Realistic Painting Style and Technique: A candid discussion and gallery with essays on the issues surrounding Realistic Painting from its early history to the present by Contemporary American Artist and Photographer Howard David Johnson whose illustrations of Mythology have been published all over the world by distinguished learning institutions and publishers including the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
What EXACTLY is Realistic Painting?
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. Later artists like Maxfield Parrish would cut out and assemble photographic collages to trace on boards or canvas and then paint. Even later projection equipment lent more speed and control, but mechanical aids could also create a dependence, stifling artist's creativity and imposing limits. This has always been one the greatest pitfalls of creating realistic paintings from photographs.
Analog Studio Photography of Carmen provided a jumping off point.
Song of the Harpist is a digital painting created in the computer.
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.
"Faerie Guardians" MMVI is an oil painting on 20x16 canvas.
"Sleeping Beauty" MMV is another oil painting this time on 11 x 14 Bristol board.
"Circe the Enchantress" (below left) from Greek Mythology, is rendered in Colored Pencil on Windsor-Newton Cotman watercolor paper and is based on photographs taken by the artist. In "Elven Fairy Magic", (below Right) Elements of fantastic realism, surrealism and symbolism abound, especially in the women's faces in the evaporating mist. In addition to theme and content, being important to realistic painting, media is an important issue- this is A Prismacolor "Painting" if you will, because this is not the kind of picture people think of when they hear the word "Drawing".
"Circe the Enchantress" features a more daring pose and had to be censored. Prints of the uncensored versions are available from our vendors.
"Elven Fairy Magic" featuring Ann also had to be censored due to outrageous double standards about the female body being shown from the front view.
"We have had enough of kings" ~ George Washington
"The Charge of the Light Brigade"
"ALL HALLOWS EVE" Here are examples of the same realistic fantasy illustration rendered in digital media, as Prismacolor Painting, and as a painting on canvas using manufactured tube oil paints as opposed to hand mixed paints. Tube paints were violently rejected by reactionaries who forcefully proclaimed anyone who used paints from a tube was not a "real artist". Well, tube paints are pretty well accepted now, but
There are those who believe artists who use mechanical aids can't draw free hand and demand artists all prove their talent first by drawing WITHOUT any mechanical aids. I'm sure very few people from this camp have dealt with demanding art directors or outrageous deadlines. These pencil drawings below and HUNDREDS of others I did in the 1970's WITHOUT tracing settled this issue forever when I was a teenager. I was against mechanical aids myself in those days, but when I found out that ALL the artists I admired most used ALL the mechanical aids at their disposal, I started using them myself.
"Jesus walking on the Sea" Graphite 1978 was done without any mechanical aids of any kind or reference whatsoever. Those of you who feel the need to judge my talent, just compare it with Michelangelo's work done at the same age. My mission is not to prove my talent, but to preserve my heritage. I think talent is overrated and hard work is a hundred times more important than talent when it comes to creating good art. I've known a lot of talented people who were so lazy that hard workers with next to no talent and a teachable spirit easily surpassed them. I firmly believe effort exceeds talent. Talent is for amateur art contests. SPEED, ADAPTABILITY, and RESULTS are for professionals.
Realistic Paintings in Mixed Media: "Return with your shield or on it" Was every Spartan woman's wartime farewell... Not even a Spartan MOTHER could forgive cowardice, the heavy shield made flight impossible and "Into the Lake of Fire" MMX (Mixed Media) Of course these works are in keeping with the Pre-Raphaelite tradition to do religious and historical themes. This one is influenced by heavily by Delville, and borrows from Bougereau and Leighton. It is an illustration from The Book of Revelation Ch. 20: "The Dragon that old serpent, that is the Devil, cast in the Lake of Fire"
"Return with your shield or on it!" and "Into the Lake of Fire" are a new breed of Realistic Painting in Mixed Media including digital
These digital illustrations are created in a style to look a great deal like oil paintings and cost customers a great deal less...
