Do People Ask You, “How Long Did It Take To Paint This?”

– Posted in: business, inspiration

First published on on May 17, 2011

Today I spent most of the day running errands and taking care of business. I didn’t get any painting done. Tomorrow I will be in the studio painting and hopefully getting a lot done. “They” say that being an artist is 50% taking care of business and 50% actually painting. Most people don’t realize how much goes on behind the scenes with business, the preparation before painting and the framing when they ask the question, “How long did it take you to paint that?”

The answer really doesn’t tell the viewer anything. Besides all the other “stuff” that goes on behind the scenes, an artist generally paints faster and with more ease the longer he has been painting. I’ve also found that plein air painters as a whole paint faster than other painters. We have to paint fast when we are battling the changing light, bugs, weather (and sometimes people), when we want to hurry up and move on to the next location.

The”stuff” that we do behind the scenes, of course, varies between artists and mediums. But I thought that I would tell you some of the “stuff” that I do. I prepare most of my plein air boards for my small paintings and plein air paintings by having the boards cut then gluing (with a special archival glue) the canvas to the board and cutting the edges. I often stretch my own canvases. I’ve been known to gesso, texture, and/or underpaint my canvases. All this is done before painting. After painting, I photograph everything at least once, then I varnish each piece.

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On the business side, I’m working on the computer, blogging, writing newsletters, posting on my website, commenting, Facebooking, twittering, talking to other artists about the internet (the new way of marketing) and researching marketing and ideas. I prepare for ads in magazines and anywhere else I can think of. I search for appropriate shows and prepare applications and CD’s and send money into each one. Then I set those paintings aside and wait to find out if I was accepted. When I have been accepted, I have to box the paintings up, ship them, send the gallery or organizations information, follow up, then wait. I go to plein air events and shows to network with other artists and venues. I send press releases. I talk to designers that I’ve worked with in the past. I try to find or think of any new or innovative ways to market. I ship off paintings that I sell on my website or blog. I talk to clients about commissions, sometimes they come through, sometimes they don’t. Oh, and then there’s the framing, buying and assembling (I buy moulding and have a v-nailer for corners). I deliver paintings. I go to the galleries to check out what is going on in the art world and talk to owners that I know. I prepare for workshops that I teach. I take inventory of supplies and buy before I’m out.

So next time when you ask an artist, “How long did it take you to paint that?” remember there’s a myriad of things that go on with this business behind the scenes just like in any other business.

Well, tomorrow will be the fun part of the business when I actually get down to painting.

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Happy Painting,


Comments on this entry are closed.

Becky Joy January 2, 2014, 10:23 am


Marion Corbin Mayer April 17, 2014, 1:10 pm

On a basic level I think people are curious & trying to start a conversation. It’s tempting to say, “50 years + 2 hours” but I try to remember that snarky shuts down the communication…

Becky Joy April 17, 2014, 8:11 pm

I think you are right Marion. We hear it so often it is hard to not get snarky. Keeping it nice does help with the communication. You never know where that communication will go.

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