Comments:

mal - 2005-03-08 10:05:19
mmmm. this is yummy.

Cin - 2005-03-08 10:58:47
beautiful Cohen portrait, very piercing.

amber - 2005-03-08 13:53:49
A very hearty hear-hear!

karos - 2005-03-08 14:13:59
Fascinating stuff. Does the proliferation/bombardment of real-life images via all media render realistic illustrations "boring?" And therefore does our eye crave something different, more pop-arty and stylized? I had a thought while reading this - do you ever watch Trading Spaces and its ilk? They are forever creating "art" for the walls, doing abstract swirls or simply framing a piece of interesting fabric or something -- is that "art" or simply "decor?" Personally it's always made me cringe because there is so much creative, interesting stuff out there made by people like yourself that I'd rather display on walls, screw if it "matches" the couch, for pity's sake. I know that's not where you were headed, but I'm curious as to your take on that, too. And look forward to the next installment of your essay. You made me love Leonard Cohen, you know. Great portrait.

lizardek - 2005-03-08 14:36:26
I thought it was impossible to love and admire your mind and artwork and writing any more than I already do. I was WRONG!

wee - 2005-03-08 14:46:49
O Liz! Back atcha babe! And everyone else, thank you! Karos: Ack! Keep asking me questions like that and I'll NEVER get any work done (and I so need to get my work done!)!!! But to answer your question as briefly as possible, I think that all depends on your definition of art. If art is simply something that is created, an expression of self, then the Trading Spaces stuff is art. Whether it's good art or bad art is another question entirely and one I don't have any kind of academic answer to. I don't know how you determine what is good capital A Art and what is Bad Art. I view Art this way: if it speaks to me in some way, it is good. If it doesn't, well... it still might be good, just not to me. But the there is the whole debate about what separates capital A Art (Fine Art) and Illustration. Illustration is traditionally viewed as a lesser version, the slow cousin. It is perceived by some to be strictly instructional, "illustrative" of a particular point of view. And that to some extent is true. As an illustrator, your basic job is to interpret something (an idea, a story, a product, whatever) visually, employing traditional artistic methods and materials. You may or may not wholly believe in it yourself. "You" and what you feel is entirely secondary to the image itself. In Fine Art, it's just the reverse. Its self-expression at the core. The artist is not merely the source, but in a sense, the subject as well. It is intensely personal, intimately driven. That is the traditional view. But I don't really subscribe to that view myself. I believe... I believe... I believe that is a whole other essay for a whole 'nother day!!  

Detlef - 2005-03-08 16:37:18
As someone who draws in a quasi-realist style (strictly a hobbyist unfortunately) I found your post both relevant and interesting. I often ask myself, why do I draw in this style? why can't I draw looser? (Non) Answer: who knows, but rather than getting looser I find myself going the other way getting more realist. Certainly, realism appears to be passe amongst the art intelligentsia/critics, but I think it still has great appeal to the masses. Personally, when I draw I feel I capture more (sense of place/object)in the drawing than a photo....why because a photo captures a fleeting moment, drawing is organic and captures the same scene but from my perspective as opposed to the lens perspective, and over a longer time frame. I also think the notion of high art is relaxing with many illustrators (both realist and non-realist) holding art shows and being represented at galleries. That's my 2 cents worth.

wee - 2005-03-08 16:56:43
O! Detlef... yes, you are the perfect example! But really, your work has more of a fine art quality to it, don't you think? I mean, it is ultimately an expression of yourself and your world view. And sometimes your approach is quite graphic (I mean graphic in the design sense) with so much negative space and isolation of each image. And I can clearly see that the joy for you is in rendering the details, the feel and the deep, chalky stroke of graphite. Ahhh yes... I know it well! And love it so! What you talk about in your comment is exactly what i love about drawing realistically. I hope you know I mean my little "essay" as an observation and a query, not a commentary on the worthiness of realistically rendered art. And everyone else... if you are not familiar with Detlef's work, please click his link. He's amazing. Each drawing is like a whole mystery novel, falling on the page in glossy black and white film noir... lovely.

