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What is art? The age-old discussion continues....

Journal Entry: Thu May 31, 2007, 2:13 PM
  • Listening to: The Shins
  • Watching: Pirates 3
  • Drinking: tea
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In spite of my recent neglect re-prioritization of my photography, it still occupies a fair part of my mind and heart, and my passion for the medium has not dimished. Only my available time (which will return in the second half of 2007). Recently, through Digg I came across this quite stunning painting of a woman that is so photo realistic, you have a hard time beleiving it's a painting until you read more about the "making of" on the website of the artist, Dru Blair.

It's all very impressive, and he clearly has skills in painting something accurately and reaslistically. He's rather famous for his paintings of US military aircraft, but this attempt at a studio portrait was a change for him. Nevertheless he executed it flawlessly. Kudos.


He goes on to give a rebuttal of the opinion held by some others, that photo realistic paintings based on a photograph should not be considered real art, since there is basically no interpretation taking place by the artist. It's just a very difficult version of painting by numbers, but involves no creative thinking, just heaps of skills and patience.

His answer to those criticisms is:

"They fail to realize that many photorealistic paintings are not mere copies of photographs, but interpretations of reality based on the artist's vision. The act of merely copying a photograph has no artistic merit except to hone one's artistic skills. (...) This painting of Tica is not just a copy of a photograph, but is a product of many artistic decisions, whereas I deviated from the reference photo for more aesthetic appeal."

"While reading the list of the elements of realism, consider that no other artistic style demands so much of an artist. Photorealism is by far, the most difficult artistic style to master."

That's all well and good, I relate to the arguments by the detractors. I myself used to dabble extensively in pencil/charcoal drawings of photos, and I can say that it's difficult, but doesn't really put a lot of strain on the right side of my brain. I can also, however, respect his arguments, that even though I was not aware of it, my biased perception of the photo (especially when it was a photo of someone I loved) came into play in my pencilled interpretation. I guess at the end of the day, there is some true artistic merit to this type of thing.

But then he puts his foot in his mouth!

Dru's definition of art:
"Art is the selective re-creation or conversion of reality by the human mind into concrete imagery according to an artist's metaphysical value judgments. Real or imagined concepts are filtered and altered through the human mind to the artist"s hand to create an image or sound that did not exist before. The reason photography does not qualify as art is that the process removes the filter of the human mind as an interpretative element. Although photography requires technical skill, in the final analysis it is only a mechanical recording of reality."

While he puts in such a valiant effort to stand up for his "art" form on the basis of the argument that his medium just isn't fully understood by others, he then goes and shows his blatant ignorance towards a much realer form of art. To simplify photography to such a degree where he calls it "only a mechanical recording of reality" demonstrates a certain narrow-mindedness I wouldnt expect from someone who calls himself an artist. Perhaps he is not aware of any other type of photography beyond the "snapshot" type, but if he truly believes that photography "removes the filter of the human mind as an interpretative element", I think he should take a beginner's course. He is apparently completely unaware of the influence of creative lighting, composition, depth of field, length of exposure on a photo. The visual effects achieved by applying these mechanisms, with the exception of lighting, are NOT reproducible in reality, and can only exist in the photographic medium. Some conceptual work makes heavy use of most, or even all these mechanisms, and in no means can be seen as a simple reproduction of reality. It's up to the photographer him/herself to determine how much of reality he/she wants to take in. It's a very wide playing field, without any imposed limits. The same can't be said for Mr. Blair's photorealisic work, there is a very clear limit, a very narrow focus, i.e.: to match reality as much as possible.

Mr. Blair makes a nice case for the artistic merit of his work, but then proceeds to transform himself into a pot and then decide to call the kettle black. Usually I don't make a grand case out of someone else's curious opinions, but this one was especially artist making a totally Philistine statement. His definition of art is a good start, but it lacks one essential element: Emotion. Any piece of art *must* convey some sort of emotion. I don't think his paintings of F-14 Tomcat jet fighters, as realistic as they may be, will evoke much emotion in many people, besides general distaste for America's obsession with its military force. Or maybe that's just me.

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Mark Mulder
Current Residence: NL
Favourite photographer: David Lachapelle, Yann Arthus Bertrand & Ansell name a few
Operating System: OS X
Favourite cartoon character: calvin & hobbes

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Kimbearr Featured By Owner May 9, 2011
im so jealous of your lips
mengky335 Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
i... indonesian in netherland?
DianaCretu Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2009  Hobbyist Photographer
Featured in Leaf-o-rama! :iconflowerdanceplz:
mounirian128 Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2009

mounirian128 Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2009
Hi take the free IQ QUIZ! I just found out mine.
Motel6Devil Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2009
Great gallery and I love your favorite collection too!
SenToprak Featured By Owner Aug 24, 2008
great gallery.. i love your colors :heart:
nebula-duygu Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2008  Student
l like ur photos :)
and lips ;)
OmfgAbbey Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2007   Traditional Artist
I Luve Your Gallery!
Great Work!
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