An Exhibit of Realistic Paintings featuring People in Classic themes inspired by 19th Century Realistic Paintings in a wide variety of mixed media Including Oil Paintings, Prismacolor Paintings and Digital Paintings along with an introduction to all the various kinds and styles of realistic paintings and essays and articles with themes relevant to realistic paintings.
"The Angel of the LORD visits Gideon" MMXVII
Presents: Realistic Paintings: The Rebirth of the Realism Art Movement in the 21st Century!
A Gallery of New Paintings, Drawings and Pictures in traditional oils, Contemporary acrylics and cutting edge 2D & 3D digital mixed media in the style of the classic illustrators. On the Web since 1996 ~ What started out in oil has now spread to various media...
"A portrait of Grace" ~ Oil on Canvas 2018
Since the times of the ancient Greeks, Art History records a relentless quest for Realism and artistic excellence in realistic paintings and sculpture. The masters of each generation strove to perfect their craft, then passed on the torch of their accumulated knowledge and skill to the next generation of. The accomplishments and technological breakthroughs of one generation of realistic painters has often set new standards of excellence for the next.
What is Realism? What makes a Painting Realistic?
In most Realistic paintings the artist attempts to represent persons, scenes, things, and facts as they are, life as it is. The word realistic is used in many senses- as opposed to romanticism, to conventionalism, to sentimentalism, to idealism and to imaginative treatment although it can also combine these themes and many others. Norman Rockwell's work for example was dismissed as commonplace and unnecessary in the 20th century but now shows us a world "Gone with the Wind"... how sad almost ALL of his wonderful paintings were burned.
Traditional History Painting...in new media
Of all the different kinds of realistic paintings, none are harder than illustration, yet illustration is the least respected. Which do you think would be hardest? To Paint whatever comes easiest to you on a wave of inspiration like a girl in a chair or a bowl of grapes or a tree on a hill with every detail, shadow and perspective already laid out for you or to try and recreate a depiction of say for example, The World War Two U.S. First Marine Division assaulting Peleliu Beach in the pacific? Meticulous research is essential. The weapons, uniforms, troop formations, and the distinctive scenery cannot be faked. Many of the greatest realistic paintings of history combine fine art with painstaking research and illustration. In spite of these facts, all works of illustration have been generally dismissed by elitists as inferior to even the simplest landscapes and portraits.
Anyone who has actually undertaken such a complex task knows better.
And then there is FANTASTIC Realism~
Realistic depictions of unreality as opposed to Realistic depictions of everyday life.
"Faerie Guardians" MMVI is an oil painting on 20x16 canvas and "Sleeping Beauty" MMV is another oil painting this time on 11 x 14 Bristol board.
( Athene, goddess of Justice and Wisdom is one of David's traditional realistic oil paintings and is painted on 20 x 16 canvas. )
Sometimes Realism is a term of praise, and sometimes it can be a term of derision. During the nineteenth and especially the twentieth century the use of the words realistic and realism often implied that the details brought out in realistic paintings were unpleasant, sordid, obscene, or of a generally offensive character.
Fantastic Realism: "Into the Lake of Fire" Left is Digital & Mixed Media and "Queen Mab, the Bringer of Dreams" MMVI right is Oil on Canvas.
"All Hallows Eve" MMX is an oil painting on 20 x 16 canvas and "Pandora's Box" MMV is another oil painting on 20 x 16 canvas.
Many 20th century contemporary realistic painters working in the Photo Realism style were trained in an educational system openly hostile or dismissive to Classical realistic painting and art tradition and were only taught the tenets of Abstraction and Expressionism, such as "Art must be offensive, Art must be unclear, technical skill is a hindrance," and so on. As a result many contemporary artists creating realistic paintings are more akin to the abstract and expressionist schools than to the "Classical Realism" of the ancient Greeks which adored mathematical design, beauty and nature.
"Zeus, King of the Olympians" (AKA Jupiter, Depicted with his master thunderbolt) and "Hercules and the Lernean Hydra" (The second of the 12 labors of Hercules) MMXII [mixed media]
"Atalanta" MMX on the Boar hunt (left) and "Valkyrie Maiden" MMX approaching a battlefield.
