Ford's normal response to this question is one borrowed from Picasso, which is "about 60 years". At first, that may seem like a strange, non-answer, but upon closer scrutiny, it's the basic truth behind most masters of any genre.
You could say that Ford's art career began with childhood sketches that demonstrated notable talent that led to art lessons, that led to a university degree in Fine Art and Painting, that led to 25 years as a photographer (studying composition and light), that led to his eventual return to painting.
As a professional artist for the past 18 years, Ford has spent hundreds of thousands of hours focused on painting, experimenting, practicing, imagining and perfecting his technique and artistry. Every phase that led to his world-renowned art career--every hour--contributed to the extraordinary and masterful art that he creates today.
"How long does it take to create a painting?" is a question that most artists are asked, but it's often a complex one to answer. Aside from the time invested that it takes to get to the point where you can create magic from a blank canvas, some paintings take days to paint and others take months. Ford has some paintings that he started a decade ago that he finished just last year. As a comparison, think of some of the world's greatest songs or melodies that were created by musicians in minutes while others take months or years. A talented rookie might get lucky every now and then, but generally speaking, it's the true master or genius who creates high art in an abbreviated period.
Visitors to Ford Smith's studio will always find several paintings in various stages of "doneness", and it's rare for him to stay faithful to one painting from start to finish without working on others as new ideas come to him. His theory is why waste a great concept that comes to mind just because you've been working on another painting?
Ford Smith follows different creative paths with nearly every painting, drifting from canvas to canvas as the mood strikes him. Creating paintings from his more labor-intensive or tight mosaics means that he's likely to have a more free-form, splash series type of painting somewhere in the studio so he can stay loose and mentally rejuvenated with every brushstroke. It's mind-cleansing for him to switch subject matters on a whim, and that's what he's has been doing a lot of this summer as he allows inspiration to drive him. Seeing Ford transition from sweeping landscapes to intricate cityscapes demonstrates this very well.
In fact, Ford's unique painting process has an easy fluidity, regardless of the subject matter, so he wants the entire act of painting to feel natural and unforced. This lends a relaxed vibe to each of his paintings, despite the vibrant palettes, complex compositions and intricate details. In his own words, "I don't want to overthink a painting or get stressed out in it's creation, because I think that translates onto the canvas." Viewers of his work often feel infused with a radiant serenity that, in part, is derived from this process and artistic goal.
Remember that almost 100% of Ford's paintings are created without any references, studies, sketches or photographs, which is quite unusual in the art industry. He often paints with no plan in mind at all. He uses paint, water and gravity to inspire a vision. Over the years, we would see artists and art students walk into a gallery, study his paintings and be blown away to learn Ford paints "out of his head" yet he still gets light, shadow and perspective so perfectly.
Moreover, this spontaneous method of painting means every Ford Smith painting is created entirely from his imagination, which helps explain the profound emotional connection that viewers feel for his work. It's as if Ford invites the viewer to peek behind the curtain and get to know his artistic psyche, igniting and engaging their own creative sensibilities in the process.
So how long does it take for Ford Smith to create a painting? Every month the world is lucky enough to receive about 3 to 5 new paintings from his studio. But perhaps the best answer to the question comes from the artist himself when he adds, "A lifetime."
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