Photorealism seems like a trend right now. It actually started in the 1960s as a counter to abstract expressionism, so I can't exactly say it is a recent trend. However, I personally see more and more photo-realistic paintings and drawings going viral on the internet. I don't know why they have gone viral, nor am I here to discuss this. I simply want to share why I don't paint in such a style.
First of all, I want to go on record and say I am not speaking against any style of painting. As long as we don't infringe on the rights of others, we can paint whatever we want and please. I've seen amazing
photo-realistic paintings that had me floored, so believe me when I say I am not trying to speak ill of it. I also want to state that I've done such a style before back in the art school years. Not because I like the style, but because I didn't really have a choice since it was one of my classes. I know how labor intensive and the amount of time invested in each one of them. I can also understand it is visually fascinating when done right.
You can say I already have my fair share of photorealism in my day job as a game artist. Halo is a hyper-realistic sci-fi genre. Everything in the game is aiming to look as real as possible. I enjoy my work as a game artist. But after I clock out and go home, I want to do something different. Impressionistic watercolor is probably the extreme opposite of photo-realistic digital graphic. I realize what I want to capture in the painting is not realistic detail and visual record, but a trigger of memory and feeling.
We all had the same experience. When you heard a certain song or music, your mind travels back in time.
Sometimes the experience can be so strong, it makes you lost in thoughts. When I hear some music from the 90's I travel back to Southern California on the I-5 freeway. I start to walk on the street of Taipei to get my lunch when I hear some songs from the 80's. I'm sure you have the same experience. I argue that this feeling you experience is more potent than when you look at a past photograph. The photograph can capture the exact image at that time with every little detail, but the emotional impact is not nearly as strong. To me, a powerful piece of art takes you on a journey, you can feel you're in there, and you can get lost in it. I don't think it is something a photograph (or a photo-realistic painting) or even a video can achieve. When I look at a photo-realistic painting or drawing, my mind is so occupied with my eyes checking out all the little details and astonished by how real the render is. And that's the problem - it reaches my brain and not my heart. But when I see a good impressionistic painting, I can feel I am there, the image itself becomes a doorway into an experience, a memory and/or a feeling. Same thing happens when you listen to your special song. When it takes you to that special place or moment, you are no longer listening to the lyrics or even the melody, you are in a different place already. It is extremely powerful to me when a piece of art can give me the same experience. And I have to be honest, none of those experience came from a photo-real painting.
My objective as an artist is to create a piece of art that can give people that same experience when they hear their favorite song.
I'm not saying I can always achieve that, but that is my goal. I recently start to do a series of golf course painting. If you search "golf course painting" on the web, over 70% of those paintings are done in the photo-realistic manner. Maybe that's what sells, but I want to treat the subject in my own way. I want the painting to "feel" real and let you experience the emotion of being there. The fresh air, the cool breeze, the movement of the trees and the crisp sound of the club hitting the golf ball! I can't do that if I paint in photorealism. Photography is the same. More and more photographers are looking for ways to make their photos look like paintings. Many photographers are working hard to capture movement in their photos instead of the plain-old showing every detail photograph.
For this reason, you will probably never see me doing a photo-real painting or drawing. I want my painting to lead you into an experience, not to get you stuck on the visual. And let's face it, I really don't have the patience to spend tens of hours on one single painting, as most people don't see the world around them in such intensity.