An Exhibit of Realistic Paintings featuring People in Classic themes inspired by 19th Century Realistic Paintings in a wide variety of mixed media Including Oil Paintings, Prismacolor Paintings and Digital Paintings along with an introduction to all the various kinds and styles of realistic paintings and essays and articles with themes relevant to realistic paintings.        

"The Angel of the LORD visits Gideon" MMXVII

Presents: Realistic Paintings: The Rebirth of the Realism Art Movement in the 21st Century!

A Gallery of New Paintings, Drawings and Pictures in traditional oils, Contemporary acrylics and cutting edge 2D & 3D digital mixed media in the style of the classic illustrators. Our 21st year on the Web ~ 1996- 2017~   What started out in oil has now spread to various media...

"The Angel visits Hagar in the Wilderness"

                                               

Since the times of the ancient Greeks, Art History records a relentless quest for Realism and artistic excellence in realistic paintings and sculpture. The masters of each generation strove to perfect their craft, then passed on the torch of their accumulated knowledge and skill to the next generation of. The accomplishments and technological breakthroughs of one generation of realistic painters has often set new standards of excellence for the next. 

New Realistic Paintings of people in Oils and a variety of other Visual Art Media

M M X Exhibition: Homage to the Masters of Realistic Painting

What is Realism? What makes a Painting Realistic?

 

  In most Realistic paintings the artist attempts to represent persons, scenes, things, and facts as they are, life as it is. The word realistic is used in many senses- as opposed to romanticism, to conventionalism, to sentimentalism, to idealism and to imaginative treatment although it can also combine these themes and many others. Norman Rockwell's work for example was dismissed as commonplace and unnecessary in the 20th century but now shows us a world "Gone with the Wind"... how sad almost ALL of his wonderful paintings were burned.

 

Traditional History Painting...in new media

        

 

   Of all the different kinds of realistic paintings, none are harder than illustration, yet illustration is the least respected. Which do you think would be hardest? To Paint whatever comes easiest to you on a wave of inspiration like a girl in a chair or a bowl of grapes or a tree on a hill with every detail, shadow and perspective already laid out for you or to try and recreate a depiction of say for example, The World War Two U.S. First Marine Division assaulting Peleliu Beach in the pacific? Meticulous research is essential. The weapons, uniforms, troop formations, and the distinctive scenery cannot be faked. Many of the greatest realistic paintings of history combine fine art with painstaking research and illustration. In spite of these facts, all works of illustration have been generally dismissed by elitists as inferior to even the simplest landscapes and portraits.

Anyone who has actually undertaken such a complex task knows better.

And then there is FANTASTIC Realism~

Realistic depictions of unreality as opposed to Realistic depictions of everyday life.

 

                

 

"Faerie Guardians" MMVI is an oil painting on 20x16 canvas and "Sleeping Beauty" MMV is another oil painting this time on 11 x 14 Bristol board. 

 

 

 

( Athene, goddess of Justice and Wisdom is one of David's traditional realistic oil paintings and is painted on 20 x 16 canvas. )

 

Sometimes Realism is a term of praise, and sometimes it can be a term of derision. During the nineteenth and especially the twentieth century the use of the words realistic and  realism often implied that the details brought out in realistic paintings were unpleasant, sordid, obscene, or of a generally offensive character.

 

                 

 

Fantastic Realism: "Into the Lake of Fire" Left  is Digital & Mixed Media and "Queen Mab, the Bringer of Dreams" MMVI  right is Oil on Canvas.

 

 

 

 

               

 

"All Hallows Eve" MMX is an oil painting on 20 x 16 canvas and "Pandora's Box" MMV is another oil painting on 20 x 16 canvas. 

 

    Many 20th century contemporary realistic painters working in the Photo Realism style were trained in an educational system openly hostile or dismissive to Classical realistic painting and art tradition and were only taught the tenets of Abstraction and Expressionism, such as "Art must be offensive, Art must be unclear, technical skill is a hindrance," and so on. As a result many contemporary artists creating realistic paintings are more akin to the abstract and expressionist schools than to the "Classical Realism" of the ancient Greeks which adored mathematical design, beauty and nature.

 

   

 

 

 "Zeus, King of the Olympians" (AKA Jupiter, Depicted with his master thunderbolt) and "Hercules and the Lernean Hydra" (The second of the 12 labors of Hercules) MMXII [mixed media]

 

 

               

 

"Atalanta" MMX on the Boar hunt (left) and "Valkyrie Maiden" MMX approaching a battlefield.

     The realistic painting tradition and long standing schools of that style of training were cut off for generations in the 20th Century and much of the knowledge of the old masters was lost. The political power of the realistic artist was broken and they were no longer an indispensable member of society. Hostility to creators of realistic paintings goes back to ancient times and the jealousy of advisers to the Pharaohs and Kings who were not allotted as much time with them as their portraitists. For more on history, media, style & technique of realistic & abstract painting see the essays & articles section after the exhibit.

 

             

 

 

       "The Protector of the Forest" MMX from German Fairy Tales and "Baba Yaga" MMX from Russian Mythology.

 

 

    

 

These next few paintings include Oils on canvas, Prismacolor paintings and Digital illustrations incorporating mixed media...

 

      Helen_of_Troy_MMIV.jpg (60001 bytes)      Iris, goddess of the Rainbow.jpg (58126 bytes)   

 

 

         The lady Kriemhilde.jpg (68344 bytes)             

 

 

  Contemporary Realism does not embrace the mathematics and compositional design of the Classical school of realistic painting (like the golden ratio) but does not frown on beauty. Photo Realism usually strives to look as much like a photograph as possible and sometimes the results are deliberately shocking or disturbing. Photo-Realistic paintings can be brilliant and insightful or can actually be quite  mundane and so ordinary as to be boring just like ant other style of art.

 

              The Sword of Lancelot.jpg (92946 bytes)

 

    The real mission of Photo realism is not  to record everyday life like in Norman Rockwell's realistic paintings, but to expose the unconscious way we look at & accept photographs. The creators of photo-realistic paintings often deliberately decline to select subjects from the natural, beautiful, & harmonious & more especially, depict ugly things & bring out details of an unsavory sort for social commentary & political purposes.

 

      _The Virgin and the Unicorn.jpg (67913 bytes)  Aphrodites_Child.jpg (75627 bytes)   

 

By the 20th century realism had spread to nearly all nations- then realistic painting elements combined with those of Impressionism, Symbolism, & other movements. After decades of repression during the abstract school's stranglehold on the learning institutions and media came the internet and the Realistic Revolt in the early 21st century. The Modern Day Realistic Painter refused to die! The 21st century has seen an explosion of creativity and expression as a new wave of brilliant realistic painters have emerged exploring all these different styles and media with power, eloquence and passion.

 

 

      The Battle of Thermopylae.jpg (78420 bytes)     King Arthur and Sir Lancelot.jpg (81330 bytes)

 

 

Fantastic Realism is a versatile style of realistic painting in that it can combine with or be a part of the Classical, Contemporary or Photo-realistic schools or stand as a style unique unto itself. This exhibit combines elements from all of these schools of Realistic painting and embraces the natural, the romantic, the fantastic and sentimentality just as much as other gifted contemporary realistic artists passionately avoid those themes, striving for absolute and unvarnished reality.

 

 

             

 

    Fantastic realistic paintings as a genre are born of these movements & tied to them in style and technique, but prefer to explore subjects that are strange or strikingly unusual rather than scenes of everyday life or objects. They are often bizarre in form, conception & appearance & even wondrous in their beauty. Sometimes macabre & grotesque, they are rarely boring like the other forms of Realism in visual art so often are. Fantastic Realism can be completely apart from everyday reality, yet appear to be quite real like these fantastic but realistic illustrations from The Holy Bible.