There is a school of thought that seems to think that a caveman’s beating on a hollow log with a stick is automatically superior to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony performed by the world’s finest symphony orchestra because less technology is involved. I do not subscribe to this kind of thinking. Personally I LOVE computers! First of all, there’s the freedom from fear! The undo button is empowering and liberating! More importantly, publishing customers can't afford to pay me for old-fashioned traditional methods like oil on canvas. I can 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 longer for a single painting. With digital media I can create pieces that look very nice for very nice prices and with blazing speed. The publishing industry is not noted for its patience. In the early days of my art career, mailing traditional media originals was scary at best, but now they can be scanned and shipped without risk. Also in my early days adding canvas space to a work in progress was as impossible as growing a second head... but now it is so easy I usually don't even charge extra to adapt them if its just skies or landscapes! Re-dos and revisions were financially catastrophic! No wonder the starving artist became a stereotype! Now with the internet and its world wide reach, an artist can actually earn a living from their work.
2005 version 2014 version
"Helen of Troy" is my loving tribute to my favorite Pre-Raphaelite, John William Waterhouse and studies from his "Miriamne at the Judgement seat of Herod" "HELEN of TROY" MMV above left is a 'Prismacolor Painting'. These relatively new soft oil and wax pencils are not the first Dry Painting Medium: the term 'Pastel Paintings' originated in the 17th century. These Paintings also employ the used of Prismacolors liquifed with solvents and applied with brush... To find out more about my pencil and colored pencil drawing techniques, photographic studio techniques and digital methods visit my how to draw in pencil or art instruction pages.
All these were created in Mixed Media including Oils, acrylics, colored pencil, photography, 3D studio Max and Adobe Photoshop.
American 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."
portrait of the artist in his painting studio as he
is today in a photo taken by his youngest son Erich.
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. After a lifetime
of drawing and painting, Howard David 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 game-shop chain in America as well as magazines
and educational texts around the world. Some of his more
prestigious clients have included the National Geographic Society,
the University of Texas, the University of Cambridge in England, the
History Book of the Month Club, Adobe Photoshop Auto FX, Universal
Studios, Paramount Studios, and PBS TV.
Oil 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.
On his existing works license offers start as
low as $99.
PIECES OF ORIGINAL
ART ON PAPER LIKE THESE ARE AVAILABLE:
are currently available, mostly 11x14-13x16 inch Prismacolor Paintings
(like Helen of Troy) and pencil portraits (like Arriba #2) followed in
number by Acrylic, Prismacolor and pastel mixed media all on #400
Strathmore Bristol Board ranging from $700.00-$1400. 00 USD and Oil
Paintings on canvas ranging from $1999.00 - 10,000.00 USD.
Pieces that have never been rendered in oil can be
commissioned in 16x20 inch size on canvas for 50% down and delivered in
under 90 days with signed certificates of authenticity aka legal documents
pledging never to render it in that size and media again to ensure premium
collectability and investment potential.
David can also do a completely new picture designed in digital media (for
more on this visit his digital media page) and when we approve the
photo-montage, he uses it as reference to render it in oil on canvas. No surprises.
Artwork is shipped very well protected and go out to you immediately
via Fed Ex or USPS Express mail upon receipt of payment at our
new creations cost a bit more depending on what is involved. All new
creations and rendering photo montages into art on paper are a LOT of fun with e-mail attachments and digital cameras.
ORIGINAL OIL PAINTINGS ON CANVAS LIKE THESE ARE ALSO AVAILABLE:
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
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?
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 my 2,000.00 USD prices are very low...
more details at
you for Visiting... Your business,
letters, & links are always welcome. *****
Who is American 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."
A portrait of the artist in his painting studio as he is today in a photo taken by his youngest son Erich.
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. After a lifetime of drawing and painting, Howard David 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 game-shop chain in America as well as magazines and educational texts around the world. Some of his more prestigious clients have included the National Geographic Society, the University of Texas, the University of Cambridge in England, the History Book of the Month Club, Adobe Photoshop Auto FX, Universal Studios, Paramount Studios, and PBS TV.
Oil 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. On his existing works license offers start as low as $99.
