Saw a blog by another artist on this topic awhile ago, with a different bent than where I plan to go with the topic, but it reminded me that this is a subject near and dear to my heart. A couple years ago, I was sketching at a restaurant in San Diego, and someone asked me “You just did that now?! How long did it take you?” When I responded “About 30 minutes,” the comment came back, somewhat sarcastically, “Must be nice!” It got me thinking.
I needed to come up with a better answer to convey that it was really more than that thirty minutes… I’ve been drawing most of my life, which by now is a few decades… and I have put in tons of time and effort into the process of learning and practicing. When I was a kid, I spent a considerable amount of my allowance money on “Learn to Draw” books and would copy things from them. Growing up, I also took various art and drawing classes through parks and recreation programs and anywhere else they may have been offered. In college I took extra classes as it was something I enjoyed and wanted to be better at doing, and something I thought I needed to do well to become an architect. Still, I continue to practice when I can, and especially like to capture my impressions when I travel to new places, both by camera and by sketchbook.
I had a talk with a musician friend about this too. He said he gets many of the same kinds of comments, “Must be nice you have that gift of music.” He said it also frustrates him when people comment in this way. People don’t seem to get that there were years when he would practice as much as six hours a day to learn to play as well as he does, day in, day out. So yes, it is gift, but also a developed skill.
So I came up with a new answer for the “How long did it take you to do that?” question, “30 minutes and 30 years of practice.” And people seem to get it.