 

 

               The Ten Commandments.jpg (36252 bytes)

 

 

          

 

 

  Snobbism in the arts is nothing new. Some people will tell you that oils are the only valid medium for realistic paintings. These next two are 'Prismacolor Paintings', if you will: This art medium, these relatively new soft oil based colored pencils are not the first Dry Painting Medium: the term 'Pastel Paintings' originated in the 17th century. They also are a wet medium, mixing well with a variety of solvents and applied with an artist's brush - getting very oil painting- like results. This kind of picture is really not at all what people think of when they hear the word 'drawing'.

 

 

 

                

 

 

"Circe Invidosia" and "Elven Fairy Magic" are Prismacolor paintings done on # 500 13 x 16 inch  Strathmore Bristol board.

 

 

   In recent years digital has become a preferred media in the publishing industry for several reasons. First of all, there’s the speed and the freedom from fear. The undo button is empowering and liberating. More importantly, publishing customers rarely can afford to pay for old-fashioned traditional methods like oil on canvas. Artists can still do them, and do them well, but no one but millionaire art collectors can afford to pay even poverty level hourly rates for all that time.  The masters often took a year or more for a single painting. Speaking of hourly rates; pre-digital revisions were financially catastrophic, but now adding more space to the canvas does not require starting over, no wonder the starving artist became a stereotype! With digital media artists can create pieces that look very nice for very nice prices and with blazing speed . The publishing industry has never been noted for its patience. In the days before the digital revolution, mailing traditional media originals was scary at best, but now they can be scanned and shipped or even uploaded without risk in minutes.

 

 

 

           

 

 

"Return with your shield or on it" MMX (left) and "Faerie Tales" MMVIII (right) are digital illustrations incorporating mixed media

 

 

With a background in traditional media including oils, pastels and colored pencils, Howard David Johnson embraces leading edge digital media in the creation of his depictions of fantasy, folklore, mythology, legend, religion, and heroic history. He works in and mixes a wide variety of media * Oil paintings * Acrylic Paintings * Prismacolor Paintings * Drawings * Chalk & Oil Pastel Paintings * Photography * and most recently Digital Artistry & Mixed Media * 

                                               

Who is Artist and Illustrator Howard David Johnson?

In one of David's invitations to the Florence Biennale Contemporary Art Exhibition, (a partner in the United Nations' Dialog among Nations), UN Secretary General Kofi Anon wrote him: "Artists have a special role to play in the global struggle for peace. At their best, artists speak not only to people; they speak for them. Art is a weapon against ignorance and hatred and an agent of public awareness... Art opens new doors for learning, understanding, and peace among nations."

       Howard David Johnson is a realistic visual artist & photographer with a background in the natural sciences & history. He works in a wide variety of mixed media ranging from oil paintings on canvas to digital media. After a lifetime of drawing and painting, His Traditional Realistic Art was exhibited in the British Museum in London in 1996, (3 years before he got his first computer) as well as numerous American ones since, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His realistic paintings have made appearances in every major bookstore & game shop chain in America as well as magazines & educational texts around the world.

     Some of his more prestigious clients include the National Geographic Society, the University of Texas, the University of Cambridge in England, Paramount Studios, Universal Studios, PBS TV, Enslow Educational Publishers, Adobe Photoshop, Auto FX,  Doubleday, the History Book of the Month Club, & J Walter Thompson Advertising, just to name a few. As a realistic illustrator he has not only used the computer to create new forms of realistic paintings, but has worked in the development and marketing of software for Adobe Photoshop. Digital art, Colored pencils, Pastels, Mixed media, and original Oil Paintings can also be commissioned for select projects. Some originals are for sale as well. Licenses to print his realistic paintings are available starting at only $99 USD.

 

A portrait of the artist in his painting studio as he is today in a photo taken by his youngest son Erich.

    Snobbism in the arts is nothing new. Some people will tell you that oils are the only valid medium for realistic paintings. That  Acrylics, Pastels, Watercolors, Colored Pencils, Digital, and other Media for Realistic Paintings and Drawings are not valid  for "real" art. For more on this centuries old prejudice see the essay section below...  

                                               

Thank You For Visiting Howard David Johnson's Gallery of Realistic Paintings...

All  these realistic paintings, pictures, & text are copyrighted & were registered with the Library of Congress by the author, Howard David Johnson All rights reserved worldwide

 

 

This Art Gallery has been honored by more than 25,000,000 Unique Visitors

from the Four Corners of the Earth:

My Friends from around the world thus far :

 

  England,   Canada,   Scotland,   Wales,   Ireland,   Germany,   France,   Monaco,   Andorra,   Italy,   The Vatican City State,  Greece,  Macedonia,  Cyprus,  Turkey,  Belgium,  Denmark,  The Faroe Islands,  Greenland,  Yugoslavia, Macedonia,  Croatia,  The Czech Republic,  Bosnia,  Herzegovina,  Slovakia,  Slovenia,  Luxembourg,  Latvia,  Estonia, Hungary,  Bulgaria,  Lithuania,  Poland,  Austria,  Romania,  Spain,  The Russian Federation,   Ukraine,   Kazakhstan, Moldova,  Malta,  Iceland,  Finland,  Norway,  Netherlands,  Switzerland,  Liechtenstein,  Sweden,  Portugal,  Albania, Armenia, Georgia,  Azerbaijan,  Belarus,  Kazakhstan,  Gibraltar,  Israel,  Palestinian Territories,   Egypt,   Libya,  Mali, Algeria,  Niger,  Saudi Arabia,  Oman,  The United Arab Emirates,  Kuwait,  Bahrain,  Qatar,  Yemen,  Iraq,  Iran,  Jordan, Syria,   Lebanon,   Morocco,   Ethiopia,   Eritrea,   Liberia,   The Republic of Congo,   Rwanda,   Kenya,  Angola,  Ghana, The Ivory Coast,   Zambia,   Zimbabwe,   Sudan,  Nigeria,  Namibia,  Uganda,   Kenya,  Eritrea,  Tanzania,  Botswana, Malawi,  Senegal,  Djibouti,  Cameroon,  Chad,  Gambia,  Mozambique,  Swaziland,  Lesotho,  South Africa,  Seychelles,   Viet Nam, Japan,  South Korea,  China,  Hong Kong,  Macau, Mongolia,  Mauritius,  Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos,   Myanmar,  Macau,  Malaysia,

"The Resurrection of Christ" MMX Mixed Media

   Taiwan,  Nuie,  New Zealand,  Fiji,  Cook Islands,  New Caledonia,  Vanuatu,  American Samoa,  Australia,  Micronesia,  Polynesia,  Papua New Guinea,  The Heard and McDonald Islands,  The Philippines, Guam, Palau,  Cocos Island,  The Kingdom of Tonga,  Malaysia,   Brunei Darussalem,  India,   Pakistan,   Afghanistan, Bhutan,  Bangladesh,  Sri Lanka,  Chagos Islands,  The Republic of Maldives,  Turkmenistan,  Kyrgyzstan,  Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan,   Nepal,  Indonesia,  Chile,  Argentina,  Uruguay,  Paraguay,  Brazil,  Peru,   Aruba,  Venezuela,  Bolivia, Suriname,  Guyana,  Aruba,  The Dominican Republic,  Guatemala,  Costa Rica,  Colombia,  Trinidad and Tobago,   Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados,  The Virgin Islands,  Saint Lucia,   The Netherlands Antilles,  Panama,  Saint Vincent & Grenadines, Grenada, Ecuador,  Belize,   Nicaragua,   El Salvador,   Bermuda,  Cuba,  Jamaica,  Dominica,  Haiti,  Puerto Rico,  Cayman Islands,   Anguilla,    The Bahamas,   Honduras,   Mexico,    Madagascar, Central African Republic,   Gabon,   San Marino,  Saint Kitts & Nevis Anguilla,   Azerbaidjan,   Burkina Faso,   Equatorial Guinea,   Mauritania,   Burundi,  

and my home, The Great Free State of Idaho (USA)...

