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How Long should it take to finish a painting?

How Long should it take to finish a painting?

This is such a personal thing and can be summed up in “How long is a piece of string” its pretty much impossible to put a time on such things. Like the Mainland ad, all good things take time after all! You need to consider too that if its pricing your work based on hours spent painting then you should factor in such things as how much time it took you to learn the skill not just the time put into each individual piece. Some of my artwork may only take me a few hours while others can take many months to complete for instance.

The 19th-century French artist Ernest Meissonier took 13 years to finish his painting ‘Napoleon's victory at Friedland’ which is only 136 x 242.5 cm in size. A video I watched on Max Gimblett, one of New Zealand’s current well known artists shows him producing works in a few seconds while some famous artists have taken months and even years to finish a painting like Dear old Ernest did.

If you play around too much with a painting, you run the risk of overworking it; whilst if you state that a painting is finished too soon, you will run the risk of not developing the idea to its full potential. If  you’re in doubt about whether you should stop or continue with a particular painting, you can try creating another version of the painting, or creating a series on the subject or what I tend to do is hang it on the wall in my lounge or dining area and take time out over meals etc to think about it. Often I will see it differently after a bit of time to consider it and what to do with it if it needs anything at all! And sometimes friends or family see things you don’t and can help show you a different angle or concept you may have missed.

two wars guernica and covid pandemic mashup painting by Collette fergus

The painting below is titled 'Two Wars' and I first started this about six or seven years before i completed it. It started out as a replica of Picasso's Guernica painting as something to hang on my lounge wall. I love Picassos work and have always admired this particular piece. I didnt finish it and it sat half completed for all those years on my wall. During the 2020 pandemic I decided to finish it as I had plent of time on my hands and I wanted to make it my own and mark the occassion of how this time affected me. Bringing the covid virus into the artwork seemed ideal as the war torn image has characters in it that easily adapted to being shown with inflamed lungs and dying. Not glamourising it at all as its been terrible times, just documenting the fear and terrible toll it has taken on the world and marking history in my way

No matter how you choose to do your work, the time is only important if you're aiming to exxhibit or rely on the artwork to make you an income. At the end of the day it’s more about being happy with the end result than putting a time limit on your work. Try not to make it a consideration and enjoy the creating.

Posted: Monday 1 March 2010


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