02 May, 2013

How long did it take to paint that?

I get asked "How long did it take you to paint that?" a lot!  The answer should be simple, but it's not. If you mean the mere physical process of putting paint on the canvas, then the answer is simple.....it's just a matter of looking at your watch and documenting the hours. If you are talking about the mental aspect, ...well, that is not so easily answered.

There are some days when I paint plein air that I go out and the painting is done and dusted in 2 hours. The reason for that is often a direct result of the planning I have done prior to arrival on site. I have thought about the light, the scene, the concept of the painting. I might have drawn up a small notan study, perhaps taken photographs but I would have certainly thought about it a lot before I put paint on the palette, let alone on the canvas. It could also be that that is all the time I have. The light changes quickly, the weather conditions change and what started as a sunny scene might have turned into a purple-skied storm.

What's to think about? Just paint!  Not so simple ( although somedays, when I am in the zone, it is a bit divine.) In order for the painting to read well it also has to satisfy some rules. No big ones, just basic ones that generally make the painting better. I think about the concept ( usually the answer to the question: What am I trying to convey here?) , the light, what size canvas , the composition(more can be said with what is left out than what is included) , the weather condition s(paint fast, the rain is coming!), and the list goes on a bit ( a bit technical) but it takes some preparation and time.

There is also an attrition rate with paintings.  Not all paintings are goodies! One of my favourite artists, Edward Seago, ordered that a third of his painting be destroyed after his death. These were the ones he declared to be not suitable for exhibition or sale  ( lord know they would have been brilliant by anyone else's standard). I remember being shocked at this when I first learned of it but I know that every artist, no matter how good, has paintings that either don't work, have flaws or just don't "feel" right...and those paintings are lessons and contribute to the time it takes to make good paintings work.

 So, in a nutshell, it is a combination of factors that make a good painting and to use time as any measure of it's value is not useful nor helpful.

I am taking the time before my children go back to school to get organised and focussed with my next few months of painting. Planning is part of painting!

Study for a painting of The English Garden
pen on paper

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