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How long do they take?

The question I probably get asked more than any other by people who are viewing my work is "how long does it take you to do one of those?"

They usually wish they hadn't asked. That's because the question is not quite as straightforward as it seems and neither therefore is my answer. The time investment varies hugely from painting to painting and it's not just about putting pastel on paper; there are lots of other things that go into a finished piece.

I'll usually start by explaining that pastel is a relatively quick medium, which is one of the main reasons I love it. Tape down your surface, select a pastel and away you go. There's no mixing of colours beforehand or stopping to let things dry like you have to with oils or watercolours.

So, from blank canvas to finished painting we are dealing in units of hours for pastels rather than days or even weeks for an oil painting.

Generally speaking, this means I can usually set out with the intention of starting and completing a painting in a single sitting (excepting the odd meal or coffee break). In fact, if I don't think I've got enough time for an interrupted sitting, I probably won't start the painting at all. I prefer not to leave a painting unfinished overnight, although sometimes this can be helpful when I'm struggling. A new day can often bring a fresh perspective to the challenge.

However, intention and reality can often be very different.

Take this work that I posted on my social media last week:

For a start, it's big (84 x 60 cm) so it was inevitably going to take a lot longer than most of my paintings. Even so, if everything goes to plan, I'd still hope to complete a painting of this size in a day. However, in this instance very little did go to plan and I ended up re-working large sections over and over again. In the end, I spent the best part of three days on it before I was happy.

On the other hand, this painting that I also did last week is a quarter of the size, is less complicted and went entirely to plan:

It took a couple of hours.

Then there are the days that I inadvertently spend on 'practice runs' (aka 'rejects' or 'wasted effort'). Although I had to keep reworking last week's big painting, at least I didn't get to the point of binning it and starting again from scratch. This does happen though and usually only at or near the end. For a good proportion of my final paintings there will have been at least one 'practice run' that no-one other than the recycling lorry gets to see.

However, like I say, it's not just about the painting.

Before I could even put pastel to paper, for each of these paintings I'll have spent a day in the mountains taking photos and getting my reference material. It's true that on some of these walks I'll get enough material for three or four paintings; however, there are other days where I come home with nothing more than aching limbs and smelly socks. But clearly this time should be factored in.

And that's not all. When people ask me the question what they are usually looking at is the finished product i.e. a framed painting hanging on a wall.

Therefore, I really ought to include the trips back and forth to my framer. Not only that but the chances are they are looking at a framed print, rather than the original, so I should count the visits to my printmaker who lives a three hour round trip away. Though, once again I'm usually taking more than one painting to the framer or printer at a time, so it all gets very complicated.

And I won't even mention all the other little things that I have to do...

So, in conclusion, if you really want to know how long it takes me to do one of my paintings, I really don't have a clue.

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