Karen LeGault ~Fine Art Blog

November 8, 2015

How Long Does it Take to Do a Painting?

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Karen LeGault @ 11:28
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This is a question I get occasionally from people who are visiting my booth at an art festival.
The answer is almost as varied as the paintings.
There are so many factors involved. Of course there is the smart-assed reply that it took however long I am old, … not admitting anything here : ) .

Seriously, skill develops over time with an artist’s maturity and interests, and there is some truth to that answer!

But in real time, it depends on the size , approach and the complexity of the piece.

A painting I completed recently, “On Spanish Creek VI” was painted over a five year period. I would work on it for intense week or two week long bursts of time at the site of the scene, and then work on it over another few weeks or months  in my studio, but not as intensely, each year.

That time of actually painting that painting was preceeded by 12 years of painting other paintings in the same series as well as numerous pen and ink studies, small watercolor studies and studying Asian landscape techniques which I was also teaching to others during the same time period. (If you want to learn something well, then teach it!) I am a believer in becoming familiar with your subjects.

An original painting is being invented for the first time, imagined into being, whether it is based on a real place or an imaginary place. Composition is critical. You cannot simply paint over a watercolor painting if you don’t like where you put something! If the main shapes don’t work together, or the lines are not elegant, it can be lost. With oil or acrylic you can change the painting to something entirely different if you don’t like it. This means that the further you get into a watercolor painting, the higher the stakes in making it work. A wrong turn can negate hours and hours of work!

Having already completed a number of small studies before undertaking a large project helps to solve some of the problems that the eventual larger painting will present. Working those problems out helps to ensure a strong beginning.

A large still life painting starts with having some interesting seasonal offerings – fruit, flowers or vegetables available. If they are from someone’s garden, they seem to offer even more energy. The “energy” of the subjects is important too!

The subjects begin to attract objects and the color palette of the composition of the painting begins to fall into place. None of the subjects or objects can be the same size or shape (unless it is one of several types of the same thing, like several tomatoes that all might be similar in size) There are several other considerations that go into the composing of the piece, but a dedicated period of time is required to work on it before those things go out of season or spoil or the painter (me) looses the momentum of the vision or time and has to put it aside to work on next year.

Again, as with landscapes, a large still life painting is best approached with some small studies to work out some of the technical problems that will present themselves. Once begun it  will take a minimum of 7 to ten days to complete.

Of course there are paintings that can be painted in a few hours. They have usually developed out of a line of interest in the particular subject. Some of the more traditional brush paintings like plum blossoms, bamboo, or simple flower paintings in small sizes can be painted in a couple of hours by the time you put in a background refine the details and mount them. The more realistic they are, though, the longer it takes to refine, detail and balance the work.

There are other hidden time costs besides time in the actual production of a painting. Maybe subject for another time!

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