When an artist produces a painting that appears almost tangible it is often considered photo-realistic. Paintings of this type are worthy of reflection by the viewer.
Artists expect to be asked to explain themselves. They must answer questions about inspiration and choice of imagery. Most artists relish the chance to speak in depth about their work, but for the photo-realist some questions pose an uncomfortable and unnecessary challenge. Photo-realistic paintings are frequently criticized by the art world as being a waste of the artist’s time.
Artists choosing to paint in this manner contend with being dismissed as mere copy artists, often having to explain why they don’t just take a picture. While the concept of photo-realism seems straight forward, it is generally misunderstood. Photo-realism is a style of painting just as surrealism, minimalism and abstract are styles. It should not be dismissed as a mechanical exercise devoid of any emotional content.
The artist is expressing his reaction to a person, place, or thing. He is offering his view or telling his visual story through choice of subject matter and vantage point. He may be depicting a scene that holds a special meaning to him or he may be using recognizable objects to evoke an emotion.
An accurate rendering should not diminish a paintings perceived artistic merit. Most all artists, either regularly or occasionally, use some sort of reference material, be it painting from life or from photos. Rarely though, is a piece a copy of a photograph. Thoughtful editing and color choices are employed to allow the artist to create an enhanced reality; his reality.
As with any type of painting, a piece is ultimately about what excites the artist. A painting’s impact comes not only from the artists feeling for the subject but also from the joy the artist takes in the process of creating it. The act manipulating a two-dimensional surface so that it takes on the feel of three-dimensionality, of creating that illusion, is what makes the process exhilarating for the photo-realist painter.
A painting is a visual form of expression requiring the viewer to take a deeper look in an effort to discover what the artist is telling him. This is true of all styles of painting. The fact that an artist has done a precise rendering does not mean that there is little more he has to say beyond the detail of the drawing.
While the viewer bears the burden of deciphering meaning in any style of painting, often times a realistic depiction of an image gives the viewer the false impression that no interpretation is necessary.