Sunday, May 25, 2014

Taking the Time

I've been doing a lot of thinking. I'm often caught up in my thoughts, but something in particular really hit me the other day. I was listening to the radio and they were discussing the possibility of certain stolen famous paintings being returned. The guest mentioned that if they could recover a Vermeer, they'd be especially grateful as only 35 paintings of his exist.

I actually love Vermeer. I know I paint often wild and fantastical things, and I tend to lean towards a more impressionistic style at times, but I really love Baroque painting. In particular, it's these artists' use of light that makes me want to just sit and look at the painting for hours.

Anyway, what struck me is that only 35 paintings... 35!!! A master of his work, arguably poor (he died in debt), but only 35 paintings. He worked slowly, maybe three a year or so, but he left a beautiful collection as his legacy. There seems to be some sort of balance in this modern age between quality and quantity, and being a prolific painter seems to be important to success. But then, I suppose it's how you define success that matters. Vermeer wasn't wildly successful, but his 35 paintings he has left are arguably a big success as they are simply amazing.

I've mentioned it before, but when it comes to painting I am actually a slow painter. I can do some smaller faster ones, but anything bigger and detailed like my white rabbit (below) takes months. MONTHS! Months and months.

"Tea Time" 16x20, acrylic on stretched canvas

It's not the actual physical time of painting, either - although that takes a while too (if you've seen the video of me painting this, you see how much I spend on certain elements where other artists probably layer quickly and move on. I am not satisfied with that, and I really push the paint and my brushes hard.)

It's the thinking that goes on. When I paint, I don't have it all worked out exactly how I want it to look. I feel like the painting kind of grows on its own. I know how I want certain elements to look, certainly, but there are many aspects where I feel like I'm open to negotiation and let the paint take me where it wants to. That takes time. Sometimes it's sitting there staring at it. Other times it's thinking about it while doing something else. But no matter where that time is taken up, it still IS.

I've finished these recently:

"Bert & Emmy" 9x12 watercolor and acrylic on 140lbs hot-pressed 100% cotton paper.
Currently up for open auction on facebook.

"Timmy" 6x6 oil on a professional ampersand wooden panel.
I also created a special page for my monsters, Whimsical Misfits.

This is part of the Traveling Journal, where this book is going all over the place to different artists and we each get two pages to fill however we'd like. This is my contribution.

Those three paintings did not take as long, obviously, but they probably still took more time than most artists. They're also simple pieces without detailed backgrounds or surroundings.

My Queen of Hearts is taking a long time:

Just snapped this quickly with my phone, bad lighting, sorry

But I realize it's because I want to get it right. I want to make another really good painting that feels like you could walk into it. A window to another world. THAT is what I want to leave behind as my painting legacy.

A window to another world. And for me, those windows take time. I feel such guilt and pressure because I am so slow. I feel that if I was better at this, I would be painting faster. Because of that, I find little things I can paint to distract myself and feel like I have accomplished something, but it's a false sense. I feel accomplished when I finish these deeper paintings, and I'm starting to realize that's important.

Even if I only paint 30 really spectacular paintings in my lifetime, I would be prouder of that than 2,000 fast ones that lack what I want to put into them.

I'm not sure exactly where I am going with this, because I'm not going to let certain things go (like the misfit monsters, or my fairytale I'm going to make via a series of paintings), because I like them. But I realize that I need to allow myself to take the time to feel accomplished, and that perhaps being slow is just something I need to accept rather than run away from or feel bad about.


  1. As Michelangelo said :"Trifles make perfection but perfection is no trifle" I understand your process completely and relate entirely. I, too, spend an inordinate amount of time on my paintings. This shows in your work. Your paintings are rich with such a good deal of depth.I am glad you take the time to get it right. I love Vermeer, If ever I would hang a print in my house from one of the Masters, it would be his.

  2. You don's have to feel guilty about painting slow! I think it has to do with society nowadays. Everything goes so fast. But with paint it's different, it's an old artform and you have to have real skills to make your kind of paintings. When I am painting it also can take hours, months even years...:)And I love to read your stories about it. I grew up with old paintings from Vermeer, Rembrandt, Van Gogh etc. The paintings of Rembrandt are like real pictures in real life, like the people in it can walk out of the frame any moment. Scarry dudes those of the night watch!

  3. I feel you paint, the way you want to paint ;o) You have to be happy ;o) Your soul has to be happy ;o) If you are not, then, it will show in your art! "Slow" is just a word! It doesn't mean anything to me ;o) Your art, means a lot to me ;o) Hugs ;o)

  4. Today's society is wrapped up in "instant gratification". If something can't be done instantly they don't wish to be bothered doing it. That attitude is truly sad . . . after all it took Michelangelo a good 4 years to paint the ceiling of The Sistine Chapel, and to this day it continues to bring gasps, sighs and exclamations of awe and wonder from all who view it. ;)

    Your paintings are truly wondrous and bring much pleasure to we who view them. Don't change a thing, continue to work from your heart, no matter how long it takes, because it shows in each of your beautiful masterpieces. :)

  5. I think it's a commendable quality of yours to paint slowly and it suits your beautifully detailed style. :) I often paint too fast and don't take the care that I ought to out of impatience. I think each artist works in a way that expresses their temperament don't you think? :)Have a lovely weekend Kyra!
    Jess x


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