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
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
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.
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 Ekperigin is an associate editor of American Artist magazine.