If your home is not listed here please e-mail and tell us where you're from...

info@howarddavidjohnson.com

We love hearing from you! Your business, letters & links are always welcome. E-mail for courteous service...

*****

 

Enter a world of Beauty and Imagination...

INDEX of GALLERIES ~ LINKS to LARGER ART  

The Realistic and Fantastic Art Galleries of Contemporary American Illustrator Howard David Johnson

Click on these Fun Educational Realistic Art Gallery link icons  for Two-fisted Tales of VALOR & Frontline Combat featuring Legendary Warriors of History, Knights and ladies of Arthurian Legend, Celtic, Nordic, Asian and Olympian gods & monsters, unicorns, dragons, fairies... and more!

deutsche mythologie.jpg (14999 bytes) Alamo btn.jpg (17997 bytes) btn celtic&.jpg (15723 bytes) The World's Great Religions Art Gallery.jpg (14460 bytes) Mythic-Women Art Gallery Link.jpg (19893 bytes) Asian mythology Art Gallery.jpg (13921 bytes)
Angel Art King Arthur Norse Mythology Greek Mythology Legends of History Fantasy Art Celtic Mythology Great Religions  Mythic women Fairy Paintings Asian Mythology Russian Mythology
Colored pencil portraits Art Gallery II.jpg (12252 bytes) Realistic Art Instruction link.jpg (14563 bytes) Pre- raphaelite Art link.jpg (16219 bytes)
Mermaid Art  History Part Two

Classic Fairy Tales

History of Dragons Pencil Portraits I Studio Photography Colored Pencils II

Art Instruction

Realistic Paintings Pre-Raphaelite Art Legendary Women Warrior Women
_Thumbelina_copy.jpg (3431 bytes) Fairies - Realistic art gallery link.jpg (17733 bytes) Greek Myths Link.jpg (17046 bytes)
The Art of War  Mythic Creatures About Realistic Art Science Fiction Art Beautiful Women Art NuVeau  Fantasy Pin ups Fairy Lore Flower Fairies

Spartan Warriors

 Lost Atlantis   Lady of Shallot
~symbolist art.jpg (15008 bytes) btn.com.2.jpg (15461 bytes) _Btn.abouthdj.jpg (3569 bytes) Digital Realistic Art Gallery Link.jpg (17603 bytes) Free Fairy Wallpapers link.jpg (17183 bytes)
Catholic Art  Art of the Bible Symbolist Art Surrealist Art Commercial Art Business Center Style & Technique  Biographical Paintings in Oils ELVES Digital Techniques Art Link Exchange
 All these pieces of art and the text are legally copyrighted and were registered with the U.S. Library of Congress Office of Copyright by the author, Howard David Johnson All rights reserved worldwide. Permission for many academic or non-commercial uses is freely and legally available by simply contacting the author via e-mail or visiting www.howarddavidjohnson.com/permission.htm

Presenting many NEW illustrations for 2017!

Original oil paintings are for sale, e-mail for info... or visit these pages for details

info@howarddavidjohnson.com

Thank you for Visiting... We love hearing from you! Your  business, letters, & links are always welcome.

*****

Keep scrolling down for Essays and articles on Realistic Art yesterday and today by the artist

 

 

ORIGINAL OIL PAINTINGS ON CANVAS ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE:

Many of Johnson's Digital Mixed Media creations displayed in this site are available to be rendered in oil on canvas once like the 20x16 oil on canvas Faerie Guardians 2006 (above right). Each design will only be rendered in oil once at this size and can be delivered in as little as 90 days. Sadly, much of the subtlety, vibrance, lustre and impact of an original oil painting is lost when it is scanned and imported to digital media or even printed by a master printer. Nothing can compare to an original oil painting viewed in person in my opinion but the other painting media like digital (above left) look VERY good in print and have their charms and distinct advantages as well.  

You can e-mail for more details about availability at: 

info@howarddavidjohnson.com

 Almost all of Johnson's Mixed Media creations (above left) are available to be rendered in oil on canvas once like the 20x16 oil on canvas Faerie Guardians (above right). Each design will only be rendered in oil once at this size and can be delivered in as little as 90 days. Sadly, much of the subtlety, vibrance, lustre and impact of an original oil painting is lost when it is scanned and imported to digital media or even printed by a master printer. Nothing can compare to an original oil painting viewed in person in my opinion but the other painting media definitely look good in print and have their charms and distinct advantages. People have written asking me to tell them how to tell mixed media from prismacolors or oil. The very fact it is so hard to tell is my point! This new media looks very presentable and costs far less! ALL HALLOWS EVE was begun as a digital montage This is your guide: above far right is the digital composition...The question is, are you willing to pay tens of thousands to be old fashioned if only an art expert can tell the difference?

          

New for 2010! ALL HALLOWS EVE rendered in oil on 20x16 canvas (right) features the lovely Ann Bratton as Titania in this illustration from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. Even when displayed at the same size the oil on canvas is clearly a superior illustration to the 2006 Prismacolor Painting on paper. (left). Considering many oil painters charge $60,000.00 USD and up it seems my $2,000.00 USD and up prices are very low...

Original oil paintings are for sale, all new designs or based on existing digital comps- e-mail for info.

                                                

info@howarddavidjohnson.com

Thank you for Visiting... Your  business, letters, & links are always welcome.

*****

 

 

 

LIMITED EDITION

[of a maximum 1,000 prints per image]

PRINT-ON-DEMAND

Each inspected, hand signed and numbered by the artist!

Gorgeous Quality Printing!

For a LIMITED time and a LIMITED print run most of the illustrations in Johnson's vast portfolio are now available!

Free Shipping and Handling on all orders!

A numbered certificate of authenticity is included.

CHECK OUT WITH

thejohnsongalleries@gmail.com

Sized to fit standard frames!

20x16 inches [508x406mm] & 14x11 inches [356x280 mm]

 

 Poster Size Art Reprints!

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

 

The Johnson Galleries now prints these "in-house" with our new state of the art Epson 7890 oversize printer on Epson 200 year premium photo paper and canvas with Epson inks!

    

 

Art and Technology: From the Camera to the Computer

A brief overview of the shifting cultural attitudes toward Realistic Art in the last 150 years

~Essay #8 by Howard David Johnson

 

    The first decade of the 21st Century has seen a grass-roots counter-revolution in the art world which has overthrown the stranglehold elitist proponents of Abstract expressionism gained on academia, the media and the art world at large in the early 20th Century.

   Realistic Art was declared obsolete and irrelevant at the beginning of the 20th Century due to the easy chronicling of persons, places, and events by the Camera - in spite of this new technology empowering the greatest era in Realistic Art history. The “Modern Day Artist” refused to die and began to explore realms of the heart and mind the camera could not record. The proponents of Abstract Expressionism gained control of elite art collector’s markets followed by academic institutions and the media leading to the abandonment of centuries of classical teaching methods and traditions in our universities. Even the best realistic art was later denounced and ridiculed as the dismissive and often even hostile Art establishment created elitist scorn for Realistic Art in general. This created a disconnect with the general population who could not relate to the tenets of Abstract Expressionism. The advent of the internet broke the absolute domination of the opinions of the Abstract School on media and academia and opened the floodgates of artistic expression and free opinions. Free at last from institutionalized condemnation, more and more artists began to choose realistic treatments and a tidal wave of fabulous new realistic art has been created in every conceivable visual art media for museums, galleries, books, movies, and video games.