Detlef - 2005-03-08 16:57:25
Looks like it was only 1 cents worth...lol. Agree with you that in the plethora of competing images and media, mediums that you have to come up with a different take on the subject to get noticed. And yes that is now 2+ cents worth!!!!

Detlef - 2005-03-08 17:04:44
eeek, looks like we posted at the same time....I didn't take your post as a criticism of realism - I really think you've raised really good questions. I suppose the fact that I don't do this professionally allows me to potter around at my own slow pace, I can understand how for others a deadline can determine style, medium etc...And thanks for the plug (cheque's in the mail)!....and yes no more from me on this post.

wee - 2005-03-08 17:08:59
YES! Exactly. I do think that the extreme pace at which illustrators are now expected to perform in order to keep up with the whirl of information zinging about and shifting the atmosphere has A LOT to do with the current direction of illustration... that's one of the things I was gonna talk about in my continued post! so tune in for that....

mrs.tiggywinkle - 2005-03-08 17:10:04
Hi, I sort of stumbled on to your site. I'm brand new to this exciting blog world! I'm an illustrator as well, you can see my work at http://www.sarahdillard.com. Interesting topic! One realistic illustrator that comes to mind is C.F. Payne, but even his work is pretty stylized. He does seem to be our modern day Norman Rockwell though. At any rate I think that the illustrator brings a point of view to a job that photography can't capture. Some concepts just can't be conveyed adequately through realism. I can't wait to read more!

Amanda - 2005-03-08 17:25:01
I can't say too much for art school, since I'm still in highschool and can't claim to be an artist, but I know that my first (and only) art class was horribly opposed against realism. We were forced to study and mimick the styles of Pollock and Picasso, and I felt heavily restricted. And that's exactly, taking into account original intent with any art movement, what the modern and post-modern era is supposed to avoid: restriction. But because of the new precedent set by artists like Pollock, realist Illustrators like the brilliant Rockwell are accused of neoclassicism in a negative sense, never mind the fact that many of Rockwell's topics dealt with the horrors of racism or the importance of the freedom of speech in a highly articulate manner. *snivvle* I want Mucha back... I love your art, by the way!

karos - 2005-03-08 18:38:09
Ah, I guess us non-artists view illustrations as closer to higher art and not so much as the bastard cousin, though I imagine that is entirely subjective, so I'll just speak for myself! Though the work is commissioned and you're more or less told what is wanted, the style, strokes, nifty bitties come from your own imagination - and what you would do versus what another illustrator would do is likely vastly different. I reall enjoyed what you said about the Fine Artist being more intimately driven, but that possibly you don't believe that. I imagine even in the "confines" of illustrations that you can invest a lot of yourself. I personally enjoy them as "real"art because of course they are, and have found many I'd frame as "fine" in my eyes. As a mum that's read literally thousands of picture books to her children, I often think what a shame it is when a wonderful story has less-than-stellar illustrations (and vice versa, really) - and I imagine what the book would have looked like if rendered by one of our favourites. OK, I'm rambling. And making you miss work again. Carry on. :)

meg - 2005-03-08 19:17:17
I agree with wee's perception of why Realism is getting the boot. There's no need for painstakingly rendered detail, from a media standpoint, because photography has taken over. Though, I sometimes think that the definition of "Realism" is changing... for example, Chuck Close paints in a ridiculously realistic fashion. His huge portraits showcase that, however, even they have tiny non-representational paintings inside them. I've always had a somewhat stylized way of approaching drawing. I love to draw realistically, but those drawings never seemed to have the same life in them that my more stylized ones did/do. I'm still finding my voice though... maybe one day I can marry the two. :)

