Life As YOU Know It

18 Jul 2012

When an artist chooses to work representationally, he or she inevitably has to take a stance on the use of photographs and the artistic merits of photorealism. Whether perusing a workshop catalog or engaged in a debate with fellow colleagues, the question of "what's real?" will never be definitively answered.

From the Editors of American Artist magazine
I got to thinking about this after receiving a letter from a reader who was displeased with the tight photorealism featured on the cover of a recent issue of Watercolor magazine. Transparent watercolor painting is known, and often sought out, for its unpredictability, looseness, and painterly results. With drips, blooms, brushmarks, and sometimes even brush bristles visible on the completed fine arts watercolor painting, the artist found the idea of a photorealistic watercolor to undermine the medium itself.

In his workshops,  Robert Silverman shows students how to use grids, a viewfinder, and other tools to help clarify their vision, demonstrating that even when working from life, tools are useful for encouraging greater expressivity.
In his workshops,  Robert Silverman
shows students how to use grids, a
viewfinder, and other tools to help
clarify their vision, demonstrating
that even when working from life,
tools are useful for encouraging
greater expressiveness.
And I get that. After all, if you want to capture something perfectly, don't do manually what a machine has already mastered. In other words: Take a picture, it'll last longer. And it'll be a heck of a lot quicker.

Matching color value and temperature to what one observes is just one of many ways to depict the world as you see it. Photo by Joe Vinson.
Matching color value and temperature to what
one observes is just one of many ways to
depict the world as you see it. Photo by Joe Vinson.
But what if, when you're looking at an exquisite sunset, you'd rather sit and revel in nature's glory instead of breaking open your pochade box and rushing to accurately note color relationships? Or what if the crispness of a photograph, with its sharp, hyper-pigmented colors, is what took your breath away to begin with? Maybe it's that unrelenting fish-eyed lens that, for one artist, really captures a sitter's sense of whimsy or mischief?

I guess what I want to add to the never-ending discussion of "what is real?" is this: For someone who simply enjoys the act of putting brush to canvas, pastel to paper, or thoughtfully mixing color, perhaps it is the process that is the most real, the most lifelike, and the most important.

What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know!

--Naomi

Naomi Ekperigin is an associate editor of American Artist magazine.

 

 

 


Related Posts
+ Add a comment

Comments

vince wrote
on 19 Jul 2012 5:49 PM

When you listen to an acoustic guitar player you sometimes hear the sound of the fingers running across the strings which is, like the drips and blooms, just the nature of the beast. It may not be a part of the music as written but it is part of the ambiance created, it's still art.   Sometimes you may get a player with a cleaner sound and hear only the music rendered based on the musician's interpretation, enhanced or limited by their skill level. You have artistry either way. Some artists prefer more control others less. It's still art.

KatPaints wrote
on 22 Jul 2012 8:26 AM

Technique and the concept or intention are integral to the work. If someone chooses to copy a photo (that they took) or a still life exactly, what is the intention of the artist? What are they expressing or saying to the audience? They may have shown mastery at understanding color, value, proportion, but where are the visible marks that reveal the artist? Where is the design? mood? or element that separates them from being a flesh and blood photocopier?

I used to do this; it was easier to create because I simply needed to draw or paint exactly what I saw. I didn't need to make any decision of what to leave out, what to exaggerate, which edge to lose or which to make hard. Photorealism is a technical pursuit in which design is not always needed.

There are photorealists with exceptional work. They have planned out and designed their composition, expressed a mood, and created a concept. (see Daniel Sprick) To those individuals, they have transcended their skill into an art.

With this being said what about the sloshy realist paintings that have poor value or overworked areas compensated by good use of color or interesting patterns. We just call them bad art or like them because of "the energy." Somehow form, proportion, and value has escaped these artists.  They are at the other end of the spectrum away from photorealists. Yet, photorealists get picked on. It's as if we know they have the skill, but question their aesthetic judgement and subject matter.

nicseARTh wrote
on 26 Apr 2014 7:53 PM

I think the process is the most important to the artist in my own experience.  I'm currently going through an experimental phase with medium and technique because my work trends to be detailed and realistic (but not in the league of photo realism) and I was getting to the point where halfway through a piece I just wanted to be finished and wasn't enjoying the process because it was taking so long to create the tiniest detail. Now I'm experimenting with more expressionistic art using impasto in acrylics. I'm really enjoying the process with palette knives and a freer style-the finished result is so very subjective anyway whereby some will think it amazing and some will think it rubbish that surely the most important thing is that the artist is enjoying creating the art?