Q: How long does a painting take you to finish?
A: In the early years, when my work was more bravura and focused primarily on color, I would often finish a 24×30 or even a 36×48 in a day. After a while I felt a desire to create more subtle value transitions and color temperature shifts and my work slowed down.
In today’s world of YouTube fast motion videos and quick as lightning technology we may begin to feel that the faster we paint the better our art will be. That is just not true. Our skills and our paintings will improve when we stop feeling rushed.
Here’s an example of a fast motion of a recent 12×16 painting that took 3 days to finish – 2 days on location and 1 day in the studio.
Slow down. Take plenty of time to think about what you want to achieve with each piece before you touch brush to paint. The beginning stages of my paintings are usually fast and swashbuckling as I lay in the large color shapes and shadow patterns.
That’s because I spend time forming a clear picture in my mind of what I want to express to the viewer and how to get there. Once the initial quick color and value shapes are laid in, I may spend days or weeks pondering, finishing and defining each part of the painting until it feels right.
George Carlson is one of the most respected landscape painters today. He spends months on each painting, completing only about 4-7 a year. Howard Terpning, whose paintings sell into the millions, spends upwards of 6 months finishing a piece.
Click HERE to see more beautiful work by Carlson and more.
Remember, painting is a thinking pursuit and it takes everything we’ve got. Don’t feel pressured to paint faster – instead, decide to give each painting all you’ve got!
Thank you Bill. There is a misconception floating around the community that thinking about what you are going to paint is not necessary. You have cleared this up beautifully.
I so appreciate, as a foundational educator, that thinking and planning, about what you want to say or the feeling you want to give to the viewer, in a painting is very important.
This demonstration is so helpful and encouraging. I’ve learned a lot and can’t wait to start a new piece soon. Thanks so much Bill!