The realistic painting tradition and long standing schools of that style of training were cut off for generations in the 20th Century and much of the knowledge of the old masters was lost. The political power of the realistic artist was broken and they were no longer an indispensable member of society. Hostility to creators of realistic paintings goes back to ancient times and the jealousy of advisers to the Pharaohs and Kings who were not allotted as much time with them as their portraitists. For more on history, media, style & technique of realistic & abstract painting see the essays & articles section after the exhibit.
"The Protector of the Forest" MMX from German Fairy Tales and "Baba Yaga" MMX from Russian Mythology.
These next few paintings include Oils on canvas, Prismacolor paintings and Digital illustrations incorporating mixed media...
Contemporary Realism does not embrace the mathematics and compositional design of the Classical school of realistic painting (like the golden ratio) but does not frown on beauty. Photo Realism usually strives to look as much like a photograph as possible and sometimes the results are deliberately shocking or disturbing. Photo-Realistic paintings can be brilliant and insightful or can actually be quite mundane and so ordinary as to be boring just like ant other style of art.
The real mission of Photo realism is not to record everyday life like in Norman Rockwell's realistic paintings, but to expose the unconscious way we look at & accept photographs. The creators of photo-realistic paintings often deliberately decline to select subjects from the natural, beautiful, & harmonious & more especially, depict ugly things & bring out details of an unsavory sort for social commentary & political purposes.
By the 20th century realism had spread to nearly all nations- then realistic painting elements combined with those of Impressionism, Symbolism, & other movements. After decades of repression during the abstract school's stranglehold on the learning institutions and media came the internet and the Realistic Revolt in the early 21st century. The Modern Day Realistic Painter refused to die! The 21st century has seen an explosion of creativity and expression as a new wave of brilliant realistic painters have emerged exploring all these different styles and media with power, eloquence and passion.
Fantastic Realism is a versatile style of realistic painting in that it can combine with or be a part of the Classical, Contemporary or Photo-realistic schools or stand as a style unique unto itself. This exhibit combines elements from all of these schools of Realistic painting and embraces the natural, the romantic, the fantastic and sentimentality just as much as other gifted contemporary realistic artists passionately avoid those themes, striving for absolute and unvarnished reality.
Fantastic realistic paintings as a genre are born of these movements & tied to them in style and technique, but prefer to explore subjects that are strange or strikingly unusual rather than scenes of everyday life or objects. They are often bizarre in form, conception & appearance & even wondrous in their beauty. Sometimes macabre & grotesque, they are rarely boring like the other forms of Realism in visual art so often are. Fantastic Realism can be completely apart from everyday reality, yet appear to be quite real like these fantastic but realistic illustrations from The Holy Bible.
Snobbism in the arts is nothing new. Some people will tell you that oils are the only valid medium for realistic paintings. These next two are 'Prismacolor Paintings', if you will: This art medium, these relatively new soft oil based colored pencils are not the first Dry Painting Medium: the term 'Pastel Paintings' originated in the 17th century. They also are a wet medium, mixing well with a variety of solvents and applied with an artist's brush - getting very oil painting- like results. This kind of picture is really not at all what people think of when they hear the word 'drawing'.
"Circe Invidosia" and "Elven Fairy Magic" are Prismacolor paintings done on # 500 13 x 16 inch Strathmore Bristol board.
In recent years digital has become a preferred media in the publishing industry for several reasons. First of all, there’s the speed and the freedom from fear. The undo button is empowering and liberating. More importantly, publishing customers rarely can afford to pay for old-fashioned traditional methods like oil on canvas. Artists can still do them, and do them well, but no one but millionaire art collectors can afford to pay even poverty level hourly rates for all that time. The masters often took a year or more for a single painting. Speaking of hourly rates; pre-digital revisions were financially catastrophic, but now adding more space to the canvas does not require starting over, no wonder the starving artist became a stereotype! With digital media artists can create pieces that look very nice for very nice prices and with blazing speed . The publishing industry has never been noted for its patience. In the days before the digital revolution, mailing traditional media originals was scary at best, but now they can be scanned and shipped or even uploaded without risk in minutes.
