When asked “How Long Does it Take?” Pablo Picasso said…


When asked “How Long Does it Take?” Pablo Picasso said…

… ‘It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.’

To coincide with World Creativity and Innovation Day Skylark Galleries artist and art tutor Zsuzsanna Pataki writes about how long it takes to create a labour of love.  

Zsuzsanna Pataki – Artist with a knife

‘So, how long does it take you to paint one of these…?’ This is the question I hear most often.

There are several answers:

-45 minutes. Three hours. Eighty-six and a half hours. (Meaning the sheer painting time with knife in hand, without lunch breaks, of a specific work)

-a month, or three months (including all the prep work: sketches, photos, preliminary studies, canvas stretching and sourcing various materials)

-a year (from beginning to end: with countless hours and sleepless nights spent pondering a solution to a visual problem)

-a lifetime (of all the various creative trainings and practice that culminates in the works I do now, with the readily available skill to create what I want, when I want it)

First, let me rephrase the question, so we are on the same page: What does it take, to paint something like this, and hang it where people can find it? There is a lot more to it than the number of hours spent bending over a canvas, with a brush in hand.

How long does it take?

-I have spent a number of hours/days/weeks/months painting it, with brush in hand.

-I spent several days, sometimes months before that: visiting the place or person, doing sketches, taking photos, trying them for various angles again and again.

-I sourced the colours, canvas, stretcher bars and boards, mounts or frames and brushes that I need for the project, in 2-4 hours. Occasionally I go to central London just for one specialist material that I must hand-pick.

Gosh Really!

-Further days were spent back at the studio doing colour studies, going through photographs, editing them, and planning the composition and colour scheme.

On certain projects, another day is spent stretching the canvas, cooking the glue and spreading it while still hot over the linen, to seal the fibres for longevity (oils will eat right through it if I don’t do this). Then sanding and repeating. After this comes priming with Gesso, sanding between the three layers. All this work is part of the painting you see, before I ever touch my colours.

-When all is there and ready to paint on and paint with, and all the composition is there within me ready to come out, I start working. I surround myself with my sketches and drawings and photographs and tell the world to forget me until I emerge. This sheer painting time is a fraction of the work from concept to completion, ready to sell.

Waterlilies at Keston Ponds by Zsuzsanna Pataki 90 x 122 cm £2,700

When the actual artwork is done and signed, I am still not done… it needs protective varnishing and framing.

What else is involved?

Now I have an artwork that is still completely invisible: not a soul knows about it! The pain and bane of artists is getting these works in front of people who appreciate them. That alone takes as long as all the preparation and painting time total:

Photographing the works professionally, registering to art fairs, organising my own exhibitions, finding the right artists to work together; curating and hanging collections, writing labels and brochures, then writing for collectors; writing yet more about myself; writing for social media and other online outlets: the gallery, the art fair, my website, google, the list goes on. Every outlet or platform wants a different story, or at least a different packaging: from bullet points with dates to long stories, formal to friendly, with photos or videos of artwork details or a fully designed material ready to print.

My goodness – I had no idea!

If you have read this far, congratulations! If you add this all up, you get the time it takes from the plan in my head, through creating the painting, all the way to you finding it. A major part is the years of daily professional work that makes me able to do this, repeatedly, on commission, at a steady pace. Add to that the experimental works that never made it to a show but helped me discover a breakthrough technique that no one else uses: it took me a full year to develop a method of using 24 carat gold leaves that does not mask, but gently complement the colours behind it.

All those sleepless nights when I dream, plan, map a new work, until I find a solution. You don’t see me with knife in hand, in fact you might think I’m not working at all. But I emerge from those nights exhausted.

This morning I woke up at 4am and continued the large waterlily painting I’ve been working on since last summer. Between layers it has to dry, and I use a lot of paint so it takes longer still… up until 9am I added the layer of violets it needed. It is nearly finished and now that I see it I can decide on the frame. There is a large antique frame waiting for it. Then storage and transportation are to be solved. If you know someone who loves colours, waterlilies, semi-abstracts, and has a big wall: a beautiful painting is looking for a new owner 😊!

You can see lots more of Zsuzsanna’s paintings on her website: https://www.zsuzsannapataki.com/works

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