The Rebirth of Realism; Classical Realism, Contemporary Realism, Photo- Realism and Fantastic Realism: Exploring Today's Representationalist Art Movements through visual art, essays, and word paintings...

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Introducing 21st Century Fantastic Realism

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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 often set new standards of excellence for the next.

 

"Lilly Evans"  (above) MMXI Was created in Mixed Media including Oils, 3D studio Max and Adobe Photoshop.

 

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    Realism in Art and literature means 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 in the 20th century, 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 espescially, 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 it's 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 Photorealistic schools or stand as a style unique unto itself. Howard David Johnson combines elements from all of these schools of Realism and takes it a step further by also combining a wide variety of media from traditional oil paintings to today's cutting edge digital media in his exhibits. 
   

       

REALISTIC ART: "THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY" AND "ASSAULT ON PELELIU ISLAND" [MMX MIXED MEDIA]

The word Realistic means to apply 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, conventionalism, sentimentalism, idealism and imaginative treatment but oddly enough, is often combined with these. The world of painting has two major groupings; Abstract and Realistic Painting. I love them both!  The world of realistic painting has two major groupings; The two major divisions of realistic painting involve the application of mechanical aids such as photography and the strict avoidance of them. In the 1960's and 70's I was completely against them myself, but I love both styles now! More often than not, professional artists use mechanical aids to please difficult customers and meet unreasonable deadlines, and the others feel a need to avoid the use of Mechanical Aids to prove their talent to themselves and others.

 Since the artists I love best used them, naturally I imitate their methods.

       

"BATTLE for the DAMNED" MMXI Mixed Media

Mechanical Aids: Are they right or wrong? Did you know the old masters often traced?  Leonardo Da Vinci used "Camera Obscura" which is a lens and a mirror set at an angle with parchment over it to trace onto. Michaelangelo used a similar technique. Great Realistic Painters began employing photography as a mechanical aid immediately after it's invention in the 1800's. 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. Unlike the camera, the inventor and time of invention of Camera Obscura are unknown. 

Perhaps it was known to the ancient Greeks, but there is no evidence for this. The mathematical precision and perfect anatomy of Greek art is enough evidence to convince many scholars. The earliest description of Camera Obscura occurs in the great optical treatise Opticae Thesaurus ( Book of optics ) of the Islamic scientist Al-Hazen who died at Cairo, Egypt in A.D. 1098. Since he says he did not invent it, we know it came sooner.

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ALL HALLOWS EVE is a Prismacolor Painting & SLEEPING BEAUTY is an Oil Painting, Howard David Johnson works in a wide variety of combined media * Oil paintings * Acrylic Paintings * Prismacolor Paintings * Drawings * Chalk & Oil Pastel Paintings * Photography * and last but certainly not least: Digital Artistry & Mixed Media * 

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Warrior Queen Boudicia MMV; Mixed Media & Digital Artistry  

      Howard David Johnson is a contemporary visual artist and photographer with a background in the natural sciences and history. H D Johnson, or David as he is called, works in a wide variety of media ranging from traditional oils,  pastels and others to today's cutting edge digital media. After a lifetime of drawing and painting, Johnson's 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 illustrations have appeared in every major bookstore and gameshop chain in America as well as magazines and educational texts around the world. Some of David's more prestigious clients have included the University of Texas, the University of Cambridge in England, Paramount Studios, PBS TV, Adobe Photoshop Auto FX, Doubleday, the Book of the Month Club,  and J Walter Thompson Advertising. Licenses to print his existing work are available at surprisingly affordable prices. Realistic Oil Paintings, Colored pencils, Pastels, Mixed media, and Digital art can also be commissioned for select projects - 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 an illustrator David has not only used the computer but has been involved in the development of filter imaging software for Adobe Photoshop.

