How Long is This Going to Take?

I’m not a patient person. Years ago a friend sent me a sampler she’d cross-stitched. It said “Oh, Lord, give me patience… and give it to me now!”

Judging by the number of Facebook memes with this same thought, I’m obviously not the only one who struggles with a lack of patience.

Art has helped immensely… sometimes. With graphite drawing I can often reach that blissful “zen” state where time no longer matters. I’m relaxed. I’m at peace. I can sit contentedly making marks without even being aware  of the passing of time. I felt it first on that afternoon when I took a sketchbook to our nearby City Park and “became one with the tree.” It was a beautiful experience.

It’s happened on other occasions, too. It’s always a good feeling.

Yet despite my patience with graphite, I rarely have that “zen” experience with other media. Quite the opposite, in fact. More often than not, I want to hurry up with art. I want to get to the end and see what it all looks like. While I’m willing to slow down and take a little time with oil paintings, I’m always rushing through watercolors.

Another place where I find myself lacking patience now is with slow drawing. This is the term Amy Maricle uses for her Wednesday drawing sessions. Slow Drawing involves repetitive marks, and while I enjoyed it the first time or two, I soon found myself growing impatient. Slow drawing actually made me more anxious and unsettled. I decided it just wasn’t for me.

I researched the concept of slow art, learned a lot about our modern tendency to rush through life, and I eventually found my way back to a bit of slow drawing — but on my own terms. I use slow drawing now and then in my “Going in Circles” sketchbook. I sit with markers, pens, a circle stencil, and I take my time making circles here and there across the page. It can be relaxing… up to a point.

Earlier this month I made a small little “circle doodle” in my sketchbook. This was done with a pencil one morning as I was getting ready to start my day. It’s actually a very small doodle, taking up less than a quarter of a page.

I liked this little doodle. Maybe that’s why I chose to leave it just the way it was. Somehow, in its own way, it felt complete. I was satisfied with it. I’d happily filled a few minutes of my morning and had created something I found interesting.

About this same time, I began thinking — seriously — about my “Going in Circles” sketchbook. When I started the project, I was amused by the idea of filling an entire sketchbook with nothing but circles. What a fun way to start each day in the art studio!

I do enjoy the sketchbook, and once I’ve finished this one, I plan to take another theme and use it for another sketchbook. At the same time, however, a bit of impatience is kicking in. Just how long is it going to take to fill this sketchbook? There are 60 pages in the book. At first I was using both sides of the pages, but as I began working with markers and gansai, I realized that was impractical. I’m now using only the front sides, so, realistically I should finish this sketchbook within two months.

Of course, I don’t always complete a page a day. Sometimes I have other things happening. Sometimes I’m eager to get started on another project instead of doodling in my sketchbook. Sometimes I just don’t feel like drawing more circles! I’m guessing it will probably be the end of March before I’ve completed my circle theme.

One thing that has stopped me in my tracks is this drawing, shown here in a very incomplete state. It is, you can see, a larger version of the small “circle doodle” shown above, this time drawn using ink.

I began this with excitement. I’d loved my first little circle-doodle. Now, I would do an entire page! I would happily make my freehand circles in all different sizes, and I would fill in the in-between spaces with ink, and I would absolutely love the results! That was my thinking at the start.

But soon I was tired of doing circles. Soon I was tired of filling in spaces. Soon I was asking myself, How long is this going to take? The answer is a long, long time.

I work on this page a little now and then, adding more of the dark “fill-in” between circles. I’ve decided I’m not making any more circles. I have enough. I no longer want to fill the entire page. I just want to slowly keep at it, finishing what I’ve started, and — hopefully — day by day, learning to have a little more patience.

I think it’s a good exercise — not so much for art work but for slowing down and developing more patience. I think, too, that this is a question I might ask myself more often before beginning an art project. How long is this going to take?

That’s an important question, really. If I’m not willing to invest a proper amount of time for a project, then maybe it’s not a project I want to do. What happens often is that I’ll start a project and if it’s taking too long, I’ll get impatient and rush through it. At other times, I rush through projects from the beginning, simply because I’m expecting to fail… so, might as well just hurry it up and be done with it. Rushing through an art project has been one of my defense mechanisms, allowing me to say, “Well, it would have been better if I’d taken more time.”

So, again, being willing to slow down now and then and to invest a bit of time in a drawing or painting is definitely a good thing. Sometimes I can do it; sometimes I can’t.

Maybe the important thing is knowing how much time should go into an art project. Some things should be quick and easy; some drawings and paintings — and doodles, too — require more time to complete. That’s just how it is, really.

But, again, this is something I’m going to take into consideration. How long will it take to complete this project, to the best of my ability? Am I willing to invest that time? Or would I rather use my time for a different project? 

Today I’m going to celebrate every moment, to think about how I’m spending my time. I’m going to be more aware of the priorities I set and the choices I make. Time is precious. Let’s learn to use it wisely.




  1. My own version of slow drawing is not lines or circles – it’s taking FOREVER on a piece. No matter how far I progress, I can always see more detail to add or something to erase and revise. If I were actually trying to finish a work, it would drive me crazy. So I keep my drawing pad in my bag and take it out when I am waiting – at the doctor’s office, on an airplane, at a restaurant – and work on it a little at a time. Now that is relaxing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve done that with a few graphite drawings, and yes, it really can be relaxing! I think the “slow drawing” with lines or shapes becomes frustrating for me because I start to feel that I’m just doodling and wasting time. If I’m doing a “real” drawing, I can feel a sense of accomplishment no matter how long it takes.


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