As the camera became commercially available in the early 19th Century it became clear that the visual artist was no longer an indispensable member of society. Just about anyone could point and shoot this device at persons, places, and things and get very fast and very realistic results. Resentment from thousands of years of artists’ social and political influence fueled the notion that visual artists should be declared obsolete. The adoption of the camera as an artist’s tool and the advent of an era of glorious and unprecedented realism in painting did not stop the movement to crush the political and social influence of the artist.

Great realistic artists like Pablo Picasso and others like Vincent Van Gogh courageously answered this challenge by exploring concepts that could not be photographed with brilliant and visionary works. It was from these honest and ingenious notions that the schools and sub-schools of Abstract Art developed. The freshness and innovation of this movement took the art world and academia by storm. The excitement of defining the tenets and the delight of bewildering the masses gave rise to an elite class of critics who could control the lucrative art collector’s market with obfuscation and intellectual snobbery.

This wealthy art collector’s market gave credence to Abstract Expressionism’s “high art” status and the advice of well placed critics became extremely valuable and they formed an alliance with like-minded academics. As time passed, this trendy movement whose concepts were so hard to argue with gained control of the establishment and elitism took root. It was not long before traditional painting methods were not taught in universities any more as realistic art was no longer considered “Real Art” and tenets like; “Art must be ugly”, Art must be new” Art must be obscure”, and “The best Art is offensive” took hold in schools and printed media.

Not satisfied with control over the most lucrative galleries, collector’s markets and academia, these elitists moved from dismissive to openly hostile attitudes toward those who still loved and created realistic art. The merciless and unprovoked rebukes of great realistic artists like Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth and so many others are well documented in 20th century histories. That’s not “Real Art” and why do you waste your talent on “Mere Illustration” were some of the nicer comments. Illustrators in the 20th century wore these rebukes like badges of honor, like black eyes gained from standing up to schoolyard bullies, knowing in their hearts what they were doing was worthwhile and the narrow minded views of their critics were not the only valid opinions. By the end of the 20th century, the long apprenticeship tradition was broken and classical realistic art methods were lost forever. The Shock Art movement in the 1990’s carried the tenets to new extremes as “ART” became a dirty word. U.S. Government Endowments for the Arts were discontinued. Abstract Art had become the norm with its obfuscated themes and was then itself considered irrelevant and academically worthless. Art programs were then removed from countless public school curriculums to make time for standardized test preparation. There is no way that mandating more math, requiring more reading, or scheduling more science will replace what we have lost as a culture.   

At the turn of the 21st Century the Abstract Expressionists had been in control for generations with a thought control blockade in books, newspapers, radio, television and schools. Anyone who disagreed with them was told they were too stupid to understand “Real Art” and theirs was the only voice to be heard. What had begun so beautifully and sincerely was hijacked and violated until it became a byword for vulgarity. Then came the internet and the realistic artists, long silenced began to express their views. It was like the boy who cried: “The Emperor has no clothes!” This revelation spread like wildfire through the cultural consciousness.  Suddenly, it was no longer a disgrace to hold something other than those narrow views. Galleries on the internet showcased generations of repressed artists realistic works in a tidal wave art history calls: “the Realistic Revolt”. Of course, Abstract Art still flourishes today especially on college campuses, but the narrow views of its most fanatical proponents are no longer cruelly dominant.

The Realistic Revolt has brought the return of respectability to illustration and realistic landscape and portraiture. When I see the works of today’s vast multitude of realistic artists coming from a thousand different directions at once, tears come to my eyes, for I have worn the title “illustrator” as a badge of honor for decades and am deeply moved to have lived to see new developments in art and technology drive the visual arts to levels of quality beyond my wildest dreams. I predict 3D and digital media will grow more and more realistic until photos seem noticeably inferior. The internet has not only opened the floodgates for artistic expression, but employment and untold artists are earning a living shattering the “Starving Artist” stereotype so engrained in our cultural consciousness. The beginning of the 20th century saw technology threatening the survival of the professional artist and the end of it saw the unbridled tenets of Abstract Expressionism like “Art must be offensive” threatening the very existence of art as a part of our culture, the modern day artist has once again refused to die and has embraced technology to create a rebirth of realism that Art critics, collectors, academics and everyday folk can all embrace and celebrate in ways I once feared had been lost to us forever.

~ Howard David Johnson (2012)

 

 

 

ON REALISTIC ART:

Personal Opinion Essays on Realistic Art yesterday and today.

"Did you know the Greek word "Photography" means "Painting with Light"? Today with the advent of computers it truly lives up to it's name. Due to developments in Art and Technology combined with a general lack of public education, I contend that a more complete definition of the word "painting" is needed than that which is found in common usage."

~ H D  Johnson

"Painting, in art, the action of laying colour on a surface, or the representation of objects by this means. Considered one of the fine arts"  ~Encyclopaedia Britannica. 

   "Painting. noun. 1.) The act or employment of laying on colors or paints. 2.) The art of forming figures or objects in colors on canvas or any other surface, or the art of representing to the eye by means of figures and colors any object; the work of an illustrator or painter. 3.) A picture; a likeness or resemblance in shape or colors. 4.) Colors laid on. 5.) Delineation that raises a vivid image in the mind; as in word painting.

~ Webster's Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language

 

 

M M X Exhibition: Influence of and Homage to the Masters

 

   Over the last 300 years, ideas about female beauty have drastically changed and this has caused many of the most wonderful paintings of the old masters to seem 'ugly' to youthful modern audiences. In the days of Peter Paul Rubens, being forty to sixty pounds over-weight was considered not only attractive, but was a status symbol. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and tastes have clearly changed.

    These new realistic paintings of mine take their inspiration in part from the realistic paintings of the old masters just as The Lord of the Rings comes from The Ring of the Nibelung and European folklore, West Side Story came from Romeo and Juliet, which was in turn inspired by Antony and Cleopatra.

   Our shared cultural heritage, great works of art, literature, music and drama, cinema, folk tales and fairy tales are all drawn upon again and again by the creators of new works. These works in the public domain are both a catalyst and a wellspring for creativity and innovation. Even though all my Realistic Paintings are legally new works and protected under copyright law their inspiration sometimes comes in part from works in the public domain. The public domain is a space where intellectual property protection ( copyright ) does not apply. 

 

   When copyrights and patents expire, innovations and creative works fall into the public domain. They may then be used by anyone without permission and without the payment of a licensing fee. My sources have been transformed so much in the creation of these new works of art that they would not violate an existing copyright even if they were so protected. Publicly owned national parks are also considered by many to be public domain lands. Because of the recent extensions of the terms of both copyrights and patents, and the privatization of lands and other resources owned by the Federal Government, little is now entering the public domain. Look for new litigation and another time extension when Disney Corporation's Mickey Mouse copyright is due to expire in 2023.

    Since the public domain is a treasure trove of information and resources to be used by future generations, many advocates are deeply concerned that its stagnation will make it more and more difficult for future generations to find creative inspiration. Where would Walt Disney be without the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, Victor Hugo and so many others? Where would Aaron Copeland have been without American folk music? Thomas Nast's Santa Claus without traditional images of Father Christmas? Picasso without African art? 

  These are artists who made names for themselves and even fortunes through Public Domain appropriation, one and all. Beethoven did "variations on a theme" with the works of Mozart for the same reasons I have done mine with Waterhouse and others- to learn and give homage to the artists who most inspired me. 

