Just a warning. I’m going to do a little fist pounding in today’s blog! It’s about the most common question I get. Can you guess what that might be?
Is it: when did you first start drawing, painting, etc?
Or how about: why did you decide to paint that?
Maybe: what is that – oil, acrylic, pastel, watercolor?
How about: why do you work in pastel so often?
Perhaps it’s: why are paintings so expensive?
NO, IT IS NONE OF THE ABOVE. The question I get most often is “how long did it take you to paint that“? I’m going to say that this question drives me crazy. For so many reasons.
First, I don’t punch in and punch out with a time clock when I paint.
I sometimes paint in my dreams. Creative ideas and thoughts come to me when I wake up or before I go to sleep, or perhaps driving somewhere. I pray over my paintings, cry over my paintings, get mad at my paintings, ask God for inspiration with my paintings.
Often, I may write the approach down, sketch it, redraw it, put things in different places and put it in little thumbnail sketches.
I may decide I dislike the idea and throw it away. Sometimes, I may want to combine certain media and need to research them to make sure the elements are stable. All too often, I may start the painting one way, scrape it down and finish it another way. Then I may spend countless hours doing a painting then dislike what I’ve done and relegate it to a closet.
But I don’t hate that closeted painting. Instead, I treasure what I’ve learned.
I know one thing. All the thumbnails, sketches, difficulties, failures are part of what makes my art me. My artistic endeavors fuse, making for better art each and every time.
Right now I am working on 4 paintings. One is an oil portrait of a man I call Harry. One is a pastel portrait of a Boston Terrier. Another is a mixed media of water lilies which is a preliminary painting of a much larger 2 ft x 4 ft painting I have been commissioned to do and one is a large still life of flowers in acrylic. Only one of them is working out the way I want it to. I guess you could say I am working on 5 because I’m thinking about one in my head too.
When working on a painting, you can encounter many problems, that truly is the “agony and ecstasy” of art. It doesn’t go as well or as easy as people think and if it does go really well, really easy, it’s probably not my best work. Recently, I was working on a painting for client’s bedroom:
I was working on a deadline and I was close to being done. But I didn’t like one whole section. So I painted totally over it. My husband and brother-in-law were aghast. They thought it was fine. I didn’t!
One of my favorite artists, Everett Raymond Kinstler, a highly accomplished portraitist, states in his book Painting Faces, Figures, and Landscapes of a watercolor portrait: “The final watercolor portrait was my fifth attempt, after tearing up the previous four because I failed to get a likeness or because the painting had lost its freshness.”
Kinstler inspires me and gives me hope. He states he is reluctant to give demonstrations. He calls them “stunts and ego trips”, “speed of execution mean[s] nothing”.
“Spontaneous painting is the result of years of experience.” Everett Raymond Kinstler
While, I’m no Picasso, perhaps this story will give you a flavor of what I’m try to say:
Picasso was sitting in a Paris café when an admirer went up to him and asked if he would do a quick sketch for him on a paper napkin. Picasso politely agreed, did a quick sketch and handed back the napkin — but not before asking for a rather large amount of money. The admirer was horrified: “How can you ask so much? It only took you a minute to draw this!” “No”, Picasso replied, “It took me 40 years”.
I’m not sure why people like to ask this question to artists but as of yet I haven’t thought of a glib, quick answer, but I’d sure like to hear your thoughts.
Teresa Read · July 1, 2017 at 9:51 am
What a wonderful and thought provoking post.
Oh my,I am pretty sure I have asked that question in the past to my very talented friends, and maybe I even asked you. I think it comes more from a sense of amazement or being in awe of those blessed with artistic talent to paint or draw emotions and dreams….something that I feel would take me a lifetime.
As I have matured (okay grown older) I really try not to put time parameters on the things I enjoy or spending time with the people I love. Instead I try to enjoy being in the moment no matter how short or long. Five minutes with my mom is just a joyous as an hour with my granddaughter….but completely different at the same time. Therefore if someone asked me me which I enjoy more I would not be able to answer.
Maybe for you the answer lies is the question. Next time you are asked it might be interesting to politely ask the person “what makes you ask that question?” It just might open up an introspective moment. I did for me….