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Colorful Acrylic Photoreality
August 3, 2012 6:02 AM   Subscribe

Jason Degraaf does unbelievable photorealistic acrylic paintings.

While his entire portfolio is amazing and worth checking out, some favorites include:

SolsticeHeliocentricBedlamA Wave of RefreshmentSpirits of OisterwijkThe X-StatixApple Blossoms
posted by quin (50 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's so realistic I can't believe it!
posted by ryanrs at 6:07 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


He's certainly perfected the realism of bad photography websites.
posted by odinsdream at 6:07 AM on August 3, 2012 [19 favorites]


A Wave of Refreshment.
.
.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:08 AM on August 3, 2012


He's a "sphere reflection" specialist. Also, click thumbnail, vast frame with slightly larger thumbnail opens, click that thumbnail and the full size image opens in the same browser window (minus all navigation). This is not the best way to showcase your art.
posted by davebush at 6:22 AM on August 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


These are amazing. I'm not generally a fan of photorealism as I like a more "painterly" style, but I admire his achievements with these.
posted by idest at 6:34 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the website certainly meets the mandatory minimum standards for artist website annoyingness, but I'm a big fan of photorealists, so thanks for posting. If you enjoyed this, see also Ralph Goings and Charles Bell.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:35 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ah, photorealism: so impressive and so boring. That's a personal opinion, of course, and I am no art expert. I just have a hard time appreciating art whose depth seems to begin and end with "here is how these objects look when you put them in this environment".

I say that, but I do very much appreciate good photography, so it must be something more. Maybe it's the fact that these paintings are just transcriptions of photos, very obviously. To me, it's like transcribing a book from paper to HTML and calling that act of transcription art. This is compounded by the fact that the original photos are more in the style of commercial, stock photography than artistic.
posted by gilrain at 6:35 AM on August 3, 2012


The photorealism is impressive until you realize that he's just copying photos. Being able to do this without the aid of a camera would be an order of magnitude more impressing.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:39 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The photorealism is impressive until you realize that he's just copying photos.

This sounds like you have never attempted to paint something from a photograph.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:40 AM on August 3, 2012 [21 favorites]


Also, how hard would it be for someone to build a plotter robot that uses acrylics to paint for you? Shouldn't require much more than some LEGO Mindstorms equipment.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:41 AM on August 3, 2012


For some more hyper-realism with just pencils, Paul Cadden does some amazing stuff. Although I usually tend to agree with the impressive-yet-boring comment when it comes to photocopy realism.
posted by p3t3 at 6:42 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


It blows my mind that for every thread that features a photorealist, I can predict the "it's not art, just very good copying" comments. We shouldn't dismiss this as "just copying photos" the same way we shouldn't dismiss abstract pieces as "My kid could paint that!".
posted by Think_Long at 6:42 AM on August 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


He's got the technique down, but copying from a photograph is miles away from being able to do it from real life. Technique is good. Technique is really important. But the real art is being able to capture something in your mind and express it. Otherwise you might as well be using a pantograph.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:43 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


It blows my mind that for every thread that features a photorealist, I can predict the "it's not art, just very good copying" comments.

You don't get it. The criticism isn't that it's photorealistic. It's that it's copied from a photo. Painting from photorealistically from real life and painting photorealistically from a photo are very, very different things, and one is much more challenging.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:44 AM on August 3, 2012


All I'm seeing is a fantastic recreation of the Blogger logo with spinning cogs gif.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:47 AM on August 3, 2012


The photorealism is impressive until you realize that he's just copying photos.

Don't knock it till you've tried it.

Photorealism is better thought of as a means to a ends. A technique, not a subject.

The 'good' photorealists aren't simply copying a single photograph, they're constructing a new reality from several images. Photorealism owes some of it's heritage to Pop Art - so a slightly wonky thing that you have to understand is that photography itself - or rather the way that we look at the world through photographs - is part of the subject matter.

I like Audrey Flack as an example of a photorealist with something more going on.
posted by device55 at 6:48 AM on August 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


But the real art is being able to capture something in your mind and express it.

Why?
posted by shakespeherian at 6:55 AM on August 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would bet good money that anyone who can produce this level of excellence can do it from a photo or a real life model.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 6:56 AM on August 3, 2012


dunkadunc: "You don't get it. The criticism isn't that it's photorealistic. It's that it's copied from a photo. Painting from photorealistically from real life and painting photorealistically from a photo are very, very different things, and one is much more challenging."

Yes, and playing a pipe organ is much more challenging than playing a piano, but that doesn't make a virtuoso on piano less of a musician.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:56 AM on August 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's that it's copied from a photo. Painting from photorealistically from real life and painting photorealistically from a photo are very, very different things, and one is much more challenging.