Art tradition and etiquette suggest the most influential should be mentioned at exhibits; these original new pieces shown in this exhibit take their inspiration in part from the paintings of Waterhouse, Alma-Tadema, Church, Moreau, Bouguereau, Leighton, Ingres, Moore, Parrish, Rackham and others. Most of my sources are changed so much they are impossible to detect, but sometimes I make it obvious to pay homage.  

None of my works has ever so closely resembled its inspirational paintings so much as "Helen of Troy" (below): a deliberately obvious tribute to my most beloved master- John William Waterhouse; and is patterned after his "Miriamne leaving the judgment seat of Herod" I chose this one for my tribute because it is so often overlooked. The interior chamber with it's domed ceiling, King Herod on his throne, the eight man judiciary council of the San Hedrin, the chains and handcuffs, the tablets of the law and many other details are missing and in their places many new things are added.

  

  

In Helen of Troy, new elements include my own model, her jewelry, crown  and gown ornaments, The perspective is completely different with the view of the sea going off into the distance, the bas relief carvings, the ivy urn, the sphinx head, the flowers, the new floor, the new dress, and the polished marble columns. When all is said and done, only the stairs and the lion's lower body have not been changed beyond all recognition. My Helen of Troy: the face that launched a thousand ships; shows instead her seeing the approaching sea lights of her husband Spartan King Menelaus' amphibious invasion fleet. ( From Homer's The Iliad ) As a student of fine art, copying is a great way to learn and create fine art, but as a professional illustrator copyright laws make things very different...My art is divided into two groups; personal work partially copying the old masters and professional illustration applying these lessons to create totally original works.  I start more often with a specific written request. This is the exact OPPOSITE approach to creating a realistic painting copying something that's there. Research comes first.

    In the case of the Greek Heroes, ( left ) there were no realistic paintings in the public domain to copy accurate Greek armour and weapons in combat poses from.  Mostly I found realistic paintings of effeminate men, wearing nothing but a robe over the shoulder and the wrong helmets. Finding history books at the library with the accurate helmets, shield designs, weapons, and armour was essential to get an accurate depiction of a Greek Hoplite. 

 All the library had were stiff museum poses of anything. I hit the research jackpot with some very simplistic flat line drawings of great authentic Greek shield designs. All the elements must be found, gathered and assembled to create the realistic painting the client wanted. Next comes the layout. This is where the mathematics and geometric design enter the creative process. 

My wife Virginia took a picture of me nearly twenty years ago on a carpentry project with the heroic Jack Kirby -esque pose I was looking for mixed with the texture and feel of a realistic Frank Frazetta or Norman Rockwell painting. Naturally, in these cases I go to great lengths to make sure that my work looks nothing whatsoever like it's various inspirations and sources except in spirit. Of course, the characteristic old master's painting feel to the background most of my realistic paintings had was requested, and the picture was to have the drama of a Howard Pyle painting. The final result resembles no painting ever done. 

 When asked why I usually work from photos I like to re-tell Norman Rockwell's story about having to paint a chicken: He set it up on a stump in a barn and goes to painting. The chicken moves it's head. He moves it back. The chicken jumps down. He puts it back. He goes to paint. now the chicken decides to make a break for it... he chases it down clucking and screaming and puts it back. Now it knows he's going to have it for dinner and it goes completely berserk. The next day, he came in and set the chicken back, snapped it's picture, and the photo held nice and still."

~ Howard David Johnson

 

 

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STYLE and TECHNIQUE

Howard David Johnson is a contemporary visual artist and photographer with a background in
the natural sciences and history. He works in a wide variety of media ranging from traditional
oils,  pastels and others to cutting edge digital media. He loves mixing media. This site features
examples of his Realistic Art, including illustration, photography, experimentalism, and fine art.

 

Finding and training the right models is the hard part, then Photography, Mathematical Design and Digital Composition all come before the image is transferred to paper or canvas and rendered in mixed media ( including prismacolor pencils, oils, acrylics, and or many other traditional art media).

     The galleries linked to by the icons above show examples of his Realistic Paintings, and are grouped by theme rather than media. Since boyhood he has passionately copied the paintings of the old masters. He works in a wide variety of media ranging from traditional oils,  pastels and others to today's digital media. After a lifetime of creating traditional drawings and paintings, Howard David Johnson's Realistic Art was exhibited in the British Museum in London in 1996, (three years before he got his first computer ) as well as numerous American ones since, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His illustrations have appeared in every major bookstore and gameshop chain in America as well as magazines and educational texts around the world. Some of his more prestigious clients have included the University of Texas, the Book of the Month Club, Paramount Studios, PBS TV, Adobe Photoshop Auto FX, and J Walter Thompson Advertising. Licenses to print his existing work are available at surprisingly affordable prices. To create his work, he usually starts with a thematic concept  followed by a rough realistic pencil sketch, then followed by his photography, often traveling to find suitable scenes and locations and then working in his Photography studio with live models from his sketches. He then assembles a variety of elements which are realistic and original. As a boy he dedicated his life to art in 1960. From 1965- 1999 he used xeroxes and tracings to make his preliminary photo montages.

     This method is patterned after  the manner used by Maxfield Parrish and other 19th century notables.  Beginning with a tracing, he then draws or paints from these complex original Computer Photo Montages. Many of these are on display on this web and slated for future completion in a variety of media for traditional realistic paintings and drawings.  As this happens, the finished work is substituted in the exhibit.   He has built up an enormous library of original source photos to use in his realistic paintings and drawings.  For decades he has sought out the most beautiful models & brought them in for sessions in his photography studio. Using a strategy of J.W. Waterhouse, (The old master HDJ imitates most), his wistful & graceful models cannot be underestimated in their contribution to the stunning beauty & the potential for lasting appeal of his paintings.

        His favourite medium for realistic paintings is colored pencil because of the high speed and low expense, and people began expressing difficulty in telling his colored pencil drawing from photographs in the early 1980's.  In the last 35 plus years he has also mastered Oils, Pastels, Acrylics, Watercolors, Inks, Scratchboard, Gouache, Photography, and the highly controversial digital media. As a commercial illustrator Johnson has not only used the computer to create art but has been involved in the development of computer imaging software. Working in a realistic style inspired by classic illustrators HDJ is deeply rooted and grounded in the Greco-Roman artistic tradition, Feeling that with realistic art, the human form is the ultimate arena for artistic expression. His lifelong dream came true when his Traditional Realistic Art was exhibited in the British Museum in London England in 1996. His mixed media has also been displayed in numerous other ones since such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Having achieved international acclaim as a traditional visual artist he discovered digital media in 1999. Because of his passion for realistic painting and photography he elected to embrace it and joyfully be a part of this historic era as a twenty-first century realistic visual artist.

Pandora's box : First a sketch, then a photo, then a collage, then a Prismacolor Painting, Then finally rendered as an oil painting. (above) Painting dozens of layers of Transparent glazes of Oil  on Canvas

       Since 1972 when he began his career as a scientific illustrator for the University of Texas he has earned his living illustrating all kinds of books, magazines, CD covers, and all sorts of games, greeting cards, calendars, portraits, murals and the like with his contemporary realistic art... HDJ's Realistic Paintings have appeared in every major bookstore chain and fantasy gaming shop in The United States and has been used in educational texts and magazines all over the world. This site features realistic paintings & pictures for the twenty-first Century including some oil paintings, as well as lots of other exciting realistic painting media such as colored pencil, pastel paintings, acrylic paintings, gouache paintings, watercolor paintings, and pencil drawings, and also featuring studio,  field, & aerial photography, realistic digital painting and photo-montage and all these media mixed in an assortment of experimental combinations... In addition to Realistic Paintings, Colored pencils, Pastels, Mixed media, and Digital art can also be commissioned for select projects - Click on commission new art below... Working in a variety of traditional and cutting edge digital media he offers his customers a variety of options and more than thirty years of experience. As a commercial illustrator HDJ has not only used the computer but has been involved in the development of imaging software. He delivers the rights to these custom made copyright free realistic paintings and old fashioned customer service when he does work-for-hire. On his existing works license offers start as low as $99.USD. 

