In all my years of painting, there is 1 question that has come up in different permutations and combinations during my exhibitions and more times than I can remember when I am introduced as an artist to others or a potential art buyer.
The question of ‘how long does it take you to paint a painting’ or ‘how long did it take you to complete that (pointing to a specific art work) painting?’
The answer to this question isn’t a simple one. As an artist, I work when the Muse appears and paint for hours at an end completely oblivious to the world around me.
There are times when the painting appears complete to my family but I know something is missing. It isn’t expressing what I want to say.
I still remember one of my paintings from my early days as an expressionist that took months to complete because it was an intricate one and I was not satisfied with it.
In fact, at my husband’s suggestion, I put the painting aside and focused on other works and regular life. When I returned to it, the Muse guided me to translate my vision onto canvas.
This painting is now part of the Al Fardan private collection in Qatar.
Then I remember being invited to paint on tiles for a collage that was going to be created for the Poorv Sanskriti Kendra in East Delhi. Many artists were invited and asked to paint on 6 tiles which would be baked and then mounted as 1 painting.
We were given 3 hours, 6 tiles, basic colours, a palette and brushes. The first hour was figuring out how to get the paint to stay on the tiles. Perhaps the organizers hadn’t thought out how the artist would paint or their unique styles. Every artist, including some very famous ones found it challenging.
And then, I decided to visualize what I wanted and using the stick part of the brush, proceeded to paint. This work was completed in less than 2 hours.
Did it mean that there was no value in the art work?
No. It meant that the artist had connected with her vision and had created the path for it to manifest on the earthly medium. I’m often reminded of Van Gogh’s words – I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.
Consider the fact that Da Vinci worked for 4 years on the Mona Lisa and the painting was complete when he decided it was complete. Picasso is known to have painted a sketch in 8 seconds for a journalist.
It all comes down to the artist and their vision. It also involves the medium that the artist is using. Oil colors take longer to dry while acrylics dry quickly.
Take for example my painting Shimmering Reflections where I have used oil on canvas using palette knives. I had the vision but the medium took time to dry and creating the embossed 3 dimensional effect took even longer. Would the person asking the question understand if I started to explain the process and went into the minutest details of each step?
Some artists like the late M F Hussain and Da Vinci make sketches and drafts before they start creating their masterpiece.
That is why, answering the question is difficult.
The viewer is seeing the end work, not the hours spent in visualizing the artwork or the effort that it takes to create a masterpiece that matches what the artist wants to express.
Sadly nowadays, art collection has become a fad of sorts and the newbie buyer is looking at factors like investment potential, resale value, latest artwork and a host of other factors instead of thinking, does this piece speak to my heart? Will it look good in my home or office?
So time taken becomes an issue for them when in reality, the artist is a creative and has no time limits. We are not office workers who have to complete a time sheet for billing purposes or a factory worker who has to punch his time-card.
So when I’m asked this question, my answer is
“Time is not of essence to me. My art is not a function of time. The painting is completed when I decide it is completed, is expressing my thoughts and vision and I’m ready to sign behind the canvas.”
What do you say when you are asked this question? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.