Wednesday, June 26, 2013
To Real, Or Not Too Real
I know it sounds vain, and I don't know about you, but I love it when someone compliments me about my paintings. Say I just finished a picture-- my lovely Ellen might say, "Well dear... if you like it..."
Or, my Mom might exclaim, "Hmmm... it's.... interesting..."
And sometimes my own sweet children (who hardly ever gush over my stuff) might enthuse,
"Well, it doesn't suck as much as some of your other stuff."
I know what you're thinking; And it IS hard not to keep from getting a swelled head!
Another kind of compliment I get is when someone says, "Gee, that looks just like a photo!" I always take that as a compliment, because to most people, a photo is as real as it gets, even if you and I know a photo's image isn't the way our eyes really see things. But do you want to know a secret? While I always respond with a heartfelt and sincere "Thank you!" Inwardly, I wonder what I did wrong.
The truth is, I really don't want my paintings to look like a photograph, but a realistic painting. So, let's see what I may doing with my paintings. First off, the objects in my paintings are recognizable. Can't do much about that, can I? It's realism. Then, what about color? Well, I do try to paint things in a naturalistic manner, so if a tree is green, then I'll paint it green. If the sky is blue, I'll paint it blue. But wait a minute--
Do I have to?
What got me thinking about this is when I stumbled upon a painting done by a modern Master named Mian Situ. Check him out. The painting that dropped my jaw is this one, The Golden Mountain:
Now, one might say, "Wow! This painting looks so real!" But does it really? Look at the colors he used to depict this brightly lit, daylight scene: Reds, browns, grays, blacks. If we were standing on this deck and saw this scene with our own two eyes, it would look nothing like this. Here, the overall tone is warm, from the beautifully painted highlights to the gorgeous deep shadows. He doesn't do the Impressionist "If it's a warm light, it must have cool shadows!"
This is a Traditional Oil Painting, as opposed to an Impressionist Painting. If this painting was done in an Impressionist style, with its loose modeling and variations in color temperatures, it would look like a depiction of a holiday pleasure cruise. If Mr. Situ had used a photographic color scheme, it would just be a depiction of people on a boat. Instead, the Artist wanted to convey an emotion about the people; What they had been through, and what they are feeling. His color scheme does that. And yet, it still looks real.
I dig that.
So, when I did my own little painting of a lobsterman, I had Mr. Situ's masterpiece in mind. I also had this painting as inspiration:
Winslow Homer's Breezing Up, or A Fair Wind. There is nothing more about this painting that I didn't say about the other. It looks like a truthful depiction of a sailboat on a summer's day, but yet-- it is not. Again-- not an Impressionist painting, although both Homer was and Situ is perfectly capable of using that style when it suits their purpose.
So, I guess my point is, if I want my paintings to look real, I guess I shouldn't try so hard to make them too real. If you catch my drift...