Tag Archives: Hyperrealism

Hyperrealism and the Spurning of Milli Vanilli

James_sm    James (8″ x 11″), pencil on paper

“A face is a road map of someone’s life. Without any need to amplify that or draw attention to it, there’s a great deal that’s communicated about who this person is and what their life experiences have been.” – Chuck Close

The other morning, Stacie said, “You know, it would be a lot easier if you just took a black and white photograph and told people you drew it. You could be the Milli Vanilli of the art world!”

When I started painting a couple of years ago, I thought I wanted to paint like Vincent van Gogh, or Canadian artist, Tom Thomson. So I surprised myself when my artistic interests gravitated away from Impressionism and towards Realism, and most recently, Hyperrealism.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Hyperrealism is, “realism in art characterized by depiction of real life in an unusual or striking manner.” Hyperrealist artists capture meticulous detail in their works (mostly aided by high-resolution photography). But they go beyond just reproducing a photograph, and often express some underlying message or narrative: hence why Merriam-Webster includes, “in an unusual or striking manner,” in its definition.

After seeing paintings by Chuck Close and Gottfried Helwein, and drawings by Paul Cadden, I