"Return with your shield or on it" MMX (left) and "Faerie Tales" MMVIII (right) are digital illustrations incorporating mixed media
With a background in traditional media including oils, pastels and colored pencils, Howard David Johnson embraces leading edge digital media in the creation of his depictions of fantasy, folklore, mythology, legend, religion, and heroic history. He works in and mixes a wide variety of media * Oil paintings * Acrylic Paintings * Prismacolor Paintings * Drawings * Chalk & Oil Pastel Paintings * Photography * and most recently Digital Artistry & Mixed Media *
Who is Artist and Illustrator Howard David Johnson?
In one of David's invitations to the Florence Biennale Contemporary Art Exhibition, (a partner in the United Nations' Dialog among Nations), UN Secretary General Kofi Anon wrote him: "Artists have a special role to play in the global struggle for peace. At their best, artists speak not only to people; they speak for them. Art is a weapon against ignorance and hatred and an agent of public awareness... Art opens new doors for learning, understanding, and peace among nations."
STYLE and TECHNIQUE
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.
Early abstract art masters proved themselves as realistic artists before delving into realms of the intangible. They had to do this at that time to prove themselves because of the challenges they faced from the establishment for going against the status quo. In the latter part of the 20th century, realistic artists like HDJ were challenged to do abstract art to prove themselves as shown in the example above (Deirdre of the sorrows). Later realistic art training was abandoned in most schools and things like splattering paint in fits of rage were deemed more than enough. By the end of the 20th century something as destructive and ridiculous as nailing a pack of cigarettes to a shoe was considered fine art but not realistic paintings. Fashions in art have often been as silly as fashions in ladies hats. As the century drew to a close, many people had had enough. The realistic revolt was at hand. The rebirth of realism was fueled by the advent of the digital era. Now, for the first time in almost two centuries, an artist or illustrator could earn a decent living again with his realistic art. This is historic. Realistic art is not going to go away, especially now that photography has truly merged with traditional realistic visual art. Photography comes from the Greek words meaning "painting with light". Now with the advent of digital media the capability of realistic art has become almost limitless, truly, "painting with light". The merger of all the world's art forms to realize the potential of motion pictures has come now to still realistic art media. This website for example, on certain pages combines music, prose, poetry, photography and traditional realistic art media to create an experience beyond merely looking at realistic paintings.
The twenty- first century is already seeing a new renaissance in the arts because of the world wide web. There has never been anything like it. Abstract art, computer art, photographic art, and realistic art are continuing to be separate schools of art but are also blending to create exciting new horizons. Although Digital art does offer completely new horizons to the artist in the 21st century it does not mean the end of our time honored art traditions. Instead, it offers additional ways to keep these traditions and schools of thought fresh and alive.
On Art and Technology: When Seeing is Not Believing
An essay dealing with mechanical aids to visual art from Camera Obscura to Computers
When the camera was finally made commercially available in the 1830's it exploded on the world scene and sent shockwaves through the art world as history had never seen before. Visual artists all over the world were suddenly put out of work and resentment and outrage followed. Suddenly much more realistic portraits could be had at a tiny fraction of the cost of a painting and delivered almost instantly. The art world would never be the same. When motion picture cameras were new, seeing was believing and human consciousness changed forever in the 20th century. Sometimes even Terror and Panic came from the initial shock! In 1905 cinema patrons defecated and urinated in their seats as they broke each other's arms and legs desperately fleeing for their lives from a crowded theater to escape a train charging straight for them! ... train footage filmed safely from a bridge with a camera lowered down on a rope. A modern cinema patron would not even feel uncomfortable. The Photograph and its manipulations have changed human consciousness and history... and will continue to do so in the future.
The Camera has changed everything.
The Camera of Today owes it's origin to the Camera Obscura, a light- tight box with a lense and a screen that receives an image. This device has been used by artists since ancient times to trace the projected image of whatever they set before it on a screen. Intrigued by the idea of producing a permanent light-formed image instead of reproducing it by hand, a long line of inventors studied the problem and successively made contributions to the solution.
