I visited the local art circle’s exhibition at Bolton Library last week. There were two paintings which struck me. (Well, three if you include the one I voted for in the Visitors’ Prize poll, and which I then went out to the front desk and bought.)
One was a definite ten out of ten for watercolour technique and craft. It was an excellent version of a photograph of a seaside scene shot against the light. It was so good, it was just like the original photograph. In fact, that’s where my problem lies. It was just like the photograph. It didn’t add anything that the photograph didn’t say already.
I was once told that an artist’s job is to make you see things in a way that you hadn’t seen before. Picasso said that he didn’t paint what he saw but what he felt. To me the watercolour artist, by duplicating the photograph, has not shown me a new way of looking at the scene, nor had they painted what they felt.
In a similar way, there was a fine painting of the Duchess of Cambridge based on a newspaper photograph but again, I saw nothing in the painting which I couldn’t have seen in the original photograph.
I’ve seen paintings before which have been based on newspaper photographs but which have said more than just the originals. I saw a set recently where the artist had put a year into Google images and painted certain random pictures which came up. I can’t remember exactly how they were chosen but there were some weird ones, but collectively they were more than just copies of the originals even though they were realistic.
Earlier in the summer, I wrote about copying paintings by other people. I had copied a fauve painting of Matisse by Derain. I then used the techniques I’d learnt to do a self portrait in the same style. Last week, at the pastel drawing class at college, Rachel was showing us the use of masks. The work was a landscape at sunset with a lot of aerial perspective. The distant hills were yellow, mid-distance were orange and foreground ones were rusty brown. I watched her demo and immediately recalled a photograph I took of the foothills of the Himalayas which was a series of blues.
My pastel drawing was nothing like this because a) I didn’t have the photograph with me b) my skills at reproducing photographs is not as well developed as members of the Art Circle c) the lesson was about the use of masks and not copying photographs but mainly d) I already had the photograph so why bother reproducing it.
I spend a fair amount of time on Pinterest posting images into one of my folders called Images I Like. These are intended as inspiration for art work. Inspiration, I stress. I have no intention of trying to copy any of them. The only project I currently have in mind where I intend to try and produce as close a faithful copy as I can is of old cigarette cards, but much larger by a factor of about 20 (i.e about 2 ft by 3 ft instead of about 1 in by 1 1/2 in.) But that is a distant project at the moment.
The title of this post is “Is it me?”. Is it me, or do other people have a problem in the accurate, realistic copying of photographs? Do such painted copies have any artistic qualities (not the same as technical merit) that the original photograph does not have? Just asking!
On the other hand, reproducing famous photographs in Lego is a totally different matter! Check out this link for some amazing work! Here is a taster based on Robert Capa’s Spanish Civil War photograph: