It’s Not a Question About Time

We don’t measure the quality of a meal only by the time it took to make, believing the longer it takes the better is inherently is. It’s the end result that’s judged, though the time is an aspect we may think about as we eat it and certainly plays its part in the quality of the end result.

When someone asks “how long did it take you to paint?”, don’t answer the question. It’s an invitation to engage them about the painting, and youself. Say a couple of things about what was involved in creating it, your inspiration, technique, favourite aspects. (Who doesn’t have a favourite bit in a painting that you’re particularly pleased about that you could point too?)

For many people the question is more a statement of enjoyment of the painting than anything, a safe way to talk to an artist without embarrassing themselves. (The underlying fear is that liking a painting isn’t enough, you must know something about art to appreciate a painting. Not true, of course.) If you answer the question straight away, the conversation is over and they’ll move on.

Would you ever ask “How long did it take you to make this cake?” or would you say “What’s in this cake?”

8 Replies to “It’s Not a Question About Time”

  1. In fact, folks sometimes believe that it is easy to make a painting: you take a brush then colors and go! The main persons at fault were French impressionists and… Picasso! The latter showed how in few minutes he was able to draw or paint a finished work. It is the same case on You Tube when painters make some demonstrations of their art that seem so easy and quick to do. So mystery of art disappears…

  2. I think the real problem is tv. Everything is fast and the popularity of do it in half and hour shows makes people think that all paintings are done this way. And this devalues them.

    Also they don’t think that making art is a skill that needs to be honed. They don’t dispute the time it takes to become a doctor, but never realize that an artist takes his/her lifetime to become a master.

  3. Love the analogy to cooking, because in a lot of ways it is very, very similar. My dad, for example, could do a masterful watercolor in minutes, BUT it took him *decades* to perfect his skills that allowed him to do that.

    Thanks, Marion, for giving me another and much, much better option when someone asks how long a piece took. Whether a painting or a pot, much of the value is in the mastering of skills, not some factory-like piecework price. 😀

  4. Very true. At the moment i am exploring sumi-e ink painting where you spend years practicing a few basic brush strokes so that they become an intuitive visual language and THEN you can paint a simple image in minutes.

  5. The analogy you used is so appropriate. Have always wondered to say, because actually the “dream time” that it takes me sometimes is equal to the painting time!
    Thank you for being you and keeping the communication lines open in this manner.

    1. Lee, I easily spend as much time thinking about a painting as I do working on it. Before, during… and after!

  6. I’m just getting started in learning to paint. I’ve discovered it requires learning patience, too, because I stick and stick and stick with it until it “suits me just so”. I learn so much by staying in the moment to process what I’m trying to achieve. However, if I had the pressure of deadlines and earning a paycheck with my art, it might become a bigger deal.

  7. Your last comment, Marion, is exactly what folks generally do not grasp: “time thinking” before, during and after! Your sentence is a quote in gold.

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