My Thoughts on Ultra-Realistic Art

Scrolling through my Facebook wall and surfing the web, it is obvious that there are some incredibly talented painters out there. They are very skilled in their craft and they paint with such a grace that makes the entire act seem simple and effortless. However, among these paintings, there are some that are so realistic that it takes a minute to read the comments and to convince myself that what I am looking at is not a photograph or some sort of edited image. It is incredibly impressive, but it makes me wonder – after that initial amazement – how much time they put into making that piece, and whether or not it was worth it.

I don’t mean to discredit or belittle their works, they are amazing and incredible to behold, but I wonder if they are really treating the medium as it should. I wonder whether they are treating their subjects most efficiently and appropriately. My main concern for these painters is whether their representation of life with a hyper-realistic painting is better than just taking a picture.

Ouch! I can feel you cringe and scoff at me – maybe I don’t know what I am talking about. I don’t have a lot of experience, and I don’t have the art education, but most people don’t. This is just how I see it – and I don’t think that we need ultra-realistic paintings anymore, especially with the advent of such high resolution cameras and viewing apparatuses.

Historically, I do understand their importance. Back when we didn’t have Polaroids or Kodaks, let alone our digital powerhouses of cameras, images could only be reproduced and represented by hand – whether through a sketch or a painting. Since most people couldn’t afford a visual adaptation of themselves, nor were they literate (written description was out of the question), I could believe that the more realistic the art produced, the greater the laud for the artist. It must have been amazing to see a portrait or a landscape and be able to recognize the person or the location, perhaps being so well done as to feel in the presence of the individual or within nature.

In contrast, now almost anyone can pause a call and snap a pic of something in passing and continue their conversation. Or, if you fancy yourself more of a photographer, you can carry around the weight of a true camera, with a lens or two stashed in a bag slung over your other shoulder. That will do a better job in terms of capturing the realism of a subject.

There are exceptions, as I am sure you are aware. I can see that some artists modify their subjects in a hyper-realistic fashion to produce pieces that seem to depict an alternate reality. That is very interesting, but most of that can be done with Photoshop nowadays.

It’s true that Photoshop can do almost anything. In fact, I even see that it can now be used to apply a ‘watercolor-esque’ filter to photos now. However, I am still under the impression that it is more approachable for people to pick up a brush and make their own rendition of a subject as opposed to picking up Photoshop and doing the same thing. This is especially true if you factor in making something from nothing – in which painting has an edge. Albeit the painting will probably not be ultra-realistic, as that requires a lot of skill and practice. However, making a piece of artwork, in general, is probably easier to learn and produce for the average passerby.

Keep in mind, this is just my own rumination – and it is not even complete, at that. So I will throw in my two cents with these thoughts. I encourage you to throw in some of yours as well, and together we can all make this a more valuable conversation. 🙂

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