Friday, January 29, 2010
How Long Did That Take You??
I was thinking about Egmont's recent comment about the length of time he spends on some of his paintings, and thought it might be a good topic. How many times has someone asked you "How long did it take you to paint that?" I've heard it over and over again, and wonder if people think that more time equals higher value. Personally, I don't believe it.
Some artists, when asked this question, respond: "It's taken all the years of my life to paint this." That's a good point; the amount of time spent applying paint to canvas is minimal compared to the amount of time we spent learning our art and attending to it. And, by extension, everything we've done and learned over time counts toward the amount of time spent on each painting we produce.
Here's a good example. A wonderful artist that I knew before he moved away from this area, works very quickly in watercolor. His name is Bruce Handford and here's an example of his work:
Bruce entered a painting very similar to this in a juried exhibition that I was part of, and told me that it took him only 45 minutes to paint it, AND, he won first prize that evening. On the other hand, my entry (below), which took me over 100 hours to paint in gouache, won only an honorable mention in the same show:
Now, I realize that a judge's opinion is subjective, but the point remains that the amount of time spent on a painting has little to do with its artistic worth or commercial value. It also has little to do with the relative importance of a work. The Impressionists come to mind because many of them painted very rapidly to capture an impression of a scene. Some of that work is important enough to hang in museums or be sold for millions of dollars. This, alone, informs us that the particular vision of an artist and his/her ability to execute it in a masterful way is far more important than the amount of time spent putting paint on canvas.
This leads me to ask another question: How much time is ENOUGH when working on a painting? I guess that would lead us to the previous post about deciding when a work is "finished."
The next time someone asks me how long it took me to "paint that," I'll have to ask them why it matters. And, maybe I'll also add "all my life!"