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Monday, June 28, 2010

Photographic Evidence

If you are wondering why I'm not posting much at the moment, it's partly because I have made loose agreement with my ever intrepid art dealer friend Mercia that we would hold the posting of the exhibition work till just prior to the exhibition (whether I have the discipline to conform to that remains to be seen), and partly because i wasn't sure whether anyone would be interested in anything I write that doesn't have a pretty picture associated with it. But a little encouragement goes a long way ... so ... pictures or no pictures I'll carry on posting. :)

So then ...
A couple days ago I was engaged in conversation with an artist who asked me what my opinion was on painting from photographs. She had always secretly harboured the fear that she was not a "real artist" because she works from photos, and "real artists" either work from reality or from their imaginations. She'd somehow, somewhere got this idea in her head that true artists paint this way and that she was a fraud because she did not. Now I know that there are some artists who feel very strongly about this topic. There are artists who are emphatic that painting from a photograph is not acceptable. I don't believe this to be the case at all. I would label them romantic idealists (not a bad judgement ... just quaint and old-fashioned view). They are hung up on the romantic idea of an artist labouring in front of an easel, a freezing, cramped model holding pose in a cluster of carefully arranged props. Seriously! Who has the time? No model I know is prepared to pop over to my place at 3am in the morning and I'm buggered if I'm going to lob a two meter long canvas off to the bushveld every time I want to paint a zebra. I read a comparison somewhere on the net ... painting from photographs is similar to buying wine with a screwcap bottle.  The wine is as good (if you believe experts they will tell you a screwcap is actually better for the wine), opening the bottle is more convenient than a corked bottle, but everybody feels better about themselves opening a bottle with a corkscrew. Romance. I get that. But, it's no match for the convenience of photographic reference.
I do acknowledge that there is a greater level of certain skills involved in painting without the convenience of a still photograph ... but I can't agree with the perception that this affects the quality, validity or spirit of the output.  That is fully in the hands of the artist. A photograph is a subject, and the subject does not determine the validity of an art work. 

Personally I don't advertise the fact that I generally paint from photo's, but, by the same token I don't see much point in trying to hide it either, which some artists seem to do. Incidently, the photo above is a painting I did of my daughter, from memory.  It's good enought that she recognises herself ... it would have been better if I'd used a photo.

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