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How Long Does It Take to Paint a Cat Portrait?

That’s a tricky question, because as I gain experience through practice, something that once took 1 hour to paint, can take 20 minutes… and something that used to take 20 minutes to finish, can now take 2 hours.
Why?

Because while some processes become easier and faster with practice, I do like to pay attention to little details and spend more time on certain areas of the portrait. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, although my portraits are by no means perfect. I don’t like to call a piece finished until I’m certain that nothing more can be done to improve it (or ruin it, lol).

My daughter often watches me painting, and asks “Aren’t you done with her face yet? You’ve been going over that same spot for an hour.”

The time involved depends on the subject itself, and some questions I usually ask:

  • Am I painting a solid color cat or a multi-colored one?
  • Is the background simple or filled with extra items?
  • How much clothing is seen, and how detailed is the fabric/trim?
  • Is the cat wearing any jewelry, flowers, or hair accessories?
  • What are the measurements of the piece?

Another thing that must be considered is that my creative time is balanced by family obligations, household management, and other aspects of running this little business: photographing items, posting them online, printing my art, and *a-hem* socializing with customers on my Facebook page… :P

I don’t sit in my studio and paint all day, unfortunately.

One final thing that determines how long a project will take is my devotion to the subject… and that is something which I cannot measure tangibly in hours.
If I feel passionate about a piece, I can work feverishly and finish in a matter of hours. If, however, the piece isn’t speaking to me personally, it takes a lot to motivate me to keep going.

When the portrait is a commission, my knowledge that a customer is waiting anxiously for me to finish is usually motivation enough. If I started painting it on a whim, sometimes the inspiration gets lost, and I’ll chuck it into my closet “to finish later”.

The art closet is also known as my “cat portrait cemetery” due to all the dead ideas waiting to be remembered.

Two examples

I started my 8″x10″ portrait of Anne Boleyn (from my Tudor Cats Collection) on a Saturday afternoon, at the Urbana Music and Arts Festival in Frederick, MD. She was a blank white canvas when I arrived and set up my tent. When the show ended six hours later, the customers were gone, and it was time to pack everything up, she was 2/3 complete.
I finished her the following day.

In contrast, my 8″x10″ portrait of Jane Seymour (from the same series) was started on Saturday, July 6th, at the Carroll County Farmer’s Market. I worked on her off-and-on over a period of two weeks, including over five hours on Saturday the 13th. She was finished on the 20th.

I’ve completed some paintings in under eight hours, and others have taken over two months.

So if you are looking to commission me for a custom cat portrait, I estimate that it will take 4-6 weeks to complete.
And if the gift is for Christmas, please contact me sooner rather than later… say, in August or September. My life and work gets really hectic around the holidays, and likely yours does as well! ;)


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Tara Fly

About Tara Fly

A Crazy Cat Lady ... who divides her time between painting portraits of cats dressed in period costumes, watching BBC mini-series, growing weeds and wildflowers, and baking pumpkin pies seasoned with cat hair. Would you like some fur-flavoured coffee?

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