This is a question I get asked a lot, especially when I have work on show at an exhibition. It’s one of the most difficult questions to answer because there is actually no definitive answer, but there are a number of factors that determine how long a piece will take to complete. I will touch on some of them.
Obviously the bigger the painting, the longer it takes, right? Not necessarily. As a rule a bigger painting will take more time but in some cases a large painting can be completed in less time than a smaller one. This can be due to some of the following reasons.
Some styles of work are more time consuming in their complexity. If there is a lot of detail, this can take large amounts of time and patience. If a layering technique is used, time is required between layers to let the previous one dry, this takes longer with oil. Impasto or thick textured areas of paint will take longer to dry than thin washes although different painting mediums can be employed to speed up drying times.
Different pigments have varying drying times. If a painting contains a lot of earth pigments it will tend to dry quicker than bright colours like cadmiums. This is one reason that the traditional method of painting in oils is to work from dark to light, so the darker faster drying colours are underneath the slower lighter colours.
Sometimes a painting takes longer because of lack of inspiration or motivation, although personally I don’t have many problems with this. If inspiration is lacking on a certain painting I’ll move on to another and come back to the other at a later date.
Sometimes too much inspiration can be as bad as too little and working on too many projects at once can hinder completion times.
These are just a few reasons that can affect completion times so hopefully it gives a small insight into why the question of “how long?” is very difficult to answer. Is the price of a painting affected by how long it takes? This will be discussed in a future blog.
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