Alyson Stanfield posed a question last week on her blog. The question was how do you respond to people who ask you how long it took to create a painting. I decided to respond. My first answer was “my whole life”. After thinking about that rather curt answer, I decided to respond again.

Here’s what I said,

“Yesterday I gave the ultra short answer: My whole life. Today, I’m thinking that the question of how long did it take you to make that painting, goes to a much deeper question.

We all know that to be an M.D., a lot of schooling and practice is involved. It’s standardized. We know there is a difference in the amount and kind of training to become a G.P. and a surgeon, etc.

What does it take to be called an artist? There is no standardized way of determining this. Anyone can call themselves an artist. And who’s to say who is and who isn’t.

In addition, we live in a society where artists aren’t understood or particularly revered for the most part. Art education is not a standard offering in schools. So we have lots of people out there who say they are artists and lots of people who have no clue what that means, or how to make an educated judgment about what they are seeing.

The question of how long did it take you may be the only way a viewer can verbalize the broader questions above. Of course, when you see your doctor, and he/she spends 5 minutes with you and charges $150, you don’t question it because you are aware that it was 5 minutes plus many years of training and experience. When a person sees a piece of art, there isn’t a standard frame of reference.

I think we owe it to our viewers to try to step beyond being annoyed by the question to each of us coming up with a way of educating the public about the process of making our art. If every artist had a good, thoughtful and educational answer to that question, and helped to demystify what their art is about, it might help to reduce the chasm between the artist and the public.

I think it was Alyson who recommended the book BRAG! The Art of Tooting Your Horn Without Blowing It by Peggy Klaus. I’m reading it now. I recommend it. I’m going to use the information in it to work on my personal answer to the question of how long did it take me to make this painting? because I think it’s a really important question.