"How long did that boat painting take?"
asks a visitor to my studio (or art festival or gallery).
A well meaning inquiry I am sure but one that is impossible to answer
(save the old adage "63 years").
"If I were paid by the hour," I want to reply, "You could not
But I don't.
...a photo of boats, taken on a gorgeous evening off the coast of Naples, after a sketch in acrylic paint I switched to oils and got to work...
Not a terrible beginning but way too blue and I loved the pink sky reflected in the water... the shape of the boats was going to be a challenge....gravity and balance...
... hard to see but a warmer hue to the water and some detail to the vessels...30 minutes of thinking, better part of an hour executing...ugh, the farthermost boat looks like a leaf floating ON, not IN, the water...and front boat now out of whack....
( An old trick of painters is to turn everything upside down so it is no longer a "thing" but a shape. It is easier to see the edges of something if you take away its name... a lot of time in this position...not all painting but trying to see where it slipped off the rails.)
A lunch hour spent looking at the piece from across the room...now the composition was irritating me so I paint out the rocks and most of the boat details. All three need resizing ....
...no guess on how many hours it took to get rocks repainted, boats reshaped and water browned up....my "center of interest" in the front is now a disaster... getting weary but still determined. I note my investment of time, paint and canvas and return the next day for more work.
...front boat now wider, squatter, and the yellow orange goes back to pink, the dark interior now too dark, whole thing is better suited to two... frustrated...paint palette is a mess (an hour at least of clean up...)
OK: white flag, 'uncle.' surrender, I give....painting is to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. I fold.
As I toss this in the dumpster pile I try, try to think of what this piece taught me, hoping that when I attempt this again I can avoid those mistakes and cut quickly to the chase of capturing the essence of my original thoughts.
So if it falls together in 3 hours next week do I still get to count the uncounted hours it took to find my way there?
What is the most gracious way to handle that inevitable question "How long did it take you to do this?"
p.s. thanks! apparently my pilgrimage post struck a chord with many of my "type A" readers...it was reassuring to know that I am not the only one that has to be reminded to lift my head and enjoy the process along the route. Your comments were, as always, appreciated!