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Is Photo-Realism less Creative?

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Is Photo-Realism less Creative?

Postby Becky Syroka » Sun Dec 20, 2009 7:30 am

A very well known and highly respected porcelain artist and teacher recently posted the following comment (publicly) regarding “photo realistic” portraits (I quote exactly and in context):

“on the statement of portraits looking 'photo-real'. If the greatest artists in the portrait world are those who can reproduce a photo exactly.....then those 'artists' are all named Zerox or Canon, etc., and they all live at Kinkos.”

This is not the first time I've heard this type of comparison regarding photo-realistic portraits (equating them with simply "copying"....implying less creativity...losing the "human" aspect.). Yet, I never seem to hear those negative sentiments expressed when the subject being discussed is a photo-realistic painting of a still life arrangement or photo-realistic paintings of roses (such as the paintings of Susan Harrison Tustain) http://www.harrison-tustain.com/gallery.html

Or how about photo-realistic paintings of animals? Are we not all in awe when we view the close up tiger eye paintings of Filipe? They are fabulous! Are his paintings viewed as less creative because they are photo-realistic? Are they mere "copies"?

So, why should portraits painted in a “photo-real” style be equated with the creativity of a Xerox copy machine? Why is a photo realistic style deemed less creative than any other style of portrait? When I view the work of Elvira Aguiar (for example) her work takes my breath away. There is no question her portraits are photo realistic, they exude vibrancy and are alive and evoke emotion. Does her photo-realism mean that she lacks creativity? Take a look at her website and you be the judge: http://www.elviraaguiar.com

This is just my personal opinion....no more....no less.
Thanks,
Becky Syroka
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Re: Is Photo-Realism less Creative?

Postby eganj1 » Sun Dec 20, 2009 12:47 pm

You all know I like the adventure of painting in a less photo realistic way most of the time, i like the excitement which i think comes from enjoying the challenges of painting loose wet in wet watercolour, and letting the paint do it's own thing, like the sugar syrup method i use, HOWEVER this doesn't mean i think photo realism is less expressive. It's a different challenge that's all.

We all have to paint from the heart so it's 'whatever floats your boat'.
Personally what i find boring are the 'sorta paintings' which are painted by formula, the way i see it how can this work....... we all have 2 eyes, a nose and a mouth, but we all look individual because of subtle differences which need to be observed and recorded.
Becky you paint each portrait as a 'one off', from the very moment you choose your photo of the person you have made carefully thought through descisions which from the very start make your portraits 'yours'. Your compositions are amazing, you have an eye for composition that makes your pieces sing, and stand out from the rest. Each and every one of your portraits are of that individual, they are not formula paintings, you capture something of the spirit of the person and that's what makes them stir my emotions. You truly are a master and i have thought for some time that if anyone can get china painting the recognition it deserves in a contemporary world you would be the one to do it with your contemporary photorealistic portraits. I've seen many contemporary photo realistic portraits in oil and acrylics and your work is up there, so keep on doing what's in your heart, your are at the top of the game ;bravo; ;bravo; ;bravo;
Jill in England

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Re: Is Photo-Realism less Creative?

Postby Becky Syroka » Mon Dec 21, 2009 12:41 pm

Dear Jill,
I'm overwhelmed with your generous compliments to my work...thank you!
But I am especially pleased to read your observations which are so well thought out and expressed. I agree that we each have to paint from our hearts. And there are many other styles which I'm attracted to...which I admire tremendously, yet which I cannot seem to get to flow from my brush. Many things just don't seem to fall within my creative imagination. Perhaps our styles are like handwriting....some things just come naturally to us and trying things differently is sometimes uncomfortable for us.

Perhaps some who minimize the creativity of photo-realistic paintings feel similarly uncomfortable with trying them....perhaps they don't have the patience for the attention to tiny details. That is FINE....I'm the first to admit that detail oriented projects are NOT for every personality! I'm personally uncomfortable when working with lusters because of the opposite....the surprise factor where I cannot be sure of how it will turn out. That is difficult for ME!

Thank you for realizing that there are many creative decisions which are involved in painting photo-realistic portraits! As you mentioned....selecting a pose which moves me emotionally....then cropping to attain the effect I want.....decisions regarding colors (I often change the clothing or background colors to better harmonize the entire piece and to no distract from my focal point). If painting from a black and white study photo, then there are all sorts of decisions about what colors would naturally be reflected over individual areas of skin....light sources, perspective, etc. Although I'm trying to capture the likeness and the subtle details ..... it ISN'T simply a matter of mindless copying.

I appreciate your feedback, Jill!
Becky
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Re: Is Photo-Realism less Creative?

Postby Arrilia » Mon Feb 22, 2010 8:08 pm

I think it depends on who you talk to. I like detail, photo realism, and it is the way I like to paint. I find myself relaxing just paying attention to what I am doing. The rest of the world melts away. I keep having instructors tell me to loosen up. I have taken impressionism classes and it just goes against my grain.

I have had people say, why not just take a photo. Well, I took the photo, now I am turning it into a painting.
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