RSS Author RSS     Views:N/A
Bookmark and Share          Republish

Photorealism, as the genre is called, is an art form in itself and demands immense patience and inordinate skill to accomplish. The genre has always been controversial among those in the 'Art World' who believe that oils are the only medium, and abstract the only genre, worth respect. They argue that the use of a lens, a mirror or a photograph is somehow cheating and that an artist should rely entirely on his eyesight and skill. They ignore in their arguments such devices as the rules of perspective and grids, which can be used to transfer an image to a canvas. They also forget that when an artist holds up his thumb, he is actually measuring distances. So these critics are exercising a good deal of hypocrisy in their rebuttals.

As David Hockney pointed out in his book 'Secret Knowledge', optical devices such as the Camera Obscura, a kind of pinhole camera, and the Camera Lucida, a system of mirrors which enabled the artist to copy exactly what he saw in front of him, have been used for centuries. The first mention of a pinhole camera was in China 400 years BC! By 600 AD, scientists were experimenting with the Camera Obscura, which it is thought even Leonardo da Vinci may have used. Hockney argues that such great artists as Vermeer, Van Eyck, Carpaggio and Canaletto all used it - and although there is very little concrete evidence of that, there is certainly a massive amount of circumstantial evidence to support the theory. Indeed, why would artists not use it? The quest for artists was, and always has been, how best to achieve the greatest accuracy in their paintings.

Today's digital and SLR cameras are merely part of a technical progression from the Cameras Obscura and Lucida. As Hockney also points out, no matter how sophisticated a camera may be, "a lens can't draw a line. Only the hand can do that". So in my view, those who believe there is 'no point inf merely copying a photograph' should try themselves to do so in all the photograph's infinite detail. They would soon find themselves faced with a challenge as great, if not greater, than that faced by the Old Masters. Realism is not just about copying what is there. It is about passion, patience and a desire to reproduce the beauty of the world around us as well as to fulfill the artists’ true duty - to record history. Painting realistically is not merely a matter of slavishly copying a photograph. It demands enormous skill and zeal as well as a sense of wanting to preserve a moment in time, whether as a portrait, landscape, cityscape, seascape or simply a vignette of Nature.

For my own part, I tend to paint from Nature because I believe people want - indeed, crave - a sense of stillness and beauty in this hectic world. When I look at abstract art, in 99% of all cases, I get the feeling that the artist is painting in an abstract style because he or she cannot draw, and lacks the patience, passion and ability to paint what they see. This being the case, they feel it necessary to attack Realism and Photorealism because they do not have the technique or skills to express themselves. To paint a 24 x 14 inch painting in Photorealistic style can take several weeks, working five hours a day. To create the kind of abstract rubbish one finds on Ebay can be achieved in less than an hour.

So Realism is not dead - not by a long way. To the contrary, there is increasing evidence that the public are rejecting the art of the "Art World Philistines" who to claim the opposite. Modern, abstract art, they believe, has reached the end of the road. The so-called art of Tracy Emin, Damian Hirst and their ilk, whose success largely depends on the ability to shock and push boundaries beyond the pale, may well turn out to be a very, very expensive house of cards. Many collectors, critics and artists believe that one day, that house will collapse. To those who doubt this, I suggest 'Googling' "Photorealism" and see how art collectors - and the general public - are increasingly reverting to the idea that excellence in art - good art - will always hold its value! Consider this, too: the National Gallery's recent exhibition of Photorealistic paintings drew more visitors than the Canaletto exhibition adjacent to it.

Personally, I do not paint in a photorealistic style – although some of my paintings look ‘photographic. I do often paint from a series of photographs to compose one new subject. The creative process begins with the camera because that is when I create the perspective and composition of the subject. Later, I may project the overall image onto a board or canvas or use a grid system to do so. But I consider it essential to have a sense of perspective, proportion, light and shade, so once the basic outline drawing is on the canvas or board, I apply the colours as I see fit, remaining only vaguely true to the original reference photograph, for it is through perspective, colour and my own method of detailing that I retain my uniqueness and place an individual stamp on the painting.

Report this article
This article is free for republishing

Bookmark and Share

Ask a Question about this Article