Time. In the context of art, time is invaluable.
It’s not only the time needed to execute a piece of art, though that cannot be diminished. Some aspects simply cannot be rushed. Things need to set up, or dry, before the next step. Some things just take a long time. I have collagraph plates that take more than two hours to ink and wipe, and that is just one small aspect of the printmaking process. Papers have to be dampened and wrapped about twenty-four hour before they’re used for printing. If they sit too long, depending on the conditions, they will either dry out, or mold. No matter the process or medium, things have to progress in some order.
Often, the beginning is the hardest part: sifting through ideas, letting them percolate, gathering materials, gaining momentum. It’s easy to say (it must be, because it’s repeated so often), “if you only have ten minutes for your art, just give it ten minutes,” but that ignores all of the factors that come before actual art-making. I could take ten minutes just to change out of street clothes and into the paint-spattered, medium-crusted, raggedy sweats that are reserved for the studio. I guarantee that clean-up when I’m finished will take longer than that!
People, those who don’t understand how creative work differs from many other tasks, will often ask, “How many hours would something like that take?” One friend, a quilt maker, deemed a question like that reason to end the conversation and show them the door. Others have cute answers that include all of their years of practice, education and experience. It is the question itself that is flawed; there is no right answer. Sometimes the layout goes smoothly for a drawing or painting, and the undertaking slows after that. In other circumstances, the reverse is true. I’ve spent hours, weeks, months of struggle to bring a piece of art to satisfactory conclusion. Other times, like magic, everything falls together easily, and the results shine. Time means nothing, and at the same time, it means everything.