      He delivers the rights to these custom made copyright free illustrations and old fashioned customer service when he does work-for-hire. On his existing works license offers start at $100.00. Oil Paintings, Colored pencils, Pastels, Mixed media, and Digital art can also be commissioned for select projects. For A lesson in Math, Design, and Art Theory, The Johnson Galleries, more about how the artist works and essays by the artist on "Realistic art yesterday and today" and "digital art and it's relation to art history" keep scrolling down... for his collected essays in low bandwidth CLICK HERE

 

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Essay Section:

Philosophy, Art, & Art Philosophy

Personal Opinion Essays on Realism yesterday and today by the artist.

Essay Seven:  NEW!

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 lense, like that used in a photographic camera. An image is thrown on the mirror by the lense and reflected on the screen, where it can be sketched with tracing paper. The Camera Obscura was in general use by newspaper and magazine il! lustrators 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".

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   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 the 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 visual art medium 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

*****

 

 

Essay One: "THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME..."

( A Brief essay dealing with attitudes toward Traditional Realism in Paintings, Pastels, Colored Pencils and Today's Digital Media )

"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

 

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Pastel, Acrylics, and Colored Pencils combined

   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 large oil painting cost up to a thousand dollars these days? Did you know that they are toxic? 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. I absolutely adore great abstract painters like Van Gogh and Picasso. Snobbish art critics  favoring abstract art have declared  that realistic paintings, or illustrations are not "real 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 detail.jpg (59016 bytes)

The detail reveals Realistic art and abstract art 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, since most abstract paintings usually neither make me feel or think,  generally 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 these 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, Michaelangelo, 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.    

What is your definition of Art?

~HDJ

*****

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.

But how does this new Digital Art media fit in with formal definitions of Art?

    Art ( noun ) [ Middle English, from Old French, from Latin ars (stem art-). ] 1. Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature. 2. The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty; specifically, the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium. 3. The product of these activities; human works of beauty, collectively. 4. High quality of conception or execution, as found in works of beauty; aesthetic value. 5. Any field or category of art, such as painting, music, ballet, or literature. 6. A non-scientific branch of learning; one of the liberal arts. 7. a. A system of principles and methods employed in the performances of a set of activities: the art of building. b. A trade or craft that applies such a system of principles and methods: pursuing the baker's art. 8. A specific skill in adept performance, conceived as requiring the exercise of intuitive faculties that cannot be learned solely by study: the art of writing letters. 9. a. Usually plural.  Artful devices; stratagems; tricks. b. Artfulness; contrivance; cunning. 10. In printing: Illustrative material as distinguished from text.

~ The American Heritage College Dictionary of the English Language

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Special note: 21st century professional art critics are not repeating these mistakes of history and are blessing and encouraging artists working in all styles and mediums, even including digital media. To them I say: Bravo! If only our world leaders could learn from the mistakes of the past as you have.

 

 

Essay Two : The Rebirth of Realism

More thoughts on realistic art 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.

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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 realistic artists could compete with the speed and low cost of photographic portraiture. Determined to survive, great realistic artists like Pablo Picasso and other notables 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 pieces of realistic fine art 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.

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   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, 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. Digital art does not mean the end of time honored art traditions, but rather offers new ways to keep these schools of thought and art traditions fresh and alive.

~ HDJ

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But how do all these new Art media fit in with formal definitions of Art

Art ( noun ) [ Middle English, from Old French, from Latin ars (stem art-). ] 1. Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature. 2. The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty; specifically, the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium. 3. The product of these activities; human works of beauty, collectively. 4. High quality of conception or execution, as found in works of beauty; aesthetic value. 5. Any field or category of art, such as painting, music, ballet, or literature. 6. A non-scientific branch of learning; one of the liberal arts. 7. a. A system of principles and methods employed in the performances of a set of activities: the art of building. b. A trade or craft that applies such a system of principles and methods: pursuing the baker's art. 8. A specific skill in adept performance, conceived as requiring the exercise of intuitive faculties that cannot be learned solely by study: the art of writing letters. 9. a. Usually plural.  Artful devices; stratagems; tricks. b. Artfulness; contrivance; cunning. 10. In printing: Illustrative material as distinguished from text.

~ The American Heritage College Dictionary of the English Language

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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 the abandonment of Art education in schools, I contend that a broader and more clear definition of the word painting is needed than is found in common usage.

