question how longPeople have asked this question to me many times. They often ask me personally, How long did it take you to draw/paint that? My natural inclination is to tell them exactly how long, in technical terms. I often reply with This painting took me about two weeks. Of course, most of my larger paintings take much longer. Plus, the fact that I create several artworks simultaneously, makes it more difficult to quantify an exact time.

So, I have been thinking about different ways to answer this question. It is a valid question after all. The person asking is obviously interested in hearing what I have to say. But, in stating an exact time, I am a little worried about the impression it might give.


  1. This drawing took me one hour to complete

    The person asking may think my drawing is not worth as much as one that took me a full day. The quality may be less, but expressive drawings are often produced very fast and convey more emotion. Should it sell for a cheaper price just because it was created faster?

  2. This painting took me a full month

    I have a few paintings that took a month to create. There is even one that I have worked on for the past 3 years, and I am just putting on the finishing touches. But, it is impossible for me to say exactly how much time I spent creating. On one day I may work on a certain painting for a few hours, then place it back so the paint may dry, before reworking. I may not return to that painting for a couple days or more. Most of the time I like to create a few artworks simultaneously.

    If I give this answer in this case I fear I may not be entirely truthful.

Can you see the dilemma? I think most artists have had to deal with this question.


sands of timeMany people only see the time it takes to create an artwork. They do not see all the training that led up to that particular piece.

It takes skill to create a work of art. That skill often does not come naturally. Most artists have to work at it for years. A painting that is created today may be the result of years of training, along with experimentation, trying new techniques, not to mention all the money spent on art supplies on the way.


So, here I am now, exploring better answers to the question, ones that will be accurate and honest for my art.



Answers to: How Long Did it Take You to Create This?


surreal clockI took 42 years to paint this. Every painting and experience I did before led up to this creation.

Many artists have given this answer, but it may be a little disappointing to some. There are many who are genuinely interested in how much time it takes to create a painting. They may be impressed with the artwork, and may be dissatisfied when they do not get a straight, honest answer.

I don’t know

A simple I don’t know, without an explanation, may actually be harmful to the artist’s reputation. The person asking deserves an answer, even if there may not be a good intention behind the question. As artists, we should be prepared to answer difficult questions about our art.


I don’t know how long it took. I work on several pieces at the same time, and it’s hard to tell. I just keep working on it till it’s perfect.

This is how I have decided to answer from now on.

How have you answered this question?



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  1. Since my work is done in a kiln, I usually switch the answer around to kiln time ... three fusings, each taking 18 to 24 hours. "The price of my work equals the price of my electricity," I tell them with a laugh. They usually relate to that. And that leads to an answer for those asking for a discount ... "Sure, if you can offer me a discount on my electricity bill."

  2. @TurtleCreek Art Glass
    That's a great way to answer the question.. and is sure to lighten the mood!

  3. That is a tough question, most times also as you shared Graham I am working on several things at once and usually don't keep track of time on anything, unless it is a commission with a deadline.
    I have pieces that have been in progress for over a year, but the actual time spent on them is only hours, but the time on the wall staring at them until they start to speak to me IS part of the process.

  4. "How long did that take you?" can also just be a conversation opener. it sounds to me like how long something took to create is a story in and of itself. if the answer has that many facets, give them the longer story. tell them of the multiple facets of time it takes to create a piece. on the practical side, people also tend to buy a story, in more ways than one.

  5. I usually work on several paintings at once, also, and I tell people that, so I cannot really give a good answer. If someone is being snotty I get snotty back and tell them it took me as long as it took me.

  6. Same answer as most people for me - I have several paintings on the go at once, so I don't really keep track. I often point out the other work that went in to a painting though (research, sketches etc), so the questioner can see it's not just about actual painting time. Sometimes I answer by relating it to a type of work: a quick sketch might be minutes, a painting could be hours or days or a portrait might be a number of sittings. As long as I'm answering the question with respect and honesty I think that's acceptable to most people.

  7. I haven't been asked that question yet, but your answer was a very good one. I'll remember that for later.

  8. There are several ways I have considered answering that question.

    Time is relative and a theory at best, but my art is tangible and unique, just like you.

    It took me several nervous breakdowns, years of therapy, and that was just K-12th grade. Should I go on? How much time have you got? Can I get a hug after this?

    You mean, it matters to you how long it took me to create this?
    I've never been asked that question before. I'm honored.
    I don't time myself... should I? Maybe I should compete to see how fast I can create something, and sell it really cheap.

    The Truth:
    All of my art takes but less than a nanosecond from inception to creation.
    I have no awareness of the time I spend until it is done. The world ceases to exist sometimes when I am creating.

    All I know is when it is done, I cannot imagine it any different than how it has turned out.

    Mark Kulaga (koogz)

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