Monday, 20 July 2015

How Long Did That Take......

The most irritating question you can ask an artist, well this one anyway. It drives me nuts. 'How long did it take....' I'm certain of course that no annoyance is intended but why is it that visitors to my exhibitions or viewers online feel compelled to know the answer to this question. In a day in a gallery I might be asked at least twenty times.

I try to be polite, try not to grind my teeth as my mind whirs away attempting to think of a smart answer. Should I explain how long I thought about this piece before I began? How long it took to source the reference material? How many rough sketches I made trying to come up with an idea? How long I spent actually drawing or painting? How long it took me to mount and frame it? to upload it to all of my online outlets? To think of a title? To write the description? To work out a price which needs to include the cost of my materials and any commission charged where it is going to be displayed. Shipping costs, paper work, spreadsheets etc. etc. The list goes on, not to mention the lifetime of practicing and honing my skills to reach and continue to improve on the standard I am at today.

So why are they asking? Do they want to get an idea of why it costs what it does? Are they gloating because they have worked out that I'm working for far less than they are? far less than minimum wage in fact, that is if I can even drum up a sale. So do I need to defend myself? To justify why I do what I do? Do they question the time it took to create everything they look at?

So what do I reply? I get asked over and over again and I usually give a vague answer such as '....a long time, I don't count the hours' or 'It varies a lot'. For a start, if I have an exhibition there maybe 50-60 pictures on display, I'm buggered if I can remember how long I spent on each one and to be honest, it's my business anyway. What difference could it possibly make to a viewer or potential buyer. They either like the picture or they don't, whether it took six hours or sixty. They're not going to say 'Oh, sorry I've changed my mind as I thought it would have taken longer'.

 Nowadays I sell mostly online and often add the number of hours it took when I upload a new picture in an attempt to pre-empt the dreaded question yet I STILL get asked..... It's not that I can't answer or that it's a lot of trouble to answer. It's just one of those things that has worked it's way under my skin.

'I Thought It Was Monday' - pencil - 15 x 10.5 inches

Anyway, I've just completed my next piece which is a graphite pencil drawing on Bristol Board. 'I Thought It Was Monday'. It was a relief to get back to drawing after a series of very tricky detailed paintings. Although this is also highly detailed, pencil drawing is a medium I'm much more comfortable with and I find it very relaxing to do. This one only took three sessions of four to six hours each.

Another annoying comment is ' looks like a photograph' ....Don't get me started......


Sandy Sandy said...

Love this piece, Peter! I know what you mean about the "How long did it take" question. ERRRRR!! I have also thought of all the reasons you listed and they're probably ALL correct. I don't think I've ever sold anything to a person interested in this aspect of the artwork. Once at an art fair, I flipped out on somebody (a be-back) who said; "I'll be back". It was about the 12th time I had heard it that day, and my eyes bugged out and I shouted right in their face; "OH NO YOU WON'T", and walked away. Selling one's art to the general public can be a frustrating and demoralizing experience at times. Hang in there, Peter. Your art is fabulous!

Maria Balcells said...

Love your comment. Good that you wrote it! ... and love your paintings, not matter if it took one life to paint them or one second to visualize in your creative mind.
They are all absolute fantastic!

Peter Williams said...

Thanks, glad it's not just me then Sandy!