Painting and the Relativity of Time

A Corner Of Holbeck (Detail)

Nothing in my life affects my perception of time passing more than painting activity in the studio.

I have always been a ‘fast’ draughtsman, painter, scribbler, whatever. Years of trying to sketch children who won’t sit still honed my speed skills to an unparalleled degree, and in recent years it’s served me well as I catch the poses and expressions of random strangers as they flit through my life.

So this week’s studio project for the On The Edge arts festival at Temple Works in Leeds (which I wrote about yesterday) did not seem too daunting when I originally thought of it. It seemed to me that my aim to sketch a local population albeit on a much larger scale than sketchbook size could be easily accomplished in a few days given my usual speed of execution.

But sketching on a huge scale is a very different mode of operation. I’m not using that many colours but I still have to be surrounded by paint kettles with small and large brushes in each one and the physical time and effort involved in selecting the right brush for each move is not to be underestimated. Big painting not only takes more time, but exponentially more time.

The catch though is that caught in the middle of it all, I just don’t notice. I’m frantically drawing and painting and feel myself to be storming along but then I happen to glance at the time and see three hours have gone by. I am horrified to see that it has taken three hours to paint a metre’s worth of paper. It does not seem possible. Where has time vanished to?

It’s all about relativity of time in the painting studio. Times takes on entirely different meaning. There are no other times in my life where three hours can disappear by in a flash without conscious awareness. Without a break for a coffee, or a quick peer online. On the one hand, I think this is a very positive thing in this age of constant distraction. But on the other hand… I am slightly alarmed by the time this means the work is going to take, even carried out at a frantic pace.

And on the third hand, there’s nothing like a serious tight deadline for great bursts of creativity.

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3 responses to Painting and the Relativity of Time

  1. Well to my untrained eye, it looks like you’re really moving along there. I hope you’ll keep us updated on progress!

  2. It looks wonderful! You must be very happy every time you step back and see how the scene is coming to life!

    • gillianholding – Author

      Thanks Margie! I’m at that point where I’m happy but don’t know if it’s more of a feeling of achieving something rather than the intrinsic merits of the piece. We shall see! One more day to go…

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