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I believe that art enriches and informs our lives everyday in many positive ways. Sharing those experiences, whether as an artist or as an appreciator, is part of the pleasure. I welcome your comments and hope you find something of value: a laugh, an insight, a new idea or just a happy moment. Enjoy art!

Friday, July 19, 2013

My Most Expensive Painting

People always want to know how long a painting took to complete...and I know they want to equate fewer hours with a less expensive co$t and tons of hours with a lot of value $$.  So I thought I would reveal my most expensive painting to date.  You are going to want to pay lots and lots of greenbacks for this one.  Here goes:

This is the photo I chose. I wanted a strong vertical and some dark background so I could make the pink flowers pop.  It took about an hour to find this in my archives.  Keep in mind that the confidence to pull off the tree came because I spent 9 months last year painting nothing but trees.  Now add in the money I earned to pay the tuition for the workshop in which I painted this.  The instruction lasted 3 solid days.  Ching ching, you with me now?

(please note: I will be referencing this workshop for several blogs.  You can learn more about this wonderful teacher and extremely gifted artist by checking out the website of Andy Braitman.)

This is my sketch on canvas, which I forgot to mention I coated 3 x with gesso which needed to be purchased and had to dry between coats.  (discounting dry time lets say 45 minutes total).  The sketch is then coated with a medium which smears it to a deep black and sets the masses of charcoal in place.  We are cooking along at about an hour here.

I am finally applying paint!!  What you don't see is my huge box of acrylics and all the steam coming from my brain as I spent another hour trying to decide exactly which colors to use.  I needed three values for this step: dark, medium and light.  I needed many variations of each value and I needed to tie it all together.  The application took many passings.  At first I was using a putty knife in a large size.  After that and a bit of drying I came again with another knife and more color.  And I needed to keep plenty of "tooth" on the surface, otherwise known as texture or the "grip" that would hold the next coat.  I'll let you guess how many hours total on this phase but please don't forget to count the time put in on learning how to mix three values of the same color.

The stage I forgot to photograph was the re-establishment of my darks.  I switched to oil paints and mixed up a huge amount of a near black and practically covered the canvas, redrawing my initial sketch but with thick, gloppy oil.  Similar to working with tar.  It got set aside to dry as I went home to ponder the next step with the help of a little vino.

Now the time investment really starts to add up as the brain and hand must slow down to anticipate and carefully plot out the next move.  The trick is to be so sure of the mark you are going to put down that it hits the canvas and stays.  Un-manipulated strokes look confident and convey more emotion.
It is here where the colors get mixed up in huge piles before even one of them is used.  It is also this step that involves the science of color mixing as you attempt to duplicate or compliment a previously used color.  Who can clock those hours?

Above is the almost final version.  I say almost because before I ever sign it, this piece will sit in a prominent place drying so I can critique and evaluate it (more hours) until I am satisfied.  Are you waiting for those pink flowers to pop?  Hmmm, that's what we mean when an artist says "the painting spoke to me..." The further I got into this the less I needed those flowers that attracted me in the first place.  A slightly different scene began to emerge and I went with it.

The canvas is 24" high by 18" wide and I have not yet put any time or $ into selecting a frame for it.  
Add to that my investment in paint and canvas.  If I elect to build the frame it will take a bit more of my time. Did you add up the hours?  I can't bear to do so. 
I don't regret or begrudge a minute or a nickel invested.  Do not misread me.  I just wanted to give you an insight into the complicated answer to your question of how long a piece takes.  And I want to explain why original art is not sold for Pottery Barn prices. 
Color Fully Yours,



  1. I often speak of the oriental artists who spends DECADES learning their craft. The 20 minutes it takes one to paint a carp and water lily are not the issue.

    Don't all artists eventually go through this sort of development as the decades roll on?

    As well, the artwork needs to cover overhead, and even a profit margin--time and materials are only part of the picture for any form of production.

  2. You are absolutely correct James, and while the 20 minutes is not the issue, those who are not well versed in art making tend to think of the price as one would pay elsewhere, by the hour. I do my best to help educate non-artists on several topics with simple examples through this blog. Thanks for the validation!!

  3. Great post and look into your process. Really beautiful colors in this piece!

    Pricing our art is not a one-size-fits-all proposition for sure. So many variables to consider: 2D, 3D, time to create, materials involved, past sales track record, the price points of "comparable" art or comparable artists, etc.

    I finally have come up with a formula-based rather than feeling based way to price my art. It factors in many of the variables I mentioned above and finally just making my best guess to start. We can always adjust later.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Brad, a personalized formula does help in giving us some basis on pricing, helping us stay standardized so to speak. At my "level" the competition seems to be cheap prints from a decorator or TJMaxx, so I long to educate the would be collector as to the value, intrinsic and otherwise, to something made by human hands and heart. But you are correct in that turning to a carefully crafted formula of our own takes the emotion out of it.
    So enjoyed "your view" via your artwork....thanks Allyson, eh?


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