« A Fair and Levelheaded Article | Main | My Next Show »

Thursday, 08 May 2014


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

A still life (plural still lifes) ...

There are many great painters who went from flat for years. Every artist who worked in his (probably only his as opposed to his/her) master's studio copying the master's work did that.

Having said that, they were copying the technique of how to apply paint for effect rather than understanding how to translate from 3D to 2D. But it's a skill that is part of painting.

And while I am commenting, I think that one of the outstanding qualities of Cartier-Bresson was his ability to translate scenes to something that worked in 2D.

The trouble I have with most photorealist painting and drawing is that it usually remains a strictly technical exercise; the main difference between showing the source material versus the painting/drawing is the added "Look what I can do!"





Technical exercises can be useful, and sometimes impressive, of course, but if there wasn't any actual decision making involved in making the thing (i.e. once the source material was selected, everything proceeds fairly robotically), it's hard for me to care.

Chuck Close stands out because there is a conceptual angle to what he is doing (I do sometimes enjoy conceptual art), and he has mixed things up over the years as far as his approach goes (although it is getting bit dry at this point). Trompe l'oeil doesn't really suffer these kinds of problems in my book, because the artist does typically set up the scene, doesn't necessarily work from a photograph, and isn't necessarily trying to achieve "photo"-realism; historically, the genre tries to achieve "real"-realism.

Still lives is the historical winner, although still lifes is on the increase. I'd go with still lives, as 'lifes' sounds wrong to me.

Yes, photorealistic drafting and painting has been around a long time...probably nearly as long as "photo-" . For me this work is always an analogous experience to watching a female impersonator perform (not that that's a usual experience for me). No matter how really good (s)he is I just can't escape the underlying truth...
The problem is that this style generally brings nothing fresh to the table. It's like scrawling the Bill of Rights in urine on a clean sidewalk. The feat is the point.

There was a fellow who used to frequently show up at local street art fairs in Chicago with the same "almost finished" photorealistic pencil rendering of the Tribune Tower. Each year it would be ever-so-slightly more finished, and slightly more grimy. It became an ever-duller spectacle. One year it finally sported a price of $10,000. Perhaps he sold it because I've not seen him for quite a few years!

The 2008 film Waiting for Hockney portrays a young fellow who had been working on a single photorealistic portrait of Marilyn Monroe (from an iconic Avedon tweener-moment portrait) for years. He's also become obsessed with the artist David Hockney. It's his dream to meet Hockney and get his guidance on becoming rich and famous in the art world through this portrait. It's painful to watch.

For trompe l’œil, just say “tromp loy.”

"Tromp loy" will get you pretty close.

"Of course I'm sure there are many examples of artists who successfully "go from flat."

How about Canaletto, who reputedly used a camera obscura image to work from? Or Vermeer, who may have used the same technique. I guess you could call them successful.


RE: The plural of 'still life'. YOu use the plural of the meduim, i.e. still life photographs or still life paintings. It is the object portraying a still life that is plural. The subject of each photo or painting is singular. I hope that helps. :-)


I think there is no plural for "still life" as it seems to be an adjectival phrase with the words "arrangement", "painting" or "photo" implied. The implied word gets resurrected for a plural.

Oh Gawd -- that HDR look has gone from Photography to Drawing.

Tromp loy;)

Painting from life (i.e., standing in front of the subject brush in hand) ideally presents an unmediated reflection of the painter's perceptual biases, his/her way of seeing the world. That's actually one of the great strengths of painting; it permits the viewer to see at least a little slice of the world the way another person does.
Painting from a photograph interposes another layer of visual bias between painter and viewer. The perceptual conventions of photographs that we accept without much thought (fixed depth of field, relative global sharpness, limited dynamic range, optic distortion etc.) greatly simplify the visual problem of a painting, and it's pretty straightforward (if a bit tedious) to duplicate a photo. But the result tends to lack something.

What John Camp said! The problem with flat to flat is understanding what the camera and lens distorts; photography has been a great boon as a resource for draughtsmen. I do think the photo should be ones own, though. Silly me.

Robert Longo's current show at Metro Pictures http://metropictures.com/exhibitions/2014-04-10_robert-longo/
Is an amazing example of Trompe-l'œil drawing. A life size charcoal drawing of Jackson Pollock's Autum Rhythm and one of Ad Reinhardt's black paintings that I forget the name of may not sound so impressive , and don't look like much on the web, but seen in person, they are simply mind blowing, especially if you are familiar with the originals and how process oriented they are. Charcoal is not remotely the right tool for the job of doin paint drips or many shades of off black.

The show is conveniently located a few doors away from the Bruce Silverstein gallery http://www.brucesilverstein.com Where a show pairing August Sander with Bernd and Hilla Becher is hanging.
It's an obvious pairing , New Topographics meet Old Demographics, and I wasn't expecting much , but since I was walking by I took a look.

The Becher prints look about the way they always do, lush, particularly in contrast to the subject matter. The big surprise is how good the Sander prints look. It turns out that they are printed by his grandson who's darkroom chops eclipse those of his grandfather. Sort of a Neil Selkirk vs Diane Arbus thing perhaps , but the prints are beautiful in ways that I don't associate with August Sander and are much more readable.

Mike, is this artistic reinterpretation week at top?

A question to John Camp: I understand the reason for labelling it a craft form but couldn't the result still be considered art if you take into account the choice of image that the artist/craftsperson chooses to recreate? My point being that the art lies as much in the artistic choices made and intention behind it. Compare for example with conceptual art which is all about the idea.

This is a craft form, not an art form (any art was done by the camera operator.)

Hmm - I think the same could be said about the use of any medium if the sole goal is to simply reproduce the subject - indeed, an enormous percentage of photographs are craft.

Now I've not seen the originals of image in question, but I have seen other examples, and in the best cases while there is a close similarity, in fact the images are quite different - a culmination of tiny details ... less emphasis here, a stronger line there ... can transform the feel for the image.

At it's best, hyper-realism (whether the subject be a photo or live subject) is an interpretation, and isn't that where the art lies?

John Camp proposed such a narrow definition of art it would exclude half of it. Printing is a mechanical process done to produce several copies of the same original. Anything done with a pencil by hand is not printing. If you use logic of the classical, accepted sort, unquestionable reasoning and words with their meaning intact, there's no way you can say that a drawing of a photo is a printing, however realistic it is. Much less that it is not art. According to Merriam Webster (the authority I have at hand, I'm sure others would say the same) art is a) something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings, and/or b) works created by artists : paintings, sculptures, etc., that are created to be beautiful or to express important ideas or feelings. The second meaning is now the one generally accepted, and includes all sorts of appropiations and reproductions: from Picasso, Picabia, Duchamp, etc. to Richard Prince, Sherry Levine or Shania Mc Donagh.

A good example of trompe l'oeil drawing:

I agree with John Camp about "hyper-realistic".

A couple decades ago Portland Maine had a rather prolific Trompe L'oeil painter.

unfortunately this link provided additional samples NOT in Portland they are fine examples of the craft.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007