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Updated: Aug 19, 2021

To answer this question, we have to figure out why this is a relevant question...who needs to know this and why? We artists after all know the answers to this... we do it every day. Or at least plan to do it every day... or every other week. (see my article on inspiration!)

This is a relevant question because other people want to know this. Possibly our clients, family, friends and the general public who either think that it’s a very easy thing to do (those who want a discount) or nay impossible (either those who would sooner buy an electric dog polisher than a painting or those who will pay us a fair sum because they understand that it’s hard).

So, here’s what artists know:

This of course assuming that you’ve purchased paint, paper, brushes, pencils, canvasses, easels, booze and the zillion other bits and bobs required at great cost (good art material and equipment is expensive as is good booze). And that you have a fully equipped, well-lit studio or, at the very least, a dedicated space in which to be creative.

Every painting is a process... starting with making the difficult choice of subject...what am I going to paint? Would it be achievable, can I do it? If your next meal depends on it, will someone buy this? Will Joe Bloggs Artist sue me if I pinch just a teeny, weenie bit of his idea? Then, how big or small, what medium, portrait or landscape?

Then the tense stand-off between the artist and the blank paper or canvass. The empty space challenging you to dare apply paint to its pristine surface, reminding you how much it costs. Good watercolour paper costs around R400 for less than a square meter... not sure about canvasses but I know that artist acquaintances of mine must occasionally consider street walking or drug dealing to fund this expense.

Every single painting, big or small, requires many big decisions and hundreds of smaller ones. Each stroke is a willful decision. That on its own is why the creation of a work of art is so very tiring, almost exhausting. It is mentally taxing. This might sound melodramatic, but it is so... that’s why you might occasionally find me taking a nap in the middle of painting... essential recharging of my batteries you understand.

Then, during the making of the painting there is the fear that you’re about to make a fatal error and negate hours of effort. Oil or acrylic painters (grease monkeys) can overpaint and scrape and manhandle the paint in order to fix it but that is so much more difficult for watercolourists.... a serious error can mean the end of the painting rendering it good only for starting tonight’s barbecue fire. At this point I will take a walk around my garden giving serious thought to finding an easier career.

Then there is the mental toll endured by family. The moody phases when uncertainty looms large. The loud cussing echoing through the house and indeed, on occasion, across the entire neighbourhood. And the resulting looks of pity from Bob and Thelma from next door. The worry about finances...will all that walking about in the garden result in a serious budget cut next month?

This my friends, is a blood, sweat and tears job. Indeed, every piece literally contains some of the artist’s DNA. You really are buying a piece of the artist.

And yes, there are easier jobs. But there aren’t many as fulfilling and satisfying and that’s why we do it every day... or every other week.

Johan Brink © May 2021

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