Announcing Art Numérica -an exciting merger of traditional visual art and cutting edge technology... a new art form for the twenty- first century... Art Numérica 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 visual arts since the Renaissance. In the words of Al Jolson in the movie world's first talking picture" You ain't seen nothin' yet!"

 

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
many examples of his Realism, including illustration, photography, experimentalism, and fine art.

   The various galleries linked to by the icons above show many examples of his style of Realism, and are grouped by theme rather than media. There are also sample illustrations from his  upcoming books on Celtic Myth and Legend and World Myth & Legend. Since boyhood he has passionately copied the old masters.

      To create his art works, he will start with a concept  followed by a realistic sketch, researching and traveling to find scenes and locations. Working in his Analog Photography studio with live models from his sketches,  He follows with a digitally assembled photo montage, combining original and old elements to create a new  work of realism. 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 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 digital photo montages. Many of these are on display on this web and slated for future completion in a variety of realistic traditional art media. As this happens, the finished work is substituted in the exhibit. 

    HDJ's creations often take their inspiration from the realistic paintings of the old masters just as The Lord of the Rings came from The Ring of The Nibelung and European folklore. Just as Rubens copied Titian, Johnson copies Waterhouse and Rackham. 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. Where would Walt Disney be without the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, or Victor Hugo? Where would Aaron Copeland have been without American folk music? Thomas Nast's Santa Claus without traditional images of Father Christmas? Pablo Picasso without African art? Public domain appropriators, one and all. Some people are actually outraged that there are some intellectual properties that corporations do not own. They feel appropriation is only appropriate if a corporation does it. Corporations created by public domain appropriation, now are the most powerful force on Earth trying to put a stop to new things entering the public domain forever through lawsuits. The public domain is a space where intellectual property protection ( copyright ) does not apply. It was set up by our founding fathers, who felt creativity needed to be rewarded on a personal level for a time, and when copyrights and patents expired, innovations and creative works would fall into the public domain. They may then be used by anyone without permission and without the payment of a licensing fee.

     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 copyright law time extention when Mickey Mouse's copyright expires in 2023. This is least likely to hurt the motion picture companies who produce new works "in house"granting themselves permission, but the music industry which does not is being hit very hard already. If a new song release resembles an old one, now there is litigation. Since the public domain is a treasure trove of information and resources to be used by future generations, many advocates are concerned that its stagnation will make it more and more difficult for future generations to find creative inspiration. HDJ has built up an enormous library of original source photos to use in his realistic art.  For decades seeking out the most beautiful models and bringing them in for sessions in his photography studio. Using a strategy employed by J.W. Waterhouse, (the old master he imitates most) his wistful and graceful models cannot be underestimated in their contribution to the stunning beauty and the potential for lasting appeal of his work.

    His favorite medium for realistic art has long been 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, Scratch board, Gouache, Photography, and has fallen in love with the highly controversial digital media. 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 ( Art Numérique ) in 1999. Because of his passion for realistic art and photography he elected to embrace it and joyfully be a part of this historic era in the visual arts as a 21st century realistic visual artist.

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     since 1972 when he began his art 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 Art has 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 media such as colored pencil drawings, pastel paintings, acrylic paintings, gouache paintings, watercolor paintings, and pencil drawings, and also featuring studio,  field, & aerial photography,  digital painting and photo-montage and all these media mixed in an assortment of experimental combinations...Working in a wide variety of media to create his realistic art he offers his customers a host of payment and product options. He delivers the rights to these custom made copyright free illustrations and old fashioned customer service when he does work-for-hire.

      HDJ accepts select commissions to paint custom oil paintings with down payments starting at only one thousand dollars.  Other media, like colored pencils or digital are of course far less expensive. He grants permission for most educational purposes simply for the asking. To use his existing realistic art works outside the classroom he offers low cost license offers starting around $100.00.

Use the  e-mail links above or below to contact him...

 

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( "The Oracle" MMIV Prismacolor Pencils on #400 Strathmore Bristol Board )

 

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All  paintings, pictures, & text  (c) 2014  Howard David Johnson All rights reserved worldwide

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