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realism vs. abstraction

Hello, my name is Curt Nelson. I'm interested in learning your painting methods but am unsure of what you mean by the term realism in defining painting style. I'm interested in some abstraction and am frustrated by my own inability to stray from depicting what I see realistically. I guess what you mean by realism is the faithful representation of colors and forms seen by the artist. To me, this is what photography does, although as you are an admirer of J S Sargent whose paintings do not look like photographs, I think your definition of realism must be somewhat different. I am a complete novice who needs to learn all of the technical aspects of oil painting but ultimately I want to introduce abstraction to my paintings. I would love to hear you discuss realism and abstraction. 


  • Photorealism is where you try to make the painting look as much like a photo as possible when seen from any distance.

    Realism in terms of Sargent is where the painting looks realistic from a distance but when seen close up the individual brush marks are visible and it looks abstracted and unrealistic.

    That is the effect that a lot of artists admire.
  • There are other artists whose technique may be easier to understand, yet they still use some abstraction in the brushwork. Morgan Weistling is a good one. Sargent is harder to emulate.
  • Thank you, Richard_P
    I love Sargent. And I imagine that learning to paint with realism is a prerequisite to learning abstraction.
  • Thanks to you all for helping me to understand the meaning of realism.  :)
  • GTO said:

    I think it’s good to ask ourselves why do we love to paint?  What do we have to say?  Or maybe there’s nothing left to say.  It’s all been said before.

    Its true that there is nothing new under the sun. Maybe it has all been said before, but we all tell the story or make the painting in our own unique way and thats what makes the difference.

  • SummerSummer -
    edited December 2019
    I find that there is a lot of abstraction in realism.  Especially when viewed with the help of a magnifier.   :)  
  • @MichaelD. I think I understand what you are saying.
    An artist friend, who started painting still lifes a few months ago, told me she was determined to not paint any bowls of fruit.  She’s a good painter but she wanted to paint something more interesting and unique.
    She was pointing out how some subjects are worn out.  
    Maybe our artistic creativity can create something new and inventive out of a bowl of fruit.
    I try to look for subjects that inspire me.  Even that can be choppy.  There are times when I look at a subject that may have inspired me but lost its inspiration and I look more deeply and I see it sort of new again and do my best to capture that in paint.
    I’m enjoying that now but I do wonder where To go with subject, composition, the feeling and thinking part of it.

  • edited December 2019
    I didn't have time to read your epic posting earlier, i came back to but now you've removed it.
  • @Forgiveness.  if I ever start an art renaissance I want you on my side.  👍. Great perspective.
  • edited December 2019
    Btw I really enjoyed learning and studying about the Bauhaus institution, the art house, when was in school. I owned one of the founder's books, hard cover, nearly like new condition. 
    And more recently, M.C. Escher lived with his brother for many years where I live. His artworks are stored here.
  • I found this discussion with Nelson Shanks that addresses a lot of my earlier questions.  He dies a 26 minute oil portrait with the discussion over that.  Very inspiring talk.

  • Let's be honest. Many artists paint 365 paintings a year just for profit  hoping that a rich collector would one day get mesmerized by some of them and buy for a fortune. To achieve that, they work hard to improve their technical skills, using visual tricks, changing media, making up sophisticated titles and stories behind,  all that just to impress  a potential buyer. Even monetary measure of talent became a norm. Believe it or not, there are some idiots, like me, who paint just for fun of it. And may be to leave some material evidence of own existence.
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