago. It still doesn’t look right.
—Guest mickeyobe

How Long?

Time is irrelevant when it comes to art. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to work on or finish a painting. It could take any amount of time, because you think about it, work on it and even go back and work on it some more. I don’t time myself when I paint. I have had people ask me that and that’s what I tell them.
—Guest Anne





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