More thoughts on painting

Last catch of the day!

Often enough, we see paintings in international competitions that are 1:1 copies of photographs. Often they win big awards. It is interesting to note that most non-artists identify ‘great art’ by how realistic it is painted.

I once was gallery sitting and there was a huge painting of a tree right at the entrance of the exhibition.
The tree was hyper-realistic, it was just like looking at a photograph of it. The artist must’ve spent weeks or even months painting every leaf of it. Only when you’d move up close could you see that it was actually a painting. This one guy came in on a couple occasions while the show was up, always making it a point to tell me that that tree was the best painting he’s ever seen in his life! He was blown away by it. He couldn’t get over it. He loved that painting.

I thought about this for a long time. Who gets to decide what good art is or what art is in general? Would I contradict him and say I disagree with his assessment? Of course not. I just smiled and thought ‘whatever’.
Usually the jurors of competitions decide what painting makes it into a given exhibition. Jurors have opinions, just like the guy who loved the tree painting. It says that a certain person likes it, that’s for sure. Does that mean it is good art? Does it mean anything? Or is it just one person’s opinion?

One person’s opinion: the person who buys the painting, the juror who judges the painting. One person loves it, the other one hates it. It is the same in music, isn’t it? That’s why it is hard to have a discussion about art or music!

Having said all that, I have come to notice that there *is* a certain consensus about what’s good and what’s ..well, bad! If a painting is beautiful, everybody will notice it and 90 percent of visitors will agree. It will stop them in their tracks and have them take another look. Here’s an analogy: the beauty of a women. (hey, I am a guy)
While it is highly debatable if a woman is beautiful or not, there is a man out there who thinks she is and another who thinks she’s not. But when it comes to sheer beauty, almost everyone agrees. Most men and women from all walks of life would agree that Audrey Hepburn (just an example that came to my mind right now) was beautiful.
Going back to music, it is the same there. Some music is just sublime and there’s not much discussion about it. Bach, Mozart, Britney Spears maybe..

So, generally speaking, it’s all relative. But then there’s the beauty, the sublime, the awe inspiring – and most of us agree! What is your take? Am I right, am I wrong? I want to know what you think! Leave a comment, if you have a couple minutes. It is an interesting topic!

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14 thoughts on “More thoughts on painting

  1. Ron Croci

    Yes I agree with you. National Geo. a couple of years ago ran a cover story asking the question, What is beauty. Of course they used a womens face and said in that case its symetry. Well to me, I am an artist also and have been a professional in oil and water color for 45 years and most of my carreer has been in commerical art. There are some very good qualities that make painting successfull to many people. My favorite example of this is the illustration of Dean Cornwell or more in modern times Syd Mead. They do it all, figures, archetecture, color, story and all in a single piece. But beyond all of that there is one thing that makes any art form successfull. Its impossible describe but I call it the IT factor. A piece either has it or it doesnt. Oh, by the way, your does.

    1. frankeber Post author

      Ron, great comment! The ‘IT’ factor, so true! I also like the general question: what is beauty? I am glad I posted these thoughts. I was reluctant initially, since I am sort of criticizing a certain style but now I am glad I did it! Thank you!

  2. Jane

    Hi Frank,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this–I have been having internal debates on this subject for quite a while. I am relatively new to watercolor and first learned by painting hyper-realistic pictures from photos (traced!). I thought it was a good way to learn some important techniques. Besides, I took the photo and isn’t that an art form too? But, having quite a few watercolor workshops since my first paintings, I know how important it is to be able to draw. So, I am now taking classes in academic drawing. To my surprise, we are being instructed to make hyper-realistic drawings! (I am thinking, wouldn’t it be easier to trace?) I understand that there is a current trend toward hyper-realism and to painting like the old masters, as evidenced by the many ateliers that have sprung up to teach the old methods. What are your thoughts on this trend?

    1. frankeber Post author

      Interesting comment, Jane. Well, I am by no means an authority, but there’s something to be said about proper base skills. Drawing is certainly one of them. There are too many painters out there who just started and think they can paint like someone who did it all their lives. I commend you for taking drawing classes and it will pay off for you down the road! As for the current style or trend: I think there will always be a place for hyper realistic painting. It is well liked despite my opinion and that’s ok. It’s only one way of painting and you don’t need to subscribe to it! Do your own thing. It will take time, but the most important part is to be true to yourself no matter where the current trend goes.. thank you for your visit!

