The Illusion of Time in Painting

Hi friends! So today I wanted to write a little tutorial-style blog post about the illusion of time in painting. A lot of beginners to painting and those unfamiliar with painting or art in general tend to think that a work of art is created in one long painting session.  We like to picture the artist infront of the canvas, painting for hours on end.  Letting all of the colours and textures come together in a fluid, magical rhapsody that results in a beautiful work of art. And while this may be true for some artists, for many it is far from the truth.

You don't have to dedicate hours of uninterrupted time to finish a painting!
You don’t have to dedicate hours of uninterrupted time to finish a painting!

In most cases, art is created in short, frequent bursts of work as opposed to a long unbroken painting session.  More like a cluster of sprints instead of one long marathon. We start a painting, go so far, then usually come to a point where we have to stop.  It could be that we need to wait for certain layer of paint to dry before we can progress, or maybe we need to stop and regroup because the painting is going in a different direction than we would like.  Or maybe we need to pause and find a new reference image for something we’ve forgotten the details of.  Or maybe we need to rest our eyes because we’ve stopped being able to see our mistakes or forms properly due to eye tiredness. Or maybe we need to pee.

A coffee break is sometimes just the break we need to continue our painting session.
A coffee break is sometimes just the break we need to continue our painting session.

The point of the matter is, one work of art is not created from start to finish without at least a few breaks somewhere in the midst.  A break could be as simple as pouring yourself a cup of coffee and returning with fresh eyes to your canvas, or it could be as long as a few days.

So don’t be discouraged if you feel your painting is “going nowhere”.  It actually takes many layers of paint (specifically with acrylics) before any real form starts to show.  So if you’ve invested a couple hours into a painting one afternoon and then need to stop to make dinner, don’t feel discouraged.  Your painting may not look very different than it did when you started working on it, but keep repeating that little painting session over the period of a week or two, and you’ll be surprised at the change that can happen.

Like many things in life, changes and progressions in paintings happen gradually, so gradually that at the time we may not notice too much of an improvement.  But after a while of continuous effort, a painting will gradually emerge, and you’ll be proud of yourself when you look back on how far you’ve come.

So paint whenever you can, even if it’s just a little 30 minute session here and there.  It will all add up, and eventually your painting will be finished, and you’ll be happy you stuck with it instead of scrapping it because you felt that it was “going nowhere”.

Have you ever struggled with this feeling? I know I have! Let me know in a comment below what you did to push through and finish your painting, and till next time, keep creating!

-Ashley <3

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