Most 'life' painters we know from history employed all manner of measuring, copying, and visualization techniques. Camara Obscures, wire grids, lenses, projectors, etc. The vision of the artist standing at his easel in nature is something of a romantic myth.

Sure lots of painting is / was done in front of models or in the outdoors - but these often served as sketches, color studies, or reference materials for finished works.
posted by device55 at 7:00 AM on August 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


You don't get it. The criticism isn't that it's photorealistic. It's that it's copied from a photo.

I just don't think that's really a valid criticism. He still made choices in what he chose to represent and how he chose to represent it. He still made choices as to what medium and what level of detail to include. I think those are all choices that make art "art".

That said, I wasn't particularly moved by any of his pieces beyond being impressed by his skill, but I would never argue that it didn't come from a place of creative expression.
posted by Think_Long at 7:01 AM on August 3, 2012


Very nice. I'd love to see them in person.

(The site is very painful on iPad. Oy.)
posted by jeffamaphone at 7:01 AM on August 3, 2012


Also for technical reasons I have a hard time believing this one for example is an exact replica of a photograph.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:05 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


My criticism is that it all looks like stock photography / a shitty flavored vodka ad.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:08 AM on August 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


The whole point of photorealism (as the genre was originally formulated in the 70s, at least) is that you're supposed to be working from a photo. Hence the name.
posted by neroli at 7:10 AM on August 3, 2012


Just another Goddamned Dutch photorealist.
posted by bpm140 at 7:11 AM on August 3, 2012


The whole point of photorealism (as the genre was originally formulated in the 70s, at least) is that you're supposed to be working from a photo. Hence the name.


Sure, that's cool if you're working from interesting photos, Richter style. Less cool if you're working from rejected Crystal Light print ads.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:13 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The chrome sphere with no observer reflection is quite unpleasant to contemplate, so I give him a pass for the creep-out factor though I can find lots to complain about otherwise.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:19 AM on August 3, 2012


Choice of subject matter is crucial in critiquing photorealism as it is in the much older literary movement of realism. The photorealists you'll see in museums chose some pretty interesting material, although sometimes interesting for their ordinariness (like Raymond Carver in the short story genre). Street scenes, interiors...

This guy does kiwi slices dropping into a glass.
posted by kozad at 7:21 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought the Asterix and Obelix painting ("Odyssey") was lovely, and I would buy a print.
posted by oneironaut at 7:23 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Needs more checkerboards under the mirrored spheres.
posted by Nelson at 7:29 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


This guy does kiwi slices dropping into a glass.

I agree, I don't actually like these for either their subject matter, composition, or palette. I'm just pushing back against the ridiculous notion that there are kinds of art that don't count.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:30 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


shakespeherian: I'm just pushing back against the ridiculous notion that there are kinds of art that don't count.

Unless we want to devolve into a pointless discussion of what is and isn't art, which is pretty much impossible to define, then it's probably most useful to interpret those who seem to be saying it's not real art as actually meaning that it's bad art.

I think most of us realize that any creative process involving intent (and I'm already in dangerous territory!) can be regarded and criticized as "real art".
posted by gilrain at 7:39 AM on August 3, 2012


It's the HDR kid!
posted by ouke at 7:41 AM on August 3, 2012


Most 'life' painters we know from history employed all manner of measuring, copying, and visualization techniques. Camara Obscures, wire grids, lenses, projectors, etc. The vision of the artist standing at his easel in nature is something of a romantic myth.

Indeed. Quite possibly to much more of a degree than we previously believed.
posted by LionIndex at 7:46 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm just pushing back against the ridiculous notion that there are kinds of art that don't count.

Which is itself ridiculous. Of course some art doesn't count, because viewing art is subjective. Pushing back against what someone doesn't like is pointless, unless you want to discuss why they don't like it.

Personally, I'm not a fan of photorealism, as the subject matter chosen is usually amazingly uninteresting,, better handled by lighting and photography. The artists are excellent draftsman, of course, but their art usually leaves me cold. Yes, I'm tried photorealism and am not capable of it. Not sure what that has to do with anything, but several seem to think that it's important, for some reason.

Bedlam is luscious and his ability to focus our attention on the wet paint coming from the tube is great. But it also looks like poorly done CGI, a college sophomore's project. Not bad, but not good or great in the sense of making me go "Wow!"

Still, I'm not the artist here and clearly Jason Degraaf gets some sort of satisfaction from doing photorealism, which is just fine.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:51 AM on August 3, 2012


I think what we should be judging the artist based on his skill as a photographer along with as a painter.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:55 AM on August 3, 2012


This guy does kiwi slices dropping into a glass.

