How long should an image take to create?
Perhaps the most frequently asked question I receive is “how long did that take you to do?” While the question is simple enough, I think it skirts around some rather interesting concepts that we rarely consider on a day to day basis, but nevertheless have tremendous bearing on efficiency, especially as illustrators.
What I mean by that is this: in day to day living, particularly in my country of residence, time is a very precious commodity. People are paid by the hour, schedules take on almost dogmatic importance, and tasks that take up a lot of time can be viewed as too hard or too boring to take on because the use of time is daunting. I may be conjecturing a little, but I think I am communicating the basic idea that time is valuable, and so when someone asks me “how long did that take you?,” I interpret the question as “how much is this piece worth.”
While I don’t intend to delve into the value of a piece, perceived or otherwise, I do think the responsibility of an illustrator is to manage how they use their time on a piece to maximize output. For instance, it is my opinion that an illustrator should be very in tune with how long it takes them to complete a task. Not necessarily so that they can answer the ‘chronic’ question, but more as a basis for practical tasks. How to quote clients, provide accurate estimates, and analyzing how time is used, are some such tasks. Knowing those figures helps me on a daily basis know how to manage my workday, evaluate what tasks are the most important, and whether or not a particular task took longer than necessary. It is also revelatory in that it can shed light on if time was squandered or if there are possible shortcuts to solve a problem.
So, in summation, whether or not it takes you a long time to complete a piece or if you can pound them out is irrelevant. What is important is how you use your time, and if that use of time increases output or the value of what is being created and whether or not your use of time is conducive to the completion of a given task, such as 20 environment illustrations within a month.