Photography was neither discovered nor invented by any one man. It was the outcome of the early observations of the alchemists and chemists on the action of light, a subject that belongs strictly to the domain of photochemistry. Although the blackening of silver salts was known in 1565, it was not until 1727, when Johann Heinrich Shulze of Germany used a mixture of silver nitrate and chalk under stenciled letters, that it was definitely recognized that this darkening action was caused by light and not by heat. In the years that followed experiments with silver nitrate on leather and wood were successful. In 1817 J. Nicephore Niepce first tried photography with silver nitrate and paper. In 1826, L.J.M. Daguerre, a painter who had experimented with silver salts approached him and formed a partnership.
Daguerre discovered accidentally that that the effect produced by exposing an iodized silver plate in a camera would result in an image if the plate were fumed with mercury vapor. The Daguerreotype process was a complete success. These chemical processes would be improved again and again until the advent of the digital camera we know today. The attitude that Photography was not art and was a purely mechanical process requiring no talent whatsoever was put forth with great force and hostility in an attempt to get people to refrain from choosing it for their portraits instead of paintings. This is a typical reaction to new technology, when Pastels were first invented they were dismissed as a child’s plaything rather than a viable art medium. These attacks on new technology are not limited to the arts of course. When the Wright brothers were making history at Kitty hawk with the first manned airplane their detractors said: "If man were meant to fly, he'd have been born with wings." This kind of negativity is just human nature to some kinds of people.
Photography came into being through an artistic, not a scientific urge. Daguerre was an artist, a scene painter whose illusionistic diorama was a landmark in Paris long before his name was connected with photography. Critics were merciless as usual, with scathing condemnations of the media. However, in the hands of a sensitive artist, photography quickly showed it's artistic possibilities. David Octavious Hill, a Scottish Painter invented the camera set up and the pose as we know them today in the 1840's and was the first of a new breed of master photographic artists. Photography was here to stay. Diverse forms of retouching techniques followed both by accident and by design and took the medium to new levels of artistic excellence. Now, more than a century and a half later only an uneducated or blindly hateful person would say Photography is not an art form. Of course we've all seen our share of awful pictures with the heads cut off taken by amateur photographers but we've also seen the work of studio masters like the great portrait photographers from Hollywood in the 1930's and forties. Anyone who has tried to create such a sophisticated studio photograph realizes quickly that this is a very difficult art form to master even if a trained orangutan can take a bad snapshot with an instant camera made for children.
The use of Photography as a mechanical aid to traditional oil paintings and other forms of realistic art came right away. This is not surprising since artists had been tracing from Camera Obscura for thousands of years. Famous Myths; Leonardo Da Vinci ( 1452-1519 ) is often credited with the invention of Camera Obscura because he used it for his masterworks during the Renaissance and mentioned it in his notebooks, but this is simply not true. Similarly, Americans are credited with the camera, but it is also not true. Origins: Unlike the camera, the inventor and time of invention of Camera Obscura are unknown. Perhaps a crude form of it was known to the ancient Greeks, but there is no material evidence to substantiate such a point of view. The mathematical precision and perfect anatomy of Greek art combined with their passionate love of science and mathematics is testimony enough for many scholars. The earliest clear description of Camera Obscura occurs in the great optical treatise of the Islamic scientist Al-Hazen who died at Cairo, Egypt in A.D. 1098. His Opticae Thesaurus ( Book of optics ) was rendered into Latin sometime during the 12th or 13th century by an unknown translator. Al- Hazen honestly declares that he himself did not discover it, so we know from this it had to have been masterminded before A.D. 1098.
|Camera obscura is a device for tracing or sketching large objects. It consists of a box painted black inside- a mirror at a 45 degree angle , and a lens, like that used in a photographic camera. An image is thrown on the mirror by the lens and reflected on the screen, where it can be sketched with tracing paper. The Camera Obscura was in general use by newspaper and magazine illustrators until it was replaced by the photographic camera. Make no mistake. Professionals have been using mechanical aids since the first caveman shaman traced his hand out on the wall of his cave. The view finder on the reflex camera is a development from Camera Obscura. Camera obscura, interestingly enough, is Latin for "darkened chamber".||
In the early 1600's the telescope came into use and Camera Obscura spared viewers the harmful effects of gazing directly into the sun. I regret, but that we must acknowledge the fact that almost every art medium throughout the ages has been corrupted. In the 2nd century, the Roman emperor Hadrian had the head of his lunatic predecessor Nero removed from a statue and replaced by that of his favorite. Much later in 1539, Holbein painted a glamourous and flattering portrait of Anne of Cleves for Henry VIII. When the future queen arrived in England, King Henry met the surprisingly less than dazzling and glamorous Anne. His dissapointment made history. Our modern society certainly can't claim t he honor nor take the blame of being the first to manipulate art forms.
