Monday, May 2, 2011

That Lying Eye

The lovely Penelope Cruz

Maybe you know of a loved one, a spouse, a brother or a sister.  Maybe it's a co-worker or a good friend.  We all know someone who is quite good looking, yet looks butt-ass ugly in photos.  Conversely, I've even personally met Hollywood stars who were butt-ass ugly, yet were considered one of the world's beautiful people because of how they looked on film.  What gives?  One word: Photogenics.

Cameras don't lie, right?  Photographs only show us how things really look.  Yeah, right.  Not by a long shot!  Because, dammit, my paintings always look like crap in a photo!  Now, that's not to say that quite possibly it's because it's a crappy painting.  But there is something definitely amiss.  I blame digital technology.  I'm no camera expert, but there was something soothing about 35mm that digital pixels don't quite match.  It's like listening to an analog phonograph;  The sounds blend in a pleasant, warm tone.  Now listen to the CD version-- the notes are there, but it's harsh-- almost too pristine, if you get what I mean.

Everyone has heard of the general rule of thumb that a painting is best observed from ten feet.  That's to allow all the colors and brush strokes to blend together in our eyes and form a convincing image.  Digital cameras don't allow that to happen.  Everything is in the same sharp focus from one foot to ten feet.  One would think that it would allow subtleties of technique to show more clearly, yet I kind of doubt that.  Anyone looking at one of my paintings would tell you that I like detail, and it's true.  But I do try to soften edges, and blend colors, I really do.  But what looks OK by me using my own eyes looks horribly stilted and stiff on camera.  I'm not even going to get into how our paintings look on computer monitors.  (I did blog about that here).   

I, like a lot of my fellow painters, usually take pictures of my work as it goes through it's various stages toward completion, because I want to see how it looks.  But that brings me to my dilemma:  Do I paint for the human eye, or the camera eye?  (I can hear you up there in the peanut gallery-- "Or how about if you just paint better?"  Yeah, you're funny...)  In other words, is it alright if I let my paintings be butt-ass ugly in photos if I know they've got a nice personality in person? 

Still the Lovely Penelope Cruz



Kay said...

ha great post. wow what a photo of Cruz! I never look good in photos or hats. Could be because I am butt-ugly..but my Mom still tells me I am I am going with her!!!!

Susan Roux said...

I'm about as photogenic as the top one...

Who cares about photos of our work? Only the galleries were applying to. What really matters is the magnificent piece of art we're creating. Don't forget that.

Peanut gallery? My maiden name was Pinette. I heard that expression so often back then and oddly eyes would always turn to me...

Does the peanut gallery accept art?