PIECES OF ORIGINAL ART ON PAPER LIKE THESE ARE AVAILABLE:
Some pieces are currently available, mostly 11x14-13x16 inch Prismacolor Paintings (like Helen of Troy) and pencil portraits (like Arriba #2) followed in number by Acrylic, Prismacolor and pastel mixed media all on #400 Strathmore Bristol Board ranging from $700.00-$1400. 00 USD and Oil Paintings on canvas ranging from $1999.00 - 10,000.00 USD. Pieces that have never been rendered in oil can be commissioned in 16x20 inch size on canvas for 50% down and delivered in under 90 days with signed certificates of authenticity aka legal documents pledging never to render it in that size and media again to ensure premium collectability and investment potential.
David can also do a completely new picture designed in digital media (for more on this visit his digital media page) and when we approve the photo-montage, he uses it as reference to render it in oil on canvas. No surprises. Existing Artwork is shipped very well protected and go out to you immediately via Fed Ex or USPS Express mail upon receipt of payment at our expense. All new creations cost a bit more depending on what is involved. All new creations and rendering photo montages into art on paper are a LOT of fun with e-mail attachments and digital cameras.
ORIGINAL OIL PAINTINGS ON CANVAS LIKE THESE ARE ALSO AVAILABLE:
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 my 2,000.00 USD prices are very low...
e-mail for more details at
Thank you for Visiting... Your business, letters, & links are always welcome.
(All Realistic Art and text copyright 1982-2014 by the author, Howard David Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide)
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Essay and Article Section:
Philosophy, Art, & Art Philosophy
Personal Opinion Essays on Realism yesterday and today by the artist.
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)
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 childs 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.
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 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
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 glamorous 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 disappointment 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 1990s 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
More Personal Opinion Essays on Realistic Art yesterday and today by the artist.
In addition to his mastery of traditional media, Howard David Johnson now combines more than thirty years of experience in drawing, painting, photography, and now digital media to create his Realistic Art in 21st century paintings and pictures. 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. It is the most dramatic development in the visual arts since the Renaissance.
Essay One: "THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME..."(A Brief essay dealing with attitudes toward Traditional Realistic Paintings, Pastels, Colored Pencils and Art Numérica)
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 painting. 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...
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, 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, 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?
|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 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.
Photography, Drawing, Painting and digital media combined
|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 art 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 painting. These illustrators working in realistic painting 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.|
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 painting 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 painting. 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 realistic painting 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 painting. 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 painting 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
ABOUT THE ARTIST
"Those who are enamoured of practice without science are like a pilot who goes into a ship without rudder or compass and never has any certainty where he is going. Practice should always be based upon a sound knowledge of theory, of which perspective is the guide and gateway, and without it nothing can be done well in any kind of painting."
|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.|
Prismacolor pencils on # 400 Strathmore bristol board
The various galleries linked to by the icons above show many examples of His Realistic Art, and are grouped by theme rather than media. There are also sample illustrations from his upcoming books on Greek, Celtic, and World Myth & Legend. Since boyhood he has passionately copied the old masters. 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 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 realistic traditional art media. As this happens, the finished work is substituted in the exhibit. Recently he shot hundreds of aerial photos of clouds at marvelous angles and perspectives and also looking down on the mighty mountains, rivers, and deserts of the American west while flying from Texas to Oregon and back for dynamic source material for realistic flying scenes in upcoming paintings , drawings, and pictures.
His favourite medium for realistic painting is colored pencil because of the high speed and low expense, and people began expressing difficulty in telling his colored pencil painting 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 ( Art Numérique ) . 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 already achieved international acclaim as a traditional visual artist he discovered digital media 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.
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 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 painting & 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. He loves to paint custom oil paintings and accepts commissions with down payments starting at one thousand dollars. Other media are less expensive. On his existing works his low cost license offers start at only 100 dollars.
Music by Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) from"Peer Gynt" Suite no. 1 fourth movement : In the Hall of the Mountain King
Thank You for Visiting the Realistic Painting Technique Page of Howard David Johnson...