Tuesday, November 30, 2010

FAQ: How Long Did It Take to Paint That?

Hi! It's Ellen Perantoni, painter of the landscape in oil in a manner inspired by the Hudson River School, posting in response to recurring questions I get about the process of my art.
The question "How long did it take to paint that?, or, "How long does it take to paint something like that?" are questions I frequently hear. From students, experienced and sophisticated collectors, and all kinds of viewers of art. I hope you will enjoy this blog post. My e-mail address is eperantoni@yahoo.com and I have posted painting images and art chat on this blog since 2007.
I won't kid you: the best answer I can give is not a number. I do not go to my easel to paint at a given time of day, break for lunch, etc, then start again, etc.etc. I could paint that way if I had to schedule my time; many artists do and perhaps there are some artists who might not paint enough if there was no time when they "have to" paint.
That is not me. If I had a 8-5 job I could schedule painting hours between 7:30-10 or some such, but painting is my only job I paint when the compulsion is on me, which is a lot of the time!.
About how long do I spend on a particular painting? When someone asks that, I hope the person is not trying to "value" the painting by number of hours I spent on it, and in most cases I can't even hazard a guess as to the number of hours or days.
This is why: I do most paintings in a series of shortish sessions. How short? Maybe 2-2/1/2 hours, to start. This applies whether I start the painting en plein air (on the spot, in the open air) or in the studio. If I am painting outdoors, the light generally changes within 2 hours or so and the scene doesn't look the same after 2 hours. Or even less time. I make a record of the scene by photographing it when I start, to show where the shadows are, etc.
Then I let the painting dry while I study it and plan my next step. How long does the next step take? Who knows? The sessions tend to be short for the simple reason that I reach a point where I prefer to let the work dry before I proceed further.
My process of stopping to let a landscape painting dry periodically before proceeding further means, in effect, that I do not keep track of time. I suppose some of my paintings (some but by no means all of even the small ones) take less than 10 sessions until I'm satisfied. But even some small ones take longer than that. When I do larger paintings, the sessions can stretch for months or, occasionally, over a year.
I work on more than one painting at a time, usually several.
Keeping track of time? I find that the most irrelevant, and least fun, thing I could be doing when I paint.
I work on a piece until I am satisfied enough to sign it and show it to the world. (In the case of a commission, I submit periodic photos to the client and he/she makes the final decision as to when he/she is satisfied).
A lot of the time I become satisfied a painting is "done" in a few weeks or a couple of months of short sessions. Sometimes it takes much longer. I have a few paintings I started over a year ago that I'm still not satisfied with. Sometimes in the case of such a painting I realize "what it needs" belatedly and then I am able to finish it in a way I'm happy with. Some paintings are never finished to my satisfaction, and I don't exhibit those no matter how much time I've spent on them.
I don't say I'm a perfectionist because I have sold many paintings and none of them has been perfect. Perfection may not be achievable in this world. But I have to feel good, to feel pleased with my work.
The painting at right took me an incalculable number of sessions, an incalculable number of hours. Its progress was somewhat unusual; the cloud formations in the sky took form relatively quickly, but in the painting's early stages I was not happy at all with the foreground. So I worked, and I worked, and I revised, and I revised. I was well over a year ago that I started this 16x20" painting, and rather recently I became pleased enough to show it.
As I worked on this painting it acquired numerous thin layers of paint and "glazes" which added depth and an almost 3-D effect. I generally paint in a series of glazes, but this work is among the most glazed (I won't use the work thickest because the glazes are very thin layers and the surface is not bumpy). It is glossy.
This painting is entitled "Revelations in the Sky" and is priced $2200. as framed, in a museum quality carved wood frame that brings it to about 21x25" on the wall.
I price my art, including this painting, according to how it looks regardless of how much time (which I don't keep track of) I spent on it.
If you purchase of of my paintings from an Internet photo and you are not delighted (most people feel they look better in actuality) you can return it for a refund within 30 days. Or if you wish to view the work in person, you are welcome to visit my studio by appointment. The studio is about 2 hours north of the NYC metro area, and within a few hours of most points in NE, NJ and eastern PA.
Or you can see my art in the galleries that represent me. Names and locations of those galleries are in other blog posts, or contact me for the gallery nearest you.
I hope I've been able to explain here why "How long does it take to do something like that"? is all but unanswerable given the way I paint. Inspiration-driven, patient, and determined that each painting will be the best I can possibly do.
Have a great week! and I hope you will read more blog posts.
I would love to hear from you.

1 comment:

Emily Meidell said...

I am an artist who is just launching out into the world. This blog was very helpful in many ways- I was interested to read how long you work on a painting before you believe it to be complete. I was also intrigued with the process of building up layers of glazes to create a 3-D effect. Thank you!