Recently a friend, visiting my Web site, remarked on my use of photo-realism in so much of my work. Yet I seldom use that term and don't actually consider myself a photo-realist. Photo-realism is a style growing out of the pop movement of the 1960s. It was the result of artists wanting to move beyond Campbell's Soup cans to what one might term a "fool-the-eye" POP still-lifes, such as the work of Audrey Flack. It quickly spun off into the cityscape genre and at the same time into figurative painting and portraits. Phillip Pearlstein and Chuck Close come to mind. In sculpture, the figures of Duane Hanson exhibit this same trend. In general, these works are quite large (lifesize at least), boast an almost scientific color precision, employ all manner of mechanical/photographic drawing techniques, and (except for some ocassional humor) they're cold as ICE.
My work is seldom any of that. It IS, on the other hand, realistic, and employs the use of photos to the exclusion of all other source material. I'm not offended by the reference to photo-realism, I just find it somewhat inaccurate. I guess the quick and easy answer to good realism in painting is good photos. The expert, creative use of a camera can save the artist HOURS of work and improve the quality of that work immensely. The beauty of photographing your subject matter is that you have SO many opportunities to compose, choose, merge, and experiment with the source material for that which you plan to do. And, with the advent of digital cameras, and the miracles a steady hand on the mouse can render in conjunction with a good photo-editing program, the possibilities are only expanding.
The use of modern aides in conceiving, researching, composing, drawing, and painting, to a degree now more than ever, make realistic painting a much more cerebral endeavor. Of course it is ideal if an artist set on realism can master all the various arts and sciences, but it's not absolutely necessary. Except for the actual painting and drawing, some or all of the various technical jobs CAN be farmed out. And with the mastery of good projection techniques, even the artist's drawing skills can be minimal. The skills a realistic artist MUST have to excell are nearly all in his or her head. They include a sharply-honed aesthetic sense, an adventurous, even DARING, creative urge, a good eye for color mixing and matching, a healthy ego, patience, persistence, and showmanship. The only non-intellectual item that needs to be added to this mix is good eye-hand coordination in moving paint on a brush. Now that's not asking too much, is it?