How long did it take you to paint that?

tony onley

Toni Onley. Passage Point: Coast Suite    

“How long did it take you to paint that?” Of all the questions that the public asks of artists this particular question can send an artist into a variety of responses, some of which are not always favorable to the person asking.

The situation is this: is the potential customer attempting to ascertain if you have worked on a painting long enough to be charging that amount of money? Are they simply curious as to how long it takes to paint such a subject matter? Worse, are they trying to devalue your painting?

Whatever the case may be this is a loaded question. If your work is highly detailed the chances are that the customer is simply curious and may want to brag about the length of time it took you to complete the painting if they purchase it. If your work is somewhere between detailed and semi-detailed it feels like an unfair question for the artist. If your work consists of a few stripes or suggested lines you will definitely meet up with this topic.

I heard Toni Onley once gave a twenty to thirty minute demo in a class where he completed a painting and then left the students to work on their own. Now a prospective buyer might really resent paying a high price for a painting that took, in their estimation, so little time. But here is what people forget. It took Toni many years to develop that particular style. It may look easy but his particular technique requires a good knowledge of paper dampness to brush and paint wetness to make it work as beautifully as it does. He would have had to know at which precise time to make a brush mark to get a soft and hard edge, when to apply paint for a back run, when to allow a wet bleed, etc…What people don’t see is the many hours of frustration, trial paintings and time it takes to get to that level of expertise. What you are paying for is that knowledge, expertise and style. It is not a question of how long to make the painting, it is a question of how long did it take Onley to get to that level of competence.

My painting style lies somewhere between semi-detailed and simple lines. My type of work requires multiple layering techniques and creating certain visual effects. The very top surface consists of, for the most part, uncomplicated shapes. Depending on the subject matter at hand, my painting may have symbols, figures and animals. My goal is to recreate the look and feel of a cave wall surface and then impose actual pictograms or petroglyphs from sites I have visited. If you simply look at the imagery you may feel it’s not worth the price yet if I were to break down everything required to get to that effect, you would not be able to afford me. So when people ask me how long it took me to do that painting I respond: “27 years, 4 months, 10 hours and 7 seconds”. Simple!

One Response to How long did it take you to paint that?

  1. Brenda May 11, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

    There is a lot more to consider than simple painting time.

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