It’s moving to know there’s still a new generation of artists that are able to express themselves with mastery and take a part in this new boom of figuration, realism, surrealism, and hyperrealism that’s happening all over the world. However, there are some important details that can be useful when trying to paint better and more. We may or may not accept it, but being a good draftsman, creating high impact works or being naturally skillful is not always enough.
Jan Vermeer 1632-1675, The Art of Painting (detail)
Here are the most common mistakes of realist painters:
1) To prioritize technique above everything: “perfection” doesn’t represent the main goal in realist art. You cannot assume that the better the rendering and finishing is, better the artwork is. Some painters enjoy showing off their virtuosity, so they want to exhibit their technical mastery on the canvas, while forgetting intuition or chance, fundamental aspects to show a more personal and emotional side.
2) To not look outside the atelier: sometimes, an artist stops looking through the window of hisatelier and forgets to see what’s happening in the street, in the world, etc. If you look for inspiration in the small surrounding situations, you would possibly awake people’s sensibility and find new ways of expression.
3) Trying to copy the past: Rembrandt and Velázquez – to name a few – are unreachable milestones and even though “copying” is not a bad exercise it is nothing but that, a good exercise if you want to test yourself. Every painter has a singular vision and understanding of the world around itself, which also means that every period has its own realism according to its paradigm.
4) Always pleasing the spectator: It’s ok to provoke your public, make them feel a little uncomfortable with their tastes or beliefs. Challenge them with your chosen theme. If you’re only painting nice, decorative stuff - easy on the eye - easy to digest – you could possibly fall into those common places that bring nothing new or substantial to your artwork.
5) Being obsessed with the idea of originality: There is no such thing as the act of creating something one hundred percent original. You cannot avoid or deny the fact that there will always be a reference. The influence of the old Masters is enormous and every contemporary must be able to paint through (or despite) “the agony of traditions”. There are no creators, only heirs, and greatness will always recognize greatness.
6) Always working alone: “Strength through unity” is a phrase commonly forgotten by artists. It is good to socialize with colleagues not only to plan collective exhibitions but for you to be informed about the local panorama and the different artistic movements around the globe, even to compare or to resignify your own work. Yours is a profession that will always demand great commitment from your part. If you educate yourself and associate with others, you will always be ready for any new challenge.