I wish I had a new paint brush for every time I have been asked “How long does it take you to make a painting?” I stumble for an answer trying not to seem disingenuous or flippant. In the case of a plein air 11”x14” sketch, from set-up to packing up takes 11/2 hours or so, not counting the time driving to a location and choosing the right spot plus hours of studio work in some cases.
In the case of a large studio piece, there are numerous contributing factors. Firstly, the inspiration for the work may take weeks or longer before it morphs to the concept stage, followed by composition planning and scaling choices ( ie: 20''x24'' landscape or 40”x40” square) in an effort to create the best statement. Often it means returning, when possible, to the sketching location to reaffirm the original intent. As a result, there could be many hours invested before there's a brushstroke on a canvas. Some might suggest that the conception and planning stages are not part of the actual painting process; I would argue that they are, in fact, integral. It is paramount that as artists, we take time to examine our own impressions and thoughts as we go about creating and sharing our story.
Once the painting takes form on my canvas, it might only be one or two days to set out the basic layout. Then, there is the process of back-checking the sketches to make sure the painting has the element of truth in it, followed by trial and error corrections and adjustments. Finally, the painting is hung where it can be observed from time to time to make sure it can survive repetitive examinations.
In the case of First Light - Version II (above), the inspiration came from recollections of a trip to Algonquin Park some years ago with artist friends when the outside temperature dropped to -40 and I painted a canvas by looking out a cabin window . on Oxtonque Lake. Using that painting as a reference, I began work on a 30x40 canvas this January to show the solitude and energy of the Park in the grip of a cold January day. That painting, unfortunately, did not survive the repetitive examination test.
And so, the process began all over again using a smaller 24x24 canvas. I feel satisfied now, that I got the feeling right this time. It has past scrutiny and received my signature.
How many hours to make a painting? The answer: it is not important. Only the final result counts.
The Art of Charles Spratt