I’ve become a very slow painter. Most of the artists I know paint much faster than I do. There’s a price for the time it takes me to complete a painting. I can’t really charge any more for a painting than a peer artist, so I’m getting a lot less per hour than those who can get it done more quickly. But I believe there are huge rewards in my slower pace.
I’m capable of painting faster. In fact, when I take a group of students out on a plain air excursion, I have to get things down quickly on the canvas, in order to show them as much of the total process, as possible. Plein air painting, in general, demands that you paint at a rabid pace, as light changes quickly and you usually have limited time at the given location. But to be honest, it’s rare when I don’t rework these efforts, from reference photos I’d taken, back in the studio.
So why do I paint slowly, if I’m capable of the faster painting? Well, my lab professor back at Chouinard, Hal Kramer, used to quote one of his old professors (who’s name, sorry, I’ve long since forgotten), “Work slow to finish fast.”
So what did he mean by this? I believe what he was saying was that taking your time promotes high concentration on the task at hand and avoids mistakes, leading to getting the project right the first time, without need of time consuming changes.
Being the good soldier that I was, I took the suggestion to heart and, over time, incorporated the approach in my process. Working at a slower pace allows me to analyze my progress at given intervals and determine whether or not I’m happy with or want to change my direction, at that juncture. It also assures that I’m listening to what the painting and my brush are telling me, not missing those happy accidents that occur along the way. Accidents that become new approaches in my quiver. When I paint quickly, I’ve noticed I tend to rely on skills I’m well accomplished with, avoiding experimentation in order to get it all down rapidly and directly, missing out on the growth working more slowly offers. I believe this leads to my growing, as an artist, over time.
Consider slowing down. What have you got to lose? If doing so doesn’t deliver for you all it has for me, you can always pick up the pace again!