dust-closeup.jpgApologies to any rednecks reading. So…how many of you have ever heard this said by a bystander – and intended as praise – for a painting? Why would something “looking like a photo” be a GOOD thing? Possible explanations:

  • Many species of animals are generally unfamiliar, so total verisimilitude is expected
  • Animal art, as a genre, has heavily emphasized photo-realism (to the detriment of artistic expression, perhaps…?)
  • An unsophisticated viewer of art might consider this, indeed, as the highest compliment

The image, BTW, is a rather zoomed-in crop of a recent painting – the kind of piece that one would assume probably wouldn’t be mistaken for a photo. At least, I hope not…

8 Responses to “Looks jes lak a photo!”
  1. Joe says:

    Ha, ha……you know what I think because you have my Masters thesis! Don’t get me started on this topic……..I could go on for days!

  2. larry jewett says:

    I think it’s mainly for the last reason you alluded to.

    Because most people don’t know anything about art (or about wildlife for that matter), saying that something looks like a photo (of something they saw in National geographic?) they just blurt out the only “intelligent” thing they can.

    Sad, but true.

  3. larry jewett says:

    You know, this has me wondering whether in the early days of photography, people viewed photographs (something which they would have known nothing about) and said “Wow, that looks just like that painting of Leonardo’s friend — what was her name? — Mona!”

  4. Susan Fox says:

    Somewhere along the line an unexamined assumption has taken hold that fidelity to a photograph is the most important criteria by which the quality of a painting can be judged. Like somehow the photo represents “truth”, instead of merely chemicals on paper. And the closer you can get to that “truth”, the better the painting.

    It could be a kind of clutzy way of saying that the artist has drawn the subject well.

    It may also be that all most people see are photographs, not original art, and lack any other frame of reference for commenting on a painting.

    It’s not just animal art, I’ve heard the comment applied to landscapes, still lifes, portraits, you name it. It’s meant well, but arghhhh.

  5. larry jewett says:

    Of course, some of the “paintings” you see these days actually are (digitally enhanced) photographs.

    I was in friendly’s ice cream the other day and they had what i at first thought were prints of paintings on the wall — until i looked closely and noticed that they were just photos that had been enhanced to look like paintings.

    The line has really become blurred since the advent of the digital photoshop and the ultrahigh resolution inkjet printers.

    In some cases, it’s difficult to tell the difference, especially if the printout is on canvas and “retouched” or if a printer that lays ink on canvas in varying thickness to mimic brush strokes has been used.

  6. Kathy Partridge says:

    I try not to be too offended by the “looks just like a photo” comment – I’m convinced that it’s the highest praise most people can come up with. We live in an art-deficit society, so there’s no common frame of reference or language other than photos. I think what they’re trying to say is “gee it really looks like a real _________” (and not something else).

    Off on a bit of a tangent maybe but I wanted to comment on Larry’s thoughts about digitally enhanced photos, etc. I’ve been messing with computers and Photoshop for several years now, including some experimentation with “filters” (the ones that add texture, distort, or add fake painting technique). There’s a certain cookie cutter “look” to those effects – call it the “Photoshop effect” if you will.

    I’ve been to three national-level exhibitions in recent years where supposedly original art was all that was allowed – but at least one piece in each had all the tell-tale signs of the Photoshop effect. It’s hard to describe what gives it away but I’d bet my bottom dollar that one was a canvas giclee of an enhanced photo with a little half hearted grass texture laid on here and there, the second was a paper giclee on watercolor paper (this one went BIS), and the third was a blurred photo print on glossy paper with some acrylic slapped on top.

    In each case, I didn’t say anything to anybody because I’m a nobody and didn’t want to make a stink but I wondered how many very nice, legitimate pieces were rejected so space could be given over to the digital art. Don’t get me wrong, digital art has its place (and I’ve seen some amazing digital work), but only if it’s clearly and honestly identified as digital art. Digital art that’s labeled “watercolor” or “acrylic” is just cheating.

    I spoke to one artist awhile ago who didn’t enter a national juried show the first year they required digital entries – because he didn’t know how to burn a CD! All artists (and most jurors are artists) who dislike computers – and they still seem to be the majority – need to get over their irrational fear and intimidation. If they don’t, they’re never going to learn to recognize the signs of the Photoshop effect and this problem will just get worse.

  7. Julie Chapman says:

    Kathy, I was very interested (and somewhat taken aback) to read about your experience that digital art might be sneaking into competitions. As you noted, there’s nothing wrong with digital art – but enter it in the competitions that are explicitly for that art form, not in competitions where the intent is for submissions to represent original media from the hand of the artist. I guess that’s one good thing about oil paint: there’s pretty much no mistaking whether or not someone actually applied OILS to a support.

  8. Kathy Partridge says:

    I’m not exactly sure how the jurying of digital entries is done, but an easy (albeit more time consuming) way to check for the “hand of the artist” would be to open each file in Photoshop and view “actual pixels”. If it’s a fairly hi-res image (and most shows seem to require at least 7″ at 300 dpi for the catalog), they’d be able to see every dimple and brushstroke.

    My guess is though, that most juries (tasked with viewing hundreds of entries in a few hours) simply get to see each image in a “slideshow” on a monitor for a few seconds – which would make it easy for the occasional “fake” to slip through, unfortunately.

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