  3. Michele W Missner

    Although jurors probably try not to be prejudicial, and there are universal elements to look for, they cannot help but be biased by their own likes and dislikes. In regards to hyperrealistic painting, did you see the film “Tim’s Vermeer”?

    1. frankeber Post author

      Haven’t seen Tim’s Vermeer but will check it out. I think you are spot on. We like certain things or we don’t and a juror is no different. Thanks for the visit, Michele!

  4. May

    Hi Frank,
    I agree with you 100%. Good art and music is like food, we may have our individual tastes and dislikes, but when we experience a delicious gourmet meal, most of us agree and crave for more…
    Thank you for sharing this interesting topic, your paintings and insights inspire me.
    May

  5. Sherry Schmidt

    Exactly right Frank! There’s something for everyone in art and music. In the current NWS show, your piece and just a few others were the only ones with a lost edge. The rest showing more and more detail, trying to look photographic when we have cameras for that. Despite one, or a couple jurors deciding what’s good, you enter! I haven’t been brave enough. 🙂

    1. frankeber Post author

      I am surprised you haven’t entered anything yet. You have come a long way, I think. The comps can help you along but should be taken with a grain of salt. Some artists never enter them, but for the most part, they are highly established. They don’t have to. Thanks for your comment, Sherry! And thanks what you said about my work. Lost edges = very hard to accomplish! Maybe that’s why people start oil painting!

  6. Jody

    I enjoy your thoughts about art and what makes a great painting or great music, as well. You could be discussing techniques, (which you do often, values etc.), but instead here focus on wider ideas. We all have our opinions and like certain styles of painting. But it is true that most can agree on what work is sublime, truly great. Keep these posts coming. Your painting and your thinking is inspiring. Jody Bryan

    1. frankeber Post author

      Jody, I think art should be more than an endless discussion about technique. Now there’s even youtube videos about that. Thanks so much for your comment and I am happy to hear my work can be an inspiration to you! It’s far better than just another art blog that serves as a platform for sales pitches! thanks again!

  7. Lisa

    I have been having this same discussion in my own head for a few years now. My painting style seems to easily fall into realism. I think it comes from my formal training that started with pencil drawings. If I see a straight line there, it is hard for me not to show it. My challenge is to loosen up. I agree with you Frank. Hyper realism will always have a place because people can appreciate the technical skill and discipline required to get there. It isn’t my personal goal. My goal is show show something. The “it” factor discussed in previous comments. For example, handwriting can show so much character. We could practice our handwriting until looked like it was done on a computer. But why, if we have a computer for that? And have you ever tried to change your handwriting? Over time it goes back to its default setting. I want my paintings to do that; show character and uniqueness. I want to present my idea without just copying. (Not quite there yet but working at it) Yet it is hard to strive for looseness when we see the strong trend of realistic paintings placing in shows right now.
    Favorite songs are different for everyone and so are favorite paintings. This is a good thing! We do need to learn techniques used by the masters and practice to refine our drawing skills so that we can choose what to use and when. You can’t take apart a piano to find the music just like you can’t cram techniques together in hopes for a masterpiece. That is the magic. You have to apply good taste and strong skills if hoping to find beauty and create art whether it’s realistic or painted fast and loose. Opinions are personal and varied but still based on good taste.

    1. frankeber Post author

      Great, great comment, Lisa! Absolutely brilliant. I like the piano analogy best! I think that’s where most students go wrong. Many think ‘it’ must be part of technique and constantly ask ‘ how is it done, what does he/she use?’ As if all you had to do is use the same materials, brushes, then copy the technique and you’re home free! Not to mention talent! That goes back to the ‘It’ factor, doesn’t it! What is’ it’? It’s the same as the notes in a Mozart piece, anyone can play them (well, almost) but that doesn’t make the symphony!
      Thanks for your visit! Appreciate leaving a thoughtful comment! Paint, paint, paint…

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