The Dreaded Question: How long does it take to make a painting?
*NOTICE* F.A.Q RANT BELOW 👇
The dreaded question: "HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO MAKE A PAINTING?"
OK. If you are an artist, you are well acquainted with this question. It may even be a pet peeve type of question you are more than a little tired of answering.
Note: My intention Is not to discourage the "how long" question- but to simply paint a more detailed picture (pun intended) that you may not have time or interest to hear when you ask.
Over the years, I have come up with what for me is the best answer that gives people a general sense of the "time" it takes, without being dismissive, defensive or snarky.
The Answer: "...IT DEPENDS!"
There are so many factors that go into creating a piece of art, that simplifying it to hours seems trite, and doesn't fully capture the effort that goes into a painting, or sale of a painting- hence many artists fully despise and resent the question.
Most people generally ask for 1 of 2 reasons.
1. Simple curiosity. 🤔
Or 2. They want to calculate our "hourly rate". 🙄
For me, the size, subject and how "on" (or "lucky") I am all play into actual time spent painting. My goal for a painting is to shoot for working on it no more than 3-4 "sessions". A "session" may last from 40mins-4hours. Sometimes I can knock out an epic painting in a couple hours. For me this is like winning a mini lottery. It's great when it happens, but not the norm. It often takes more time and effort to make it work.
This is where years of experience comes in to play. I've been painting for nearly 2 decades. I may practice every day to capture something in 4 brush strokes which takes less than a minute, but make $1000 from that painting. That's like $60k per hour! 💰💰💰...I exaggerate, but you understand my point. Lots and lots and lots of practice.
Now, my pricing structure is typically by the square inch, and not once in 18+ years have I clocked my "hours". some pieces take 3 hours and some 30, but I charge the same. Why? This is to keep things fair, and my hope is that it balances out in the end.
Exhibit A (rare): 24x30: 4 hours, 1 free show, minimal advertising, no commission fee = $1800 sale!
= $450/hour! Woo hoo!
Exhibit B (common): 24x30: 30 hours, tons of paint $50, $500 show fee, gas $100, 3 years storage, marketing/ads $25, -50٪ commission = $1800 sale = negitive $52/hour. ...Yay.
Now, each piece sold is not just made up of time and material. You must also take into account the finishing, wiring, photographing, documenting, cataloging, naming, marketing, posting, storing and hauling from show to show for possibly years before it finally finds its home... the list goes on.
Now, I hope this little rant has helped give you some insight to better understand what all goes into creating and selling art.
Perhaps in the past you've seen frustration when you ask an artist this question, and now have a better idea why that is.
Now, I know every artist has a slightly different idea, method and structure, and I would love to hear how YOU answer the "simple" question: "how long does it take you to make a painting".
Please feel free to share this post!
Thanks for listening!