That’s the number one question I get from people. How long does it take, they yearn to know, as though the painting’s worth is in its hours of toil. I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve got a follow up question–

What does it matter?

There’s this story about Picasso that I love. He’s out somewhere being Picasso, you know the pretty pretentious guy who is quoted as saying, “When I was a child, my mother said to me, If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll end up as the Pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.” That guy. SMH.

A woman recognizes him and asks if he can do a quick sketch for her. He scribbles on a napkin and she, delighted, asks how much for the drawing. He answers with some exorbitant sum– let’s say 20k. What?! She replies in shock. But that only took you a couple minutes.

Wrong, he replies. That took me my whole life

I know this is true: art isn’t made just in the moments where the brush, or, in my case, the knives, touch the canvas. It’s made in the practice, the failing, the throwing away, the exploring, the thinking, the trying, the fumbling, the learning, the unlearning. It’s made not in a moment, but in a life. The moment just gives birth to it. Sometimes the labor is long, trying, and with complications. And sometimes? Well, sometimes it’s short, nearly effortless. I don’t know that a viewer, looking at the final product, can tell the difference.

That’s why I price my art based on its size and not how much time I put into it, which is a fickle, unreliable metric. That’s why I don’t think how long something took is relevant at all unless it’s to satisfy a curiosity, to draw back the curtain between process and final product. Otherwise, it doesn’t tell you all that much.

But I’ll answer you anyway. My paintings? They usually take me between twenty minutes and ten years. And either way, they are priced by the square inch. 

Let me know your thoughts!

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Greg Molchan

    Trying to catch up on reading about art. Love this take, Denise. I will keep it in my thoughts when selling my prints.

    Reply
    • Denise Hopkins

      I was at a guitar festival with Kelly a few years ago and we were having drinks with some guitar professors afterward. When one of them found out I was an artist, he said he had something to run by me, get my take on. There was a piece of art he liked from a student so he asked how much. I don’t remember the number. But he said it looked like the guy did it really quickly so he thought it was too much. I responded with the Picasso story, which seemed to really make sense to him. I don’t know if he ever bought the piece but all this is to say sometimes we forget that actual time is hardly relevant. I’d be willing to bet some of your best photographs happened “effortlessly”– ie, the fumbles that you’ve spent a lifetime acquiring really pay off in single moments from time to time. Yes?

      Reply

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Written by Denise Hopkins

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