I read that image as a commentary on contemporary advertising tropes. If I had de Graaf's technical skill, I'd go on to do a photorealist series of "women laughing alone while eating salad" or some such. Unfortunately, photorealism is beyond me.
posted by Kurichina at 8:08 AM on August 3, 2012


Unless we want to devolve into a pointless discussion of what is and isn't art, which is pretty much impossible to define, then it's probably most useful to interpret those who seem to be saying it's not real art as actually meaning that it's bad art.

I think most of us realize that any creative process involving intent (and I'm already in dangerous territory!) can be regarded and criticized as "real art".


If mastery of technique alone can be art, then the guy paving the road can be an artist. I'm not sure a well paved road is art.

So if the act of taking a photograph and copying it to a different medium is art, so is successfully sending a print job to a printer.

Art has to be the combination of an idea and technique. How good each are is the realm of criticism. A great idea completely unrealized by poor technique is no more art than perfect technique with no creative input. This is just painting by numbers. Mad props and all due respect for being an excellent painter, but a piece doesn't get extra credit just because the artist worked really hard at it.

I think the blowback here is because it is presented as if he painted these things from imagination.
posted by gjc at 8:18 AM on August 3, 2012


Is it?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:20 AM on August 3, 2012


gjc: I think the blowback here is because it is presented as if he painted these things from imagination.

I honestly don't see how that would be better. As they're boring photographs, pretty much bog-standard stock photography, wouldn't painting them from imagination simply mean he has a boring imagination? I don't see how imagining boring still lives is any better than reproducing photographs of boring still lives.

This is bad art (to me!) because it feels like the only criteria the artist had when selecting his subjects was "is this shiny and contrasty?".
posted by gilrain at 8:26 AM on August 3, 2012


I wonder how much these would benefit from being viewed in person. Paintings deserve to be considered in their original form, and viewing images of them is really not the same thing as seeing the original hanging right in front of you. I think these paintings would hold a lot more power to astonish in person, when the viewer is simultaneously confronted by the unfailing photorealism, and aware that what hangs before them is obviously nothing more than paint and canvas.
posted by malapropist at 8:26 AM on August 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


That could well be true, and it's a good reminder, malapropist. I stand by my initial criticisms here, but it's absolutely true that I have been surprised by the power of art in person that I would not have liked on the computer screen.
posted by gilrain at 8:29 AM on August 3, 2012


This is bad art (to me!) because it feels like the only criteria the artist had when selecting his subjects was "is this shiny and contrasty?".

Yeah, the subject matter of the paintings is more based on wow-factor technical proficiency possibilities than on trying to present a compelling image. In rock music, this would be Yngwie Malmsteen or something.
posted by LionIndex at 8:40 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


These paintings make me wonder if somewhere there is a painter who is a devoted master of using photorealistic techniques to create stock photos of, like, people concentrating with headsets and shit. Then he/she just sells them as stock photos.
posted by furiousthought at 10:27 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I could do the same thing with a Photoshop plugin. It would take less time, and look just as good probably.
posted by PipRuss at 2:41 PM on August 3, 2012


Disjointed thoughts:

I think Degraaf would be silly to use comparative measurement, sight-size, or another measuring-and-drawing method to get down these particular images for what he's doing, but that he'd benefit from doing formal studies that way; his current stuff is technically competent schlock.

I find Sadie Valerie's bottle painting a much more interesting painting, for example.

It's worth reading Stapleton Kearns's note on landscape painting:
Landscape painting is a lie, well told!
The landscape is a warehouse of more props and details than you could ever want. It is essential to select the important, and reject the unnecessary clutter. It is impossible to paint every leaf in a forest and still get every blade of grass at your feet and maintain any semblance of unity or grace.

You can paint exactly what is before you as carefully as you can, but I will eat your lunch, EVERY TIME. Paintings carefully copied from nature before you are usually ordinary. Usually fine landscapes bring a treatment or a "take" on the landscape that is individual to the artist. Their paintings look as if they could only have been made by that artist. Their paintings are personal, expressive and individual. Edgar Payne doesn't look like Corot or Constable, nature may be constant, but each of these different artists have made paintings that are distilled from the experience of nature rather than a precision reproduction of the actual scene in front of them.
...


Gurney on Norman Rockwell's use of photoref (2) is a good read. Rockwell spent a lot more effort and thought setting up his shots.