By the 21st century instead of the traditional assistants and apprentices, artists employed overhead transparency projectors, opaque projectors, artographs, light tables, slide projectors, color photocopying... and suddenly, computers and image editing software, which brings us to some very compelling controversies regarding these modern imaging technologies and their impact on various media and further changes to human consciousness. For example: The integrity of Photography as evidence in our courts of law stood for many decades until it was shattered by the digital manipulation of photographs and new standards needed to be introduced. Websites sold peeks at photos of celebrities' heads pasted onto photos of wild women in scandalous poses for all the world to see- but advertised as real celebrity pix. Scandal rocked television and other news media when digitally altered photographs were being passed off as reliable evidence of important news stories...
On a positive note, no one was threatened by how this technology enabled motion pictures to do epic things they could only dream of before. They were supposed to be make-believe images appearing real! A golden era in special effects cinema ensued. Then, this powerful digital imaging technology, like the camera, fell into the hands of the common man through computer programs like Adobe Photoshop. A new culture of skepticism had abandoned the age old adage; "seeing is believing" Photography has never told the whole truth, just parts of it. Photography is also an art form and therefore rightfully susceptible to creative alterations. In addition, the advancement of digital manipulation technology cannot be undone or halted. I believe that we must recognize that this digital technology exists on a gigantic-scale, and will never go away. Therefore, I suggest that digitally altered photos are distinct from traditional photography, and should be treated as such.
Contrasting views: anti-manipulation advocates’ fear a negative impact of digital manipulation in a court of law, and pro-manipulation advocates say that we must wake up to the fact that for for decades pictures have not been reliable evidence in court and that any good lawyer will attempt to discredit photographic evidence. In response to claims that photos should always tell the truth, the pro-manipulation camp would say that photos have never told the unvarnished truth. A camera shows, and has always only shown, a fraction of reality, and even then what we see is taken out of context or even fabricated. Photography from its onset has been subjected to modifications. In 1839, the Frenchman Louis-Jacques Daguerre patented the daguerreotype, or what could be called the first "picture." Simply explained, the daguerreotype combined the usage of the camera obscura and silver iodide to produce a permanent image on a copper plate. A very exciting innovation, Daguerre boasted of it, "With this technique, without any knowledge of chemistry or physics, one will be able to make in a few minutes the most detailed views" ("Photography"). Almost immediately, the daguerreotype, especially daguerreotype portraits, became immensely popular. Its popularity, of course, can be attributed to its novelty, but also because people believed the daguerreotype produced a more real image than a painting. The general attitude toward the daguerreotype was that it could create images more realistically because there was no artist to interpret and modify it in his own style.
Opponents of Digital Manipulation insist Photography should always represent the truth, asserting Photography's first and foremost function is to portray reality. Many assume that photographs have never been manipulated, and that this recent outbreak in digital technology damages the integrity of photography. Without delay, anti-manipulation proponents demanded an end to all "dishonest" photography, as it severely misleads the public. Also, they view digital manipulation as a purely mechanical process, with no talent or skill involved. Furthermore, anti-manipulation proponents fear manipulated photos might acquit murderers or rapists in courts of law. The thought that photography had replaced painting abounded. "As if photography needed to absolve itself from its ‘original sin’--of having brought about the death of painting", a movement known as pictorialism thrived around 1890-1914, the Art Nouveau period. Proponents of pictorialism primarily set out to gain the recognition of photography as an art rather than just a mechanical process. The pictorialists fashioned bizarre and oddly focused images in order to prove photography was indeed a creative art. It was here that such concepts as shading and enhancing during development appeared. Because of these new shadings and angles, it can be said that Art Nouveau saw the dawn of "Photo manipulation." So the manipulation of photography actually began early in the the 20th century.
