Monday, May 11, 2015

Confronting the Boredom of Realism

Rendering is tedious. I can see why Kehinde Wiley goes to China and hires workers to paint his backgrounds. Photography has taken the need to scrupulously render stuff and made it superfluous. Much of the work is done as in Will Cotton's in Photoshop. It is as if artists like Koons, Wiley and Cotton don't actually enjoy painting. Apparently they persist because their art is making them immensely wealthy. I don't agree with the New York Times capo critic Roberta Smith on much but here for once she is right on.
James Elkins explores boredom in art and the immense amount of time classical artist spent on a painting as opposed to contemporary speedy practices.

Sometimes I envy painters like Ian Warburton who assimilate what they see and feel in their paintings with immediacy and delicacy. Immediacy does not come easily to me- I feel trapped by realism's grip- because I find the female human body so compelling- it is what I love to paint and impossible for me to ignore. Painting a faux naive figure seems a like a lie to me- deskilling as some contemporary young artists call it.  Pretty funny actually, considering with the state of modern figurative training they are already there, Painting a lovely figure takes time. I have tried landscape painting- it went badly- I ended up swatting mosquitoes and sunbathing.

It is entirely understandable why some portrait painters hired what they called "drapers"; artists who would paint in the clothing; a practice favored by our famous American portraitist  Gilbert Stuart.

"William Grant" Gilbert Stuart
He was deluged by patrons in England  after his success with his painting of William Grant.  He racked up a fortune in fees as he had a large family to support. However he hated painting clothing so he painted a batch of heads took the fees, told the patrons to have the drapers finish them off and scurried off to Ireland one step ahead of the law.

Stuart applied this same business model in Ireland and before they threw him in the clink- he hightailed it to America- just in time for our country's beginnings as a republic. His iconic portraits of our founding fathers, Washington, Jefferson etc. are well known. You have to see one of his portraits in person to experience the matchless vibrancy of his skin tones and fluid brushwork- no tedious renderer was he. His work makes Koons, Wileys and Cottons look amateurish- flat mechanical rendering, hard edged from painting from projected Photoshop prints.

This blog post is a mental exercise - I confess, to get me through another painting I am starting. There are parts that are boring- good lord they are, but unfortunately they are the underpinnings of what I want to express. That takes time.

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