Charlie - 2005-03-09 07:22:34
Once the artist was the photographer of the day. It was his/her job to document the important events of the day/age. An artist would have accompanied troops on the most famous of campaigns to document scenes where now a photographer performs that role. Even a few years back in the publishing and advertising industry when I worked in that area as a graphic artist the graphic artists job was in creating realistic drawings and illustrations in the absence of today's photographic and print technologies. At the same time airbrushing was the 'in' technique and the aim with airbrushing was to create images that looked 'photographic'. In today's world I do not see the point in 'photographic' illustrations as to me the camera is for that purpose and in perfectly copying a scene all that is shown is technical skill but without soul. Of course all 'artists' have learned the ability to render almost photographically but once that is accomplished then the artist should move beyond this using the basis of accomplished seeing, drawing and rendering to move on to expression. What the artist has is the ability to go beyond realism into emotion and individual perception. The joy of book illustration is that it creates worlds that do not exist and cannot exist apart from in the imagination. The joy of art is that it does not painfully recapture a scene, it goes beyond the actual view and it rather offers a very personal experience and feel for a scene. It was quite interesting watching a documentary on the creation of the animation for Shrek when the illustrators had to hold back the imagery as it was becoming too 'real'. They didn't want to make an animation that looked like a film; they wanted a high tech animation that still looked like an animation. I think for me that's they key. A photograph is an exact copy of a scene and while it can portray emotion it is still an exact snapshot of a moment in time or an object. An illustration should be an illustration and something that a photograph can never be, a very personalised representation from the minds eye. The illustration should take you beyond the every day world of reality. A painting should be beyond a copy of what is in front of you, it should be more about reaction to that scene, seeing what a camera cannot see, representing a personal or emotional response. It's probably why I have never had any interest in the so called 'Classical' school of painters but have always had a love of the Impressionist school of painting. I personally find 'Classical' paintings to be dead and soulless while the paintings of the Impressionist school are alive. As to the Illustrator being below the ‘fine artist’, there has always been this kind of snobbery in the art world. The ‘fine artist’ is a pure being, while the Illustrator or Graphic Artist is almost a commercial whore touting their skills for the masses and money. It is the same with materials used, oils being the only serious medium, Acrylics kind of respected but ‘have you ever thought of trying oils?’, pastels and pencils being well down the list and watercolour! Oh my gosh you must be a hobbyist wannabe painter!

wee - 2005-03-09 09:00:51
O Charlie! I had to laugh, but you're absolutely right... there is a hierarchy of acceptable materials in the art world! I've never really thought about it in any concrete way until you brought it up! I wonder... where does digital illustration fit in there? Egads. That said...I think that's changing though. Mixed media and collaged works are so prevalent and I think, really, a more modern solution befitting of a world that is a little bit of this, a little bit of that and unudated daily with flashy bits of techno glitz and jazz. The flotsam and jetsam of the Space Age. And oils... I love the feel of oil, but who can tolerate the smell? ewww. And the drying time.... arghhhh.

Charlie - 2005-03-09 10:56:44
Digital!!! Heavens above, that's one step up from an etch-a-sketch! Seriously though I have seen some right ding donging arguments on art forums where someone has had the audacity to post a digital painting. You could almost feel the heat from the torches; hear the town bells ringing and the cries of 'burn em, witch, burn em!'. Agree about oils and that is why Heavybody Acrylic is so great, very like oils but without the drying time, pong or price.

otter - 2005-03-09 11:52:33
Here I click to leave a comment, only to find that Lizardek STOLE mine. Just shoplifted it right off my brain. Can you believe that?

penelope - 2005-03-09 17:53:44
Hi Wee, I think this is a very interesting post. I agree with you too, that most illustrators who have art school background can render realistic images. But why? Exactly to your point...now photographs can do that better and faster. Illustration can convey something more than just the picture of what happened. It can set a mood. It can interpret. It can relate. It can bring your mind closer to an idea. It can marry ideas. Hmmm... That said, drawing realisticallly is fun and good exercise.

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