How long does it take to create a painting?
It's the question artists are always asked, it is usually the first question, and often the last. The traditional answer is that the number of hours spent working directly on the painting would amount to a few days, maybe a few weeks or possibly a month or two. The artist would then add wisely, that in reality, the particular work under discussion took 20, 30, 40 or 50 years. As the inexorable passage of time dictates, I belong firmly in the '50 years in the making' camp. Ok, this sounds a little ridiculous and quite possibly disingenuous, but the statement has some truth. If we take this painting as an example, it was started over a week ago but has undergone several major revisions and changes of direction.
At one point it was far more geometric and influenced by the Futurist painting technique of Boccioni and Severini, with colour divided into directional marks and sequences of shapes. On reflection, this wasn't working and I reverted to a more impressionistic approach, reminiscent of the landscape work of Gustav Klimt. The original inspiration was a photograph taken in the New Forest which I used as a jumping-off point. Needless to say, it now bears little resemblance to the photograph and I stopped using it as a reference after the second day. The photograph was beginning to dictate all of the terms and conditions; the overwhelming desire to reproduce elements of the original image was becoming a creative straight-jacket.
Undeniably, there is a seductive quality to the photographic image but most painters readily learn that machine-produced imagery is also a confection and a deceit; albeit one that operates by a set of predetermined optical, mechanical and chemical parameters. Some highly inventive painters can transcend the limitations of the photograph and explore how the camera lens resolves the world.
German Artist Gerhardt Richter
They improvise around points of focus, depth of field, cropping, perspective, camera movement and resolution etc. Others, such as the photo realists, copy the photograph in its entirety, centimetre by centimetre deploying dazzling displays of technique, and hand-eye coordination with a compulsive attention to detail. I have produced a few pieces in this style, and I am particularly in awe of the skill and technique displayed by the German artist Gerhardt Richter. However, I have it on good authority that Richter is not simply copying photographs but rather he is making perceptive and insightful statements about different modes of cultural representation. What you choose to believe is your choice but I would argue that you would need to study his paintings and written statements in depth before you make a definitive judgement.
Anyway, I digress, time to return to the original question, 'How long does it take to create a painting?' You may have noticed that I have alluded to some of the thought processes involved in painting, the knowledge acquired over time influences how you approach a particular subject, the experience of paintings already produced, the materials adopted, the scale you work on, there are so many ways to communicate through paint. And all those cumulative experiences play out in your mind as you progress and give consideration to alternative ideas and methodologies. How can I best communicate this idea, sensation or feeling?
For me, one of the benefits of an 'open-ended' approach to painting is how earlier possibilities and explorations can become an integral part of the final work. In this painting,
'The Lie of The Land'
'The Lie of The Land', a thick application of paint combined with cold wax medium has created a raised and highly textured surface seemingly at odds with subsequent paint layers. You would be forgiven for believing this would be a significant disadvantage but it rarely is, the opposite is generally true. The existence of a surface that does not immediately align with later revisions and adjustments offers the possibility of unexpected juxtapositions and wonderful chance events. I like to think of this as a kind of 'Wabi Sabi' effect, something to do with acceptance and the relinquishing of control. In art books, it is typically defined as "flawed beauty". Wabi-sabi artworks often emphasise the process of making and a process that is ultimately incomplete, and imperfect. Perfection can be a cul de sac, it closes off the work from further interpretation and restricts individual access. It says this is finished, this is perfect, this is right, this is the only possible outcome.
Knowing that a false start will open up more creative opportunities in the long run, I should just build this into my working practice and always begin with the 'wrong' composition, the wrong technique and/or subject. If only it were that simple. The downside of this oblique approach is the realisation that it almost invariably never works if you follow this path consciously and deliberately. Like everything else in the mercurial art of painting, firmly-held preconceived notions ultimately become barriers to creativity. Paradoxically, you have to work with conviction at every stage, even if those convictions are short-lived and finally evaporate in the harsh glare of reality, like so many of our myths or shibboleths laid out before us. This may seem a little off-kilter but it reminds me of the Graucho Marx quote, 'I wouldn't be a member of any club that would have me as a member'.
50 Hours or 50 Years?
So, how long does a painting take? A few days or weeks if you are talking about measurable time in front of a canvas....a few years and more if you are talking about knowledge, understanding, skill and life.
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I am a UK based abstract landscape painter/artist with a range of compelling and popular original mixed media paintings available to buy. You can follow my artistic practices, latest artworks and painting techniques and news by reading my contemporary art blog.
If you have seen an artwork that you like, you can buy my art online and easily order a painting by contacting me directly using the contact form. Please add the name/title of the artwork in your message. It may have already sold, but if that is the case, don't worry, you can request a commissioned piece just and get a painting you will love.
I ship paintings worldwide, and they are professionally and securely packaged for National and International courier services. They are delivered to your home in a reinforced box within 3-5 days of your order. You can buy my art online and order a painting or request a commissioned piece by contacting me directly using the contact form.
Each artwork will arrive unframed with painted edges, ready for you to hang. If you wish to frame a painting, you can make a direct request at an extra cost or contact your local framing shop.
I am a British artist based in Ely, Cambridgeshire and my work is sought by collectors here in the UK and worldwide. I have exhibited recently at the Battersea Affordable Art Fair, The Babylon Gallery in Ely, The Art in East Anglia Gallery, in Bury St Edmunds, The Darryl Nantais Gallery in Linton, The Michael House Centre and The Locker cafe in Cambridge. I also have collections of my artwork in prestigious office settings in major towns and cities throughout the country.
I work in mixed media, oil, cold wax, acrylic, bitumen and on both medium and large-scale canvases. My techniques involve a range of techniques and processes including, drawing, painting, collage, printing and mixed media applications. My main subject matter is landscape and abstraction and many of my paintings are located somewhere between figurative and non-figurative approaches to image-making.