I don't mean to say that fine art artists shouldn't use cameras as part of their process when they're working artists, but that they should learn to draw well before using them.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:57 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I teach very realistic figure drawing, and we arrive at results that some people say look photographic. These people mean this as a compliment (which we are very grateful for!) but it gives me a great opportunity to talk to them about the differences between photorealism and drawing realistically.

As has been mentioned, a photorealist takes a picture or pictures and transcribes that to his or her media. The intended result is a well-executed transcription, complete with all of the artifacts present as a result of using film (or a a digital sensor) and lenses.

There are several important differences between photographic imaging and drawing based on direct observation.

The most important is the time scale - a photograph of a model is a captured instant, while a drawing is a considered record of human observation over time. An artist that has been classically trained to see and draw accurately will use their personal aesthetic, the skill of their eye, the skill of their hand, and their consciousness of visual beauty and sense of pictorial narrative to selectively emphasize and diminish what he observes in nature. Over a long drawing this is tens of thousands of small choices, each made by a person who has a mind to create beauty.

A camera also limits other kinds of decisions, like value structure. The limitations of the sensitivity of film and digital sensors in cameras means that if a given scene's lighting is even moderately high contrast, detail and information will be lost on either end of the value scale. This is why shadows in photos can be blobby dark masses or have blown-out lights. A human eye is dynamic - our iris dilates and contracts as we look from light to shadow. An artist doing a drawing from life can compress the visual range into the value range of their media, again making conscious choices to fit more salient information into the drawing, giving the viewer more to look at.

A camera also introduces optical distortion, vignetting, some bizarre edge effects, flares, unnatural focal lengths, etc. that make a picture look like a picture.

Another thing about photorealists is that they often grid up - that is, make a grid on their small picture, and use that grid to scale the drawing up to their canvas or whatever. It takes considerably less skill as a draftsman to duplicate an image if you are working off of so many known points. The image is also already translated from three dimensions to two, which makes it even easier.

I'm not saying all art has to be classical and difficult, but that the impression that being able to do this type of work means that this guy can sit in front of a model and create a beautiful life drawing is wrong. The skill sets are different. Someone who can sit in front of a model and make a beautiful, accurate drawing can most definitely make a blown up version of a photograph. On the other hand, that same figurative artist wouldn't necessarily be able to paint so precisely or duplicate the camera's effects so faithfully.

Anyway, I appreciate the technical skill in handling the media, but the subject matter seems to be selected to show off that skill, and that's a bit of a turn off. The one with the shiny balls does not reflect the viewer, which is weird.

Also, that Hockney theory is garbage. I can draw what I see, exactly as it appears in nature (given a bit of time): someone taught me and I teach other people. We aren't running around with arcane optical devices, trying to outsmart mother nature - we use knitting needles, pencils, erasers, and sometimes a mirror to trick our eye into seeing the model with fresh eyes. Drawing realistically from observation can be learned by anyone with that type of patience, and this type of photorealism can also be learned by people with that type of patience. I'm sure along the line people used optical tools for expediency, but they were tools, not crutches. Hockney suggests their use as the primary means to an end, and not as an occasional tool or even novelty item. (and right here I've self-edited an ad-hominem attack)

If you want to see Hockneyism taken to it's (il-)logical extreme, I present to you Billy Pappas, who spent 8 years and $300,000 making a very unfortunate looking drawing of Marylin Monroe. That drawing is full of camera-caused effects that really detract from the drawing (aside from how dull it is). In the close ups look at the heavy line underneath the upper lip, the heavy line of the top of her right (our left) trapezius, the concentration on distracting detail (individual hairs and overwrought moles), etc. Notice how the pupil is off-center in the iris, and irregular (not circular).

You can certainly combine visual aids with direct observation and arrive at fantastic results, but fundamentalism in any direction usually sucks compared to a Goldilocks mix of technique, skill, and thought.

Oh well - if you read all this, High Five!
posted by amcm at 5:52 PM on August 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


Excellent comment amcm.

I really have nothing to add, other than I've got nothing against photorealism in general, but there's a lot of *bad* photorealism out there. Also, I am certain there are exceptions to the rule, but the actual life drawings I've seen from a few people who've spent years perfecting their technique of painting or drawing from photographs are just terrible and only slightly (if at all) better than any given student in an introductory life drawing class.
posted by stagewhisper at 6:15 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm glad for your High Five, amcm -- thanx for a thoughtful and well written bit on this topic, one of the best in this thread.

Does anyone in here know that Van Gogh painted from photographs? I've seen some of them, the photos and the paintings, and they were clearly his painting, rich and vivid and about half-nuts, but clearly he hung to the framework given to him by the photos, in his layout.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:25 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


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