How long does it take to make a painting?

How long does it take to make a painting?

 

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!

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To hell with it. I’m ready for some adventure.