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Back in 2013 I was in the fortunate position to be able to study the show case above in a lot of depth. Does anyone remember it? I know some of you will. It was a show case in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art at Kew Gardens and it contained a record all of Rory McEwen's hours. I remember starting work early some mornings so I could just be with with them all. In this exhibition, I actually found the showcases to be more interesting than the paintings on the wall. From these note cards you could tell so much. You could see that Rory had several paintings on the go at once, you could see that he painted INCREDIBLY quickly and you could see that he probably didn't cook his meals (or had lunch at a very regular time). You could see how long his lunches were and if he was an early riser.
He tended to start at 9.30am and regularly took lunch at 1.15. Sometimes there was a tea break at 3ish, but more often than not the day gets disjointed. It's a pleasure to study these times, as his painting 'programme' looks rather like mine, and most probably like yours - there are days of procrastination, days where appointments got in the way and those days when you can see it's going incredibly well and its worth having a late night. What a detailed legacy to leave behind.
I love anything that records time. I am a big diarist (you can probably tell from this blog) and keep four diaries and one year planner (which I have just proudly made up and put on my studio wall). I am obsessed with time and the fact that there is never enough of the stuff. It really is the most precious commodity.
Inspired by this display case I decided that year to start documenting my painting hours in the same way and it began with Caroline the Coffee Plant. Sadly I didn't keep these pieces of paper as it was all written randomly on odd post-it-notes and paper scraps, but I managed to work out that I spent exactly 160 hours on the plant. This was good for me as it allowed me to gauge how long the bigger pieces take to do whilst also taking breaks and navel gazing into consideration. Something I didn't really 'time' before.
Rory McEwen's time diary
Now I write my hours very proudly in one of those dairies - just the hour slots and I am so glad that I do as it informs me. I now know how long a painting really does take and this is incredibly useful when quoting for commissions and pricing ones work. I used this technique with the Plane Tree - that's why I knew it would take roughly 160 hours to complete and that wasn't counting the time I spent on sourcing the tree and all the communication between myself and the client, which of course is also important to consider if you are on a tight schedule. Sadly my hour slots aren't as incredible as Rory's - I don't have pretty little butterflies dotted about the place - just sets of numbers - but from them one can tell that I am on a Spanish lunch time, that I go for a walk everyday and that I drink a lot of tea!