*****

 

  

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What is YOUR definition of ART?

Essay one: On Realistic Painting:

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME...

( A Brief essay dealing with attitudes toward Realistic Paintings and prior developments in technology in history)

 In addition to his mastery of traditional realistic art media, Howard David Johnson now combines drawing, painting, photography, and digital media with more than thirty years of experience in these fields to create his Realistic Art in 21st century paintings and pictures. He later renders the best of these again on paper and canvas in  traditional media. Introducing ' Art Numérica'-an exciting merger of traditional visual art and cutting edge technology... a new art form for the twenty- first century... this new Art media is not limited to realistic art but also offers limitless horizons for everything from cartoons to abstractions. It is the most dramatic development in the history of visual art since the Renaissance. In the words of Al Jolson in the movie world's first talking picture" You ain't seen nothin' yet!"

 

"The Dragon Slayer" New for 2010! MMX (Mixed Media)

Snobbism in the arts is nothing new. Some people will tell you that oils are the only valid medium for realistic paintings. That Colored Pencil, Digital, and other Realistic Painting and Drawing Media are not valid  for "real" art. Young artists, Don't let them bother you. 

Their forerunners used to condemn Pastels before they gained acceptance and called them "crayons" when Johann Alexander Thiele (1685-1752) invented them.  Mercilessly disrespectful  art critics of the time could not stop the Experimentalists no matter how viciously they attacked and derided them. "Crayon-painting" as it was called in England was practiced early on by persecuted pioneers in Switzerland and many other nations. 

What a debt we owe to these master artists who refused to knuckle under to the pressure of those short-sighted critics during those historic and experimental times. It took until 1870 with the founding of the "Societe` Des Pastellistes" in France that respect came  at last to these heroic & immortal visual artists.

        In England the liberation of the Pastellists from slight regard and undeserved disrespect came with the first exhibition of "The Pastel Society" at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1880. Pastel Painters like Mary Cassat and others from America and other nations forever silenced  the snobs with their masterworks and gained recognition at long last for Thiele's invention as a valid art medium. I am persuaded that history will repeat itself.  Like Pastels, I believe these wonderful new colored pencils and even Digital Realistic Art Media will one day receive the recognition they deserve as powerful mediums of artistic expression just as pastel paintings did. What is your definition of art? Have you thought about it?

Mine is: "anything that makes you feel or think."

     Consider dancing... it can be a little skip in the step or rise to the level of the incomparable Russian Ballet. Did you know that just the materials alone for a single oil painting cost up to a thousand dollars these days? Even paying the artist less than minimum wage no one but the super rich can afford them anymore. Something's got to give. Realistic paintings in oil have been highly prized for centuries and the appeal and following of realistic art is undiminished to this day. Oil paintings featuring Abstract Art and Realistic Art are generally the most treasured form of all the visual art media and with good reason. But snobbish art critics  favoring abstract art have declared  that realistic paintings, or illustrations are not art for a century. With so many representationalist  paintings by so many immortal master artists hanging in the Louvre, the Hermitage, and the British Museum and others I think the disrespect for realistic illustrators that dominated the 20th century is academically ridiculous as well as vain and intolerant, insisting theirs is the only valid opinion. What is your definition of Art? I believe almost any form of human expression can be raised to the level of "high art" especially  visual art and Realistic illustration...

~Dierdre of the Sorrows copy.jpg (49196 bytes)

Pastel, Acrylics, and Colored Pencils combined

       By my own definition of art, which is:" anything that makes you feel or think" most abstract paintings are not "real art" to me personally, because abstract paintings usually neither make me feel or think,  usually focusing obsessively on technique and avoiding any coherent content. I usually draw a complete blank mentally and emotionally when I look at them. In 1979 the Houston Metropolitan Museum of Art displayed a triptych of 3 giant   paintings they paid fifty thousand dollars for-  three blank white canvasses entitled" untitled". Then there was "The incredible new artistic Genius" with an I.Q. of 62 ...Congo the chimpanzee with his gala New York art exhibition...an elaborate prank played on the Snobbish American Art critics about a generation ago by research scientists in the field of primatology. Imagine how upset they were when he created one of his "ingenious masterpieces" right before their eyes.

( My Source for this is the Time Life Science Library volume entitled "The Primates". )

      Art education has been almost completely removed from American Schools as a result of generations of this kind of  fabulous nonsense contributing to America's cultural illiteracy crisis. Now, the works of Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and other notables are being removed from school libraries.  After generations of this, most American college graduates today cannot name even one living visual artist, abstract or realistic.

There is no way that mandating more math, requiring more reading, or scheduling more science will replace what we have lost as a culture.    

~HDJ

*****

What is your definition of Art?  

 Note: Abstract Paintings by Congo the Chimpanzee outsold Warhol and Renoir by over 25,000 dollars in June 2005 at a London art auction. Born in 1954, Congo created more than 400 drawings and paintings between the ages of two and four. He died in 1964 of tuberculosis. There is no precedent for this kind of sale.

 

Essay Two : The Rebirth of Realism

More thoughts on the realistic art movement yesterday and today by the artist 

 

Art History has entered a new era with the birth of Art Numérica, or digital art media in the 21st century. Artists never stop exploring with mediums. Artists have been developing techniques, experimenting with different tools since at least twenty- five thousand years ago, when the first artist picked up a charred stick and scratched a picture out on the wall of his cave. You'd think everything would have been tried by now, but it hasn't. Exploring new mediums this very day is just as exciting, just as full of freshness and newness as it ever was.

 

Pandora's Box- rendered in Prismacolor pencils is not at all what people think of when they hear the word 'drawing'

The creation of Realistic art has been the goal of most artists since the dawn of  civilization. Realistic art was the pride of ancient Greece. The world's greatest museums are full of realistic art. Realistic art WAS art until the advent of the abstract expressionist movement in the twentieth century. The coming of the camera in the nineteenth century changed realistic art forever. Suddenly, realistic art was not the only way to create realism in portraits and historical records. The work of the realistic artist was suddenly made into an expensive luxury. The political power of the realistic artist was broken and they were no longer an indispensable member of society. Hostility to the creators of realistic art goes back to ancient times and the jealousy of advisers to the Pharaohs and others who were not able to spend as much time with their rulers as their portraitists.    

  Although with the aid of photographs, realistic art achieved levels of excellence undreamed of, the realistic art movement of the late nineteenth century was short.  None of these people earning their living creating realistic paintings could compete with the speed and low cost of photographic portraiture.  Determined to survive, great realistic artists like Pablo Picasso ingeniously turned inward and began to explore things that could not be photographed in a new school of art, abstract expressionism. The day of the fine art superstars had arrived. It was now largely just a hobby to abstract and realistic artists alike. Illustration, because of advances in printing technology enabled an elite few to earn a living with their realistic art. These illustrators working in realistic art media  were condemned and ridiculed in much the same way Europe's great symphonic composers were condemned for working in motion pictures after fleeing the nazis during World War Two. The rift between realistic and abstract art grew wider and wider. The universities and key media usually sided with the abstract camp and derided anyone working in any realistic art media declaring boldly that realistic art was not "real" art. Immortal giants of realistic art such as Maxfield Parrish were mistreated their entire lives. They were accused of selling out for creating beautiful realistic paintings to earn a living. The attitude that the true artist must suffer and starve and die in poverty became a rule. There were the Abstract art superstars, the professional realistic illustrators, and the hobbyists who, although cut off from gainful employment and social influence still recognized their artistic gifts as a calling rather than a profession.

