“How long did it take you to paint that?”
One of the questions I get asked the most as an artist is “How long did it take you to paint that?” It’s a reasonable question from an art lover eager to understand the “goings on” behind the scenes of an artist’s process. So…how long… well, it depends. There are many answers; for each piece of art, there’s most often a different answer. Here’s an example…
Back in 2000, I was creating mainly floral oil paintings. I regularly collected images from near & far, the U.K., Italy, the U.S. & here at home in our various public & private gardens & glass houses in Montreal & across Canada. It was a labour of great passion. One particular visit to our local Victorian glass house in Westmount, provided me with the loveliest image of a grouping of tulips. I love cut flowers, but my thing is to paint flowers in their environment.
So…, I carried that image around with me for 2 years before I began the painting. I considered scale & proportion of the canvas ( I wanted great “big” tulips), I considered the pallet, I considered the effect & “feeling” I wanted to communicate, etc. etc…. Finally, one October afternoon, after considerable deliberation & calculations, I headed out to purchase my materials. A day or so following I sawed the lengths of wood for my stretcher (yes, I had a miter box & saw) then assembled the stretcher with nails & glue, measuring diagonally to be sure to have 90degree corners. I don’t do this anymore; I put my back back out so many times! The following day I stretched the canvas over the support & then gessoed it , probably 3 times. Then I began the artwork… the sketch, …the under painting, … layers & layers of deep rich pigmented washes,…finally, working “wet in wet”, I scumbled soft juicy warm white gobs of paint through the painting. Wow! I had a painting epiphany…oh my. That was a serious turning point in my painting process….but I digress.. The entire process, from calculating the materials to completing the oil painting of the tulips, I named the painting “Partiality”, took about 2 weeks. So, how long did it take me to paint “Partiality”? …2 weeks? ….2 years?… It’s also reasonable to consider my experience, my studies, my existence. I believe that each painting is a distillation of all these things.