This must be the question that I have been asked the most. At a workshop with young people, there are no hidden calculations beyond their curiosity about the time that it takes to create a particular painting. The perception of time for children and teens is so different but equally amusing. No matter what my answer is, there is always a wow! effect. Children think that 40 hours is a year-long endeavor and most teens rolled their eyes envisioning a tedious life of boredom or superhuman concentration.
Usually, adults fall in to two main groups when asking the same question: people that have no clue about the process of making art, and people that think they know what it should take based on their experience. In the back of their heads though, they are always doing the math. If they have not learned the price of the artwork yet, they feel the need to know it even if they will never buy the artwork. Because, if they have the numbers, they can fill in the variables of this equation: (price of art) / (time) = $ per hour. Then, their minds start wandering mostly silently. “Can he make a living doing this?… Does he make more than me? … Is he getting paid enough?… Is this overpriced?… Is this a good investment?… ”and they go down the rabbit hole a mile deep in a few seconds.
I paint faster than the average artist. However, other than creating a larger body of work in the same period, I do not have an advantage or a disadvantage when creating pieces with better or lower quality than my peers do. Production time is not the main factor to assess the quality of art or the skill of the artist. But it is often correlated with value. I won’t lie for the sake of making the equation work in my favor and because my recall abilities are not great, and I can’t keep track of lies easily. My time and price of art numbers when plugged in the calculation warp the result. It has hindered more than a few sales for sure.
After years of selling my art in different venues and interacting with all sorts of audiences, I learned a simple way to answer that question:
“It took me a long time to paint that piece. I started painting when I was around 10 years old. So, it took me around 40 years of experience and 40 hours to create that piece.”
It might feel a bit passive aggressive, or bit bragging but it is the truth. Definitively, it gives some perspective to any potential ensuing conversation.