           Early abstract art  masters proved themselves as realistic artists before delving into realms of the intangible. They had to do this at that time to prove themselves because of the challenges they faced from the establishment for going against the status quo. In the latter part of the 20th century, realistic artists like HDJ were challenged to do abstract art to prove themselves as shown in the example above (Deirdre of the sorrows). Later realistic art training was abandoned in most schools and things like splattering paint in fits of rage  were deemed more than enough. By the end of the 20th century something as destructive and ridiculous as nailing a pack of cigarettes to a shoe was considered fine art but not realistic paintings. Fashions in art have often been as silly as fashions in ladies hats.  As the century drew to a close, many people had had enough. The realistic revolt was at hand. The rebirth of realism was fueled by the advent of the digital era. Now, for the first time in almost two centuries, an artist or illustrator could earn a decent living again with his realistic art. This is historic. Realistic art is not going to go away, especially now that photography has truly merged with traditional realistic visual art. Photography comes from the Greek words meaning "painting with light". Now with the advent of digital media the capability of realistic art has become almost limitless, truly, "painting with light". The merger of all the world's art forms to realize the potential of motion pictures has come now to still realistic art media. This website for example, on certain pages combines music, prose, poetry, photography and traditional realistic art media to create an experience beyond merely looking at realistic paintings.

         The twenty- first century is already seeing a new renaissance in the arts because of the world wide web. There has never been anything like it. Abstract art, computer art, photographic art, and realistic art are continuing to be separate schools of art but are also blending to create exciting new horizons. Although Digital art does offer completely new horizons to the artist in the 21st century it does not mean the end of our time honored art traditions. Instead, it offers additional ways to keep these traditions and schools of thought  fresh and alive.

~ HDJ

*****

 

Essay Seven:

On Art and Technology: When Seeing is Not Believing

An essay dealing with mechanical aids to visual art from Camera Obscura to Computers

 

 

  When the camera was finally made commercially available in the 1830's it exploded on the world scene and sent shockwaves through the art world as history had never seen before. Visual artists all over the world were suddenly put out of work and resentment and outrage followed. Suddenly much more realistic portraits could be had at a tiny fraction of the cost of a painting and delivered almost instantly. The art world would never be the same. When motion picture cameras were new, seeing was believing and human consciousness changed forever in the 20th century. Sometimes even Terror and Panic came from the initial shock! In 1905 cinema patrons defecated and urinated in their seats as they broke each other's arms and legs desperately fleeing for their lives from a crowded theater to escape a train charging straight for them! ... train footage filmed safely from a bridge with a camera lowered down on a rope. A modern cinema patron would not even feel uncomfortable. The Photograph and its manipulations have changed human consciousness and history... and will continue to do so in the future.

The Camera has changed everything.

    The Camera of Today owes it's origin to the Camera Obscura, a light- tight box with a lense and a screen that receives an image. This device has been used by artists since ancient times to trace the projected image of whatever they set before it on a screen. Intrigued by the idea of producing a permanent light-formed image instead of reproducing it by hand, a long line of inventors studied the problem and successively made contributions to the solution.

    Photography was neither discovered nor invented by any one man. It was the outcome of the early observations of the alchemists and chemists on the action of light, a subject that belongs strictly to the domain of photochemistry. Although the blackening of silver salts was known in 1565, it was not until 1727, when Johann Heinrich Shulze of Germany used a mixture of silver nitrate and chalk under stenciled letters, that it was definitely recognized that this darkening action was caused by light and not by heat. In the years that followed experiments with silver nitrate on leather and wood were successful. In 1817 J. Nicephore Niepce first tried photography with silver nitrate and paper. In 1826, L.J.M. Daguerre, a painter who had experimented with silver salts approached him and formed a partnership.

    Daguerre discovered accidentally that that the effect produced by exposing an iodized silver plate in a camera would result in an image if the plate were fumed with mercury vapor. The Daguerreotype process was a complete success. These chemical processes would be improved again and again until the advent of the digital camera we know today.  The attitude that Photography was not art and was a purely mechanical process requiring no talent whatsoever was put forth with great force and hostility in an attempt to get people to refrain from choosing it for their portraits instead of paintings. This is a typical reaction to new technology, when Pastels were first invented they were dismissed as a child’s plaything rather than a viable art medium. These attacks on new technology are not limited to the arts of course. When the Wright brothers were making history at Kitty hawk with the first manned airplane their detractors said: "If man were meant to fly, he'd have been born with wings." This kind of negativity is just human nature to some kinds of people.

Photography came into being through an artistic, not a scientific urge. Daguerre was an artist, a scene painter whose illusionistic diorama was a landmark in Paris long before his name was connected with photography. Critics were merciless as usual, with scathing condemnations of the media. However, in the hands of a sensitive artist, photography quickly showed it's artistic possibilities. David Octavious Hill, a Scottish Painter invented the camera set up and the pose as we know them today in the 1840's and was the first of a new breed of master photographic artists. Photography was here to stay. Diverse forms of retouching techniques followed both by accident and by design and took the medium to new levels of artistic excellence. Now, more than a century and a half later only an uneducated or blindly hateful person would say Photography is not an art form. Of course we've all seen our share of awful pictures with the heads cut off taken by amateur photographers but we've also seen the work of studio masters like the great portrait photographers from Hollywood in the 1930's and forties. Anyone who has tried to create such a sophisticated studio photograph realizes quickly that this is a very difficult art form to master even if a trained orangutan can take a bad snapshot with an instant camera made for children.

The use of Photography as a mechanical aid to traditional oil paintings and other forms of realistic art came right away. This is not surprising since artists had been tracing from Camera Obscura for thousands of years. Famous Myths; Leonardo Da Vinci ( 1452-1519 ) is often credited with the invention of Camera Obscura because he used it for his masterworks during the Renaissance and mentioned it in his notebooks, but this is simply not true. Similarly, Americans are credited with the camera, but it is also not true. Origins: Unlike the camera, the inventor and time of invention of Camera Obscura are unknown. Perhaps a crude form of it was known to the ancient Greeks, but there is no material evidence to substantiate such a point of view. The mathematical precision and perfect anatomy of Greek art combined with their passionate love of science and mathematics is testimony enough for many scholars. The earliest clear description of Camera Obscura occurs in the great optical treatise of the Islamic scientist Al-Hazen who died at Cairo, Egypt in A.D. 1098. His Opticae Thesaurus ( Book of optics ) was rendered into Latin sometime during the 12th or 13th century by an unknown translator. Al- Hazen honestly declares that he himself did not discover it, so we know from this it had to have been masterminded before A.D. 1098.

  Camera obscura is a device for tracing or sketching large objects. It consists of a box painted black inside- a mirror at a 45 degree angle , and a lens, like that used in a photographic camera. An image is thrown on the mirror by the lens and reflected on the screen, where it can be sketched with tracing paper. The Camera Obscura was in general use by newspaper and magazine illustrators until it was replaced by the photographic camera. Make no mistake. Professionals have been using mechanical aids since the first caveman shaman traced his hand out on the wall of his cave. The view finder on the reflex camera is a development from Camera Obscura. Camera obscura, interestingly enough, is Latin for "darkened chamber".

camera obscura diagram.jpg (38992 bytes)

   In the early 1600's the telescope came into use and Camera Obscura spared viewers the harmful effects of gazing directly into the sun. I regret, but that we must acknowledge the fact that almost every art medium throughout the ages has been corrupted. In the 2nd century, the Roman emperor Hadrian had the head of his lunatic predecessor Nero removed from a statue and replaced by that of his favorite. Much later in 1539, Holbein painted a glamourous and flattering portrait of Anne of Cleves for Henry VIII. When the future queen arrived in England, King Henry met the surprisingly less than dazzling and glamorous Anne. His dissapointment made history. Our modern society certainly can't claim t he honor nor take the blame of being the first to manipulate art forms.

