How long does it take to make a painting?


People often ask me how long it takes me to make a painting. That’s a tricky question. While I was working on this one, which is 3 x 5 feet, I kept noticing more and more vestiges of other things I’ve made for the past 15+ years. I’ve been painting since I was a little kid, so it probably goes back further than that. This is a visual genealogy of how this particular painting came to be. Unfortunately, I can’t include the first image in this progression because it is documented in slide form and doesn’t exist on the internet. Kids these days wouldn’t understand. You’ll have to take my word for it. I made it in 2001.


I made a lot of things between 2001 and 2003, but I was an undergraduate at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and most of my earlier paintings were so bad we don’t need to talk about them.


"Everything Is There 1" Oil on canvas, 36" x 60" 2017

Clouds, Stones, and Red Seaweed

Oil on panel, 11 x 14 circa 2004, Brooke Lanier


“Capillary Exchange I” ink drawing on vintage x-ray light box, 2006, available.

People kept telling me I should make these drawings, which took a hundred million years using a micron pen, into paintings. That requires using a brush, which needs constant reloading with paint.

This is the first painting that I painted with detailed, linear patterning. It took me another 8 years before I had enough patience to attempt it again.

I stopped calling my friends because they bored me.” 2007. Oil on canvas, I 4 x 6 feet. The text is written in Braille. Available for purchase.


“Tributary I” monotype screenprint and thread on panel, 6″ x 6″, 2008. Private collection. Other works in this series available.

I achieved a similar effect by embedding gauzy thread into ink, then removing some of it.


“Portrait of Hudson” 40″ x 40″ mixed media, 2009. Private collection

This one uses controlled drips and pours rather than brushwork to create a network of lines and a sense of depth.


“The Passthrough.”oil on canvas, 91″ x 44″, 2014. Collection of the Honeywell corporation, New York, NY

I learned how to prepare pristinely smooth surfaces so that my brushes glided more nicely and the canvases weren't so absorbent. I also used more panels for this reason. That made line work and fine detail less frustrating, and I got more involved in things like painting each individual reed in this image.



“Weedscape 1”60″ x 36″ oil on canvas, 2015. Collection of the Aramark Building, Philadelphia, PA

In the Weedscapes series, I began using translucent underpainting and painting and adding the shadows gradually to preserve a sense of luminosity. The lightest colors were actually the first portions of the painting applied.


… and that brings us to the original painting in this post. . There were many, many other things that didn’t get included in this list. I also had to do a lot of on-site staring, photography, and painting on location before I got to the point where I wanted to stretch and prime a canvas.

I address all the prep work and more parts-and-labor issues in my blog post “A Sandwich That Would Kill You: The Reasons Paintings Are So Expensive.”This may or may not answer the question of how long it takes to make a painting, but hopefully it gives you some insight into my process.

“The Underneath,” Oil on panel, 24" x 18" 2016. Available for purchase.


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