An Overview Of Photorealism

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As a genre, Photorealism incorporates the use of photography in capturing graphic information to produce a painting of photographic quality.

This style of painting developed in the late 1960’s as a backlash to Abstract Expressionism, which had previously dominated the painting scene for a number of years.

Various offshoots developed in ensuing decades. This includes Hyper-Realism, Super-Realism, New Realism, Verism and Sharp Focus Realism, which may be included in the broad genre of Photorealism.

Photorealism is not limited to any particular subject matter, although it often depicts daily settings and ordinary objects.

The Subject Is The Objective

A photorealistic painting can include any subject. The unifying element is the realism incorporated into the piece. Fodder for the artist’s brush can be a landscape, a still life or a portrait. Many subjects are the mundane brought into abrupt, larger than life sharp-focus vision by the artist’s hand. This juxtaposition of the everyday items made heroic is ironic in that it elevates the stature of the commonplace. A photorealistic artist often works in series during his quest to examine a place or an object or time. He may tell a story or portray a history surrounding a group of objects or places.

The Mechanics Of The Illustration

Photorealism uses a mechanical or semi-mechanical method to transfer the drawing to the canvas, board or paper. The drawing may be produced with a projector, by the grid method or using transfer paper. Artistic license in the production of the picture is not acceptable.

Photorealistic paintings are frequently painted larger-than-life. The artist will take as many photos as necessary to preserve and record his composition. Then comes the sometimes-daunting task of culling out selections in search of the one perfect photo from which the work will be painted. He then transfers the image to his canvas or paper. The inexpensive cost of a photo projector makes it an easy task to copy the projected image. A more primitive, but accepted method is to use a grid work to transmit the likeness. Copying the photo using transfer paper is a third method employed to render the composition. These methods can easily be learned in basic drawing classes.

Method To The Madness

Although these paintings are typically done with oil or acrylic, watercolor and pastels as well as other media may be used to create photorealistic art. Some artists incorporate airbrush into the paintings, as this technique has the ability to lay in large areas with the finest of mists, and achieve other effects that are unique to the airbrush process.

The artist must have a well-based knowledge of all aspects of his medium and its use. He should know exactly how his medium performs on the support and have an absolute knowledge of color. He must be able to use his tools with precision, as an extension of his hand, to be able to create a world with no evidence of the tools required to build it. This world does not allow painterly strokes to interfere with the viewer’s enjoyment.

Before commencing on the painting, the artist may do many preliminary watercolor sketches to work out composition concerns and study the color choices he has made. These sketches can save time when work on the painting begins, as these paintings can consume months of time before completion.

Once the sketches are done and the final drawing is complete, the artist will begin work on his painting, using reference photos and his sketches as guides. The artist often chooses to employ a grisaille underpainting to begin his work. This monochromatic layer sets the stage for the subsequent color. A photorealistic painting is heavily glazed, using many layers to achieve the luminosity and depth of color necessary to make the subject believable. Evidence of brush strokes is eradicated, and the finish will become smooth and free of texture. For this reason, the support will not be a textured one.

Larger Than Life, And Then Some

Photorealist artists often depict their subjects far larger than life size. They create the proverbial mountain out of molehills with a purpose. The café saltshaker and ketchup bottle may be several feet tall or a flower may be a yard in diameter. This gargantuan portrayal gives them the space to clearly define and explore the characteristics of specific details of the subject. While a miniaturist must delete extraneous detail to convey the shape within a small space, the artist working on a very large scale can refine details down to the smallest speck.

Photorealism is not everyone’s idea of fine art. There are those who deride it, maintaining that the photographic replication invalidates it as true art.

A large part of the art viewing public begs to differ and are enchanted and taken aback with the work they see.

Regardless of how one feels about the genre, photorealism does make an impact on the viewer.

The craftsmanship, attention to detail and commitment of time makes it worth investigating this diverse and appealing genre.

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