     By the 21st century instead of the traditional assistants and apprentices, artists employed overhead transparency projectors, opaque projectors, artographs, light tables, slide projectors, color photocopying... and suddenly, computers and image editing software, which brings us to some very compelling controversies regarding these modern imaging technologies and their impact on various media and further changes to human consciousness. For example: The integrity of Photography as evidence in our courts of law stood for many decades until it was shattered by the digital manipulation of photographs and new standards needed to be introduced.  Websites sold peeks at photos of celebrities' heads pasted onto photos of wild women in scandalous poses for all the world to see- but advertised as real celebrity pix. Scandal rocked television and other news media when digitally altered photographs were being passed off as reliable evidence of important news stories...

      On a positive note, no one was threatened by how this technology enabled motion pictures to do epic things they could only dream of before. They were supposed to be make-believe images appearing real! A golden era in special effects cinema ensued. Then, this powerful digital imaging technology, like the camera, fell into the hands of the common man through computer programs like Adobe Photoshop. A new culture of skepticism had abandoned the age old adage; "seeing is believing" Photography has never told the whole truth, just parts of it. Photography is also an art form and therefore rightfully susceptible to creative alterations. In addition, the advancement of digital manipulation technology cannot be undone or halted. I believe that we must recognize that this digital technology exists on a gigantic-scale, and will never go away. Therefore, I suggest that digitally altered photos are distinct from traditional photography, and should be treated as such.

Contrasting views: anti-manipulation advocates’ fear a negative impact of digital manipulation in a court of law, and pro-manipulation advocates say that we must wake up to the fact that for for decades pictures have not been reliable evidence in court and that any good lawyer will attempt to discredit photographic evidence. In response to claims that photos should always tell the truth, the pro-manipulation camp would say that photos have never told the unvarnished truth. A camera shows, and has always only shown, a fraction of reality, and even then what we see is taken out of context or even fabricated. Photography from its onset has been subjected to modifications. In 1839, the Frenchman Louis-Jacques Daguerre patented the daguerreotype, or what could be called the first "picture." Simply explained, the daguerreotype combined the usage of the camera obscura and silver iodide to produce a permanent image on a copper plate. A very exciting innovation, Daguerre boasted of it, "With this technique, without any knowledge of chemistry or physics, one will be able to make in a few minutes the most detailed views" ("Photography"). Almost immediately, the daguerreotype, especially daguerreotype portraits, became immensely popular. Its popularity, of course, can be attributed to its novelty, but also because people believed the daguerreotype produced a more real image than a painting. The general attitude toward the daguerreotype was that it could create images more realistically because there was no artist to interpret and modify it in his own style.

    Opponents of Digital Manipulation insist Photography should always represent the truth, asserting Photography's  first and foremost function is to portray reality. Many assume that photographs have never been manipulated, and that this recent outbreak in digital technology damages the integrity of photography. Without delay, anti-manipulation proponents demanded an end to all "dishonest" photography, as it severely misleads the public. Also, they view digital manipulation as a purely mechanical process, with no talent or skill involved. Furthermore, anti-manipulation proponents fear manipulated photos might acquit murderers or rapists in courts of law. The thought that photography had replaced painting abounded. "As if photography needed to absolve itself from its ‘original sin’--of having brought about the death of painting", a movement known as pictorialism thrived around 1890-1914, the Art Nouveau period. Proponents of pictorialism primarily set out to gain the recognition of photography as an art rather than just a mechanical process. The pictorialists fashioned bizarre and oddly focused images in order to prove photography was indeed a creative art. It was here that such concepts as shading and enhancing during development appeared. Because of these new shadings and angles, it can be said that Art Nouveau saw the dawn of "Photo manipulation." So the manipulation of photography actually began early in the the 20th century.

        In 1982 there was outrage over the manipulation of the Great Pyramids on the cover of National Geographic but the Genie was out of the bottle. There was no going back. In the 1990’s Computer programs like Adobe Photoshop began to be available to the general public. Now, even someone with little or no talent could produce delightful works. On the other hand, sensitive artists could produce masterpieces on a scale undreamed of. It seems clear that using this technology to willfully falsify photographs for slanderous, scandalous, or persuasive ends is morally wrong, but what about using it to create obvious unreality that looks real or Fantastical Realism in art as in pictures of fairies or mythic creatures?

What is realism? Realism in Art and literature has always meant that the artist attempts to represent persons, scenes, things, and facts as they are, life as it is. The word is used in many senses- as opposed to romanticism, to conventionalism, to sentimentalism, to idealism and to imaginative treatment. Sometimes it is a term of praise, and sometimes it is a term of derision. During the 19th and 20th centuries the use of the word realism often implied that the details brought out were of an unpleasant, sordid, obscene, or generally offensive character. Even the greatest illustrators of the day were ridiculed. Realism is commonly applied to a 19th century school of writers and artists; but realism, in it's prime and proper sense, is as old as art and literature themselves, but in the hands of it's most notorious exponents, it quickly degenerated into a connotation of the more sinister features of realism.

     Many 20th century contemporary realists and artists working in the Photo Realism style were trained in an educational system openly hostile or dismissive to Classical realism and art tradition and were only taught the tenets of Abstraction and Expressionism. As a result many of these artists are more akin to the abstract and expressionist schools than the "Classical Realism" of the ancient Greeks, which adored beauty and nature. Contemporary Realism does not embrace the math and design of the Classical school but does not frown on beauty. Photo Realism only strives to look as much like a photograph as possible and sometimes the results are shocking or disturbing. Other times they are mundane and so ordinary as to be boring. They often deliberately decline to select subjects from the natural, beautiful, and harmonious and more especially, depict ugly things and bring out details of an unsavory sort for social and political purposes. The real mission of Photo-realism is not to record everyday life like a Norman Rockwell painting, but to expose the unconscious way we look at and accept photographs.

By the 20th century realism had spread to nearly all nations- realistic elements combined with those of Impressionism, Symbolism, and other movements. Fantastic Realism on the other hand, is born of these movements and tied to them in style and technique, but prefers to explore subjects that are strange or strikingly unusual rather than scenes of everyday life or objects. It is often bizarre in form, conception and appearance and even wondrous in its beauty. Sometimes macabre and grotesque, it is rarely boring like the other forms of Realism in visual art so often are. Fantastic Realism can be completely apart from reality, yet appearing to be quite real. It is versatile in that it can combine with or be a part of the Classical, Contemporary or Photo-realistic schools or stand as a style unique unto itself. I combine elements from all of these schools of Realism and then take it a step further by also combining a wide variety of media from traditional oil paintings to today's cutting edge digital media in my exhibits. Naturally, the darker side human nature shows itself again with condemnation of new schools of expression, and new art media and technology. Like the photographers before them, digital artists wanted the recognition of their work as an art rather than just a mechanical process. Unlike the snapshot camera or an abstract painting, a trained chimp or orangutan cannot do it: it takes the same visionary and eye to hand skills as any traditional art media to do it well

   Since the times of the ancient Greeks, Art History records a relentless quest for Realism and artistic excellence. The masters of each generation strove to perfect their craft, then passed on the torch of their accumulated knowledge and skill to the next generation.

The accomplishments and technological breakthroughs of one generation have often set new standards of excellence for the next.

~ Howard David Johnson MMIV

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