In 1982 there was outrage over the manipulation of the Great Pyramids on the cover of National Geographic but the Genie was out of the bottle. There was no going back. In the 1990’s Computer programs like Adobe Photoshop began to be available to the general public. Now, even someone with little or no talent could produce delightful works. On the other hand, sensitive artists could produce masterpieces on a scale undreamed of. It seems clear that using this technology to willfully falsify photographs for slanderous, scandalous, or persuasive ends is morally wrong, but what about using it to create obvious unreality that looks real or Fantastical Realism in art as in pictures of fairies or mythic creatures?
What is realism? Realism in Art and literature has always meant that the artist attempts to represent persons, scenes, things, and facts as they are, life as it is. The word is used in many senses- as opposed to romanticism, to conventionalism, to sentimentalism, to idealism and to imaginative treatment. Sometimes it is a term of praise, and sometimes it is a term of derision. During the 19th and 20th centuries the use of the word realism often implied that the details brought out were of an unpleasant, sordid, obscene, or generally offensive character. Even the greatest illustrators of the day were ridiculed. Realism is commonly applied to a 19th century school of writers and artists; but realism, in it's prime and proper sense, is as old as art and literature themselves, but in the hands of it's most notorious exponents, it quickly degenerated into a connotation of the more sinister features of realism.
Many 20th century contemporary realists and artists working in the Photo Realism style were trained in an educational system openly hostile or dismissive to Classical realism and art tradition and were only taught the tenets of Abstraction and Expressionism. As a result many of these artists are more akin to the abstract and expressionist schools than the "Classical Realism" of the ancient Greeks, which adored beauty and nature. Contemporary Realism does not embrace the math and design of the Classical school but does not frown on beauty. Photo Realism only strives to look as much like a photograph as possible and sometimes the results are shocking or disturbing. Other times they are mundane and so ordinary as to be boring. They often deliberately decline to select subjects from the natural, beautiful, and harmonious and more especially, depict ugly things and bring out details of an unsavory sort for social and political purposes. The real mission of Photo-realism is not to record everyday life like a Norman Rockwell painting, but to expose the unconscious way we look at and accept photographs.
By the 20th century realism had spread to nearly all nations- realistic elements combined with those of Impressionism, Symbolism, and other movements. Fantastic Realism on the other hand, is born of these movements and tied to them in style and technique, but prefers to explore subjects that are strange or strikingly unusual rather than scenes of everyday life or objects. It is often bizarre in form, conception and appearance and even wondrous in its beauty. Sometimes macabre and grotesque, it is rarely boring like the other forms of Realism in visual art so often are. Fantastic Realism can be completely apart from reality, yet appearing to be quite real. It is versatile in that it can combine with or be a part of the Classical, Contemporary or Photo-realistic schools or stand as a style unique unto itself. I combine elements from all of these schools of Realism and then take it a step further by also combining a wide variety of media from traditional oil paintings to today's cutting edge digital media in my exhibits. Naturally, the darker side human nature shows itself again with condemnation of new schools of expression, and new art media and technology. Like the photographers before them, digital artists wanted the recognition of their work as an art rather than just a mechanical process. Unlike the snapshot camera or an abstract painting, a trained chimp or orangutan cannot do it: it takes the same visionary and eye to hand skills as any traditional art media to do it well
Since the times of the ancient Greeks, Art History records a relentless quest for Realism and artistic excellence. The masters of each generation strove to perfect their craft, then passed on the torch of their accumulated knowledge and skill to the next generation.
The accomplishments and technological breakthroughs of one generation have often set new standards of excellence for the next.
~ Howard David Johnson MMIV
Coming soon from Brandywine Press!
These beautifully printed 11" x 8.5" 64 page hardcover and trade paperback versions feature 48 full page interior plates in full color starting at only $24.99 and Feature a concise and entertaining Outline of History written and illustrated with realistic paintings by American Artist & Photographer Howard David Johnson.
Original oil paintings are for sale, e-mail for info... or visit these pages for details
Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky ( 1840- 1893) - "Swan Lake"
Thank You For Visiting Howard David Johnson's Gallery of Realistic Paintings...