I’ve felt a craving for realism lately. Don’t know quite how to satisfy it. I’m not ordinarily a realist painter — or, let’s say, that those who are committed to realism in art would probably not count me among their number. I usually walk out to the edge of realism, but I never quite jump in. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because realism is “too hard.” Perhaps I lack some fundamental skill. Or is it that something else holds me back?
I don’t know. The problem with realism (for me) has to do with reality. I find that reality holds surprises that aren’t well advertised. Take as just one instance the problem of locating an object in space. In realist art, the objects sit where you’d expect them to be. But when I’m painting I’m so aware of things moving around — and I’m talking about the still life, mind you.
When you stand in a slightly different place with respect to the set up, everything moves. Okay, I could tape an “X” to the floor. Actually that’s kind of a cute idea. I might actually do that. But even when you’ve got your “X” there’s all kinds of problems — if, say, you’re painting something that you have to look up to see parts of it, look straight on to see other aspects, and look down to see other features, well hey — that’s a composite. This can happen when you’ve got a large still life set up (it’s a well-known problem with painting a person too). How do you combine the views in a satisfactory way? The sense of wholeness your mind lends to the scene differs a bit from what the eyes see. How does one invent the fiction that the mind believes?
Or take something more basic. You can be looking at just two objects together and studying their contours relative to each other. What the right eye sees is very different from what the left sees, and sometimes you confound them. Sometimes one becomes very conscious to the two positions the objects occupy, which is magnified by their being plural, by each object having another thing with which to contrast.
Well, yesterday when I was craving some realism, I drew a single pear. That calms things down a bit. I’ve got a cold. I’ve got all I can handle. I dont’ need any more problems.