Is it Real or Not??

Is it Real or Not??

Not long ago, I was in an art forum where they were discussing thoughts on photorealism art. This is art that is so realistically portrayed, that the viewer may mistake it for an actual photo. Other terms like “Hyper-Realism” or “Super Realism” is also associated with this kind of art. It’s usually very popular and draws quite a crowd. 

Anyway, in the forum, there was a thread completely devoted to whether or not photorealism was real art. Is this art actually creative? I did not participate in the discussion as it became rather heated after time went on. But I found many of the different points raised about it to be pretty interesting.

Why do Photorealism Art when you can just take a photo?

Some artists cringe when they hear this – especially the ones who are creating photorealism art in the first place. After all, a lot of time and effort goes into producing these drawings or paintings. Not many people have the patience to do that. 

Others find photorealism art fascinating. I mean, after all, it is known for it’s “WOW” factor. But only for a moment. Then their attention is drawn elsewhere – perhaps to art that requires more interpretation.

There’s also a point argued that yes, while you can take a photo, the camera does not always capture everything. You may take many different photographs of the same subject and discover many different things in one that another photo did not pick up on for whatever reason.

I personally find some photorealism art quite breathtaking to look at. In fact, sometimes, I strive to capture my subjects as realistically as possible. I have had people mistake my artwork for photos before. However, I dislike it when the art gets to the point where I really and truly cannot tell if it a photo or not. While that is impressive to me from a technical point of view, I enjoy getting up close and actually being able to see brush strokes or pencil shading. If I can’t see that, I feel a bit frustrated. I’m not sure why. It’s just a personal preference.

How did photorealism art get started anyway?

Photorealism was a movement that began in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. Louis K. Meisel, coined the term Photorealism in 1969​.​ After a time of abstract expressionism, which did not require as much planning and focused much more on a spontaneous use of paints, photorealists sought to set themselves apart. None of that fly by the seat of your pants stuff! Photorealism art requires a lot more advance planning. And the medium of choice, usually oil or acrylic, was always applied as flawlessly as possible in order to replicate the photograph. Airbrush is also used so that the artwork resembles the photo entirely. Here’s where that lack of brush strokes sometimes frustrates me. 😀 

Photorealism art usually captures everyday, ordinary subjects.

By ordinary, I mean things like marbles or pinball machines such as photorealistic artist, Charles Bell. This movement spun off the pop art movement which also captured this kind of subject matter as well as regular commerical life or scenes. 

They also tend to be large. I have seen some photorealism artists making gigantic works of art and I am impressed that they have that kind of patience. Photorealism art already requires a lot of patience but to do it on that large of a scale would drive me crazy. I tend to balk when the size gets above 16″ X 20″ – and for me, that’s really pushing it. I usually work between 5″ X 7″ and 9″ X 12″. Below is one of my attempts at photorealism using colored pencil. 

9″ X 12″

Photorealism isn’t just limited to paintings…

Check out Duane Hanson’s “Man on Bench” sculpture. 

Now, I don’t mind looking at this sculpture from the safety of my computer screen. But I have a feeling I would be thoroughly creeped out if I were to see this photorealism sculpture in person. It reminds me of those wax sculptures. I have never gone to one of those wax museums. Those figures have always scared me. They look too much like they come alive during the night while everyone is sleeping and get into all kinds of mischief. What kind of mischief might you ask? Well, I’m just going to limit it to something silly like why socks are always missing in the laundry…

I’m afraid to imagine anything worse than that.

Can’t get enough? Here are some other famous photorealism artists…

Ralph Goings

Audrey Flack

Chuck Close

Don Eddy



2 thoughts on “Is it Real or Not??”

  • Great article!
    I always had an issue with HS and College courses (mostly the professors) and the arguments over method, style and critiquing. I have always believed art is “subjective” and personal, and everyone has their own unique approach that should be supported….until I enter a California Contemporary art gallery to see a clear plastic cube sitting on the floor with a velvet rope around it and I’m supposed to see THAT as art. I Love photorealism. I do also like to see at least a faint pencil mark though. Don Eddy is A-mazing! Nice job on the horse as well!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Cheers,
    Benjamin

    • Thanks for the feedback Benjamin! While I like to see all kinds of art, unless it’s the kind meant to shock you, I, too tend to like to see the real stuff. I do have a fondness for whimsical, children’s book kind of illustrations though. Thank you for the kind comment about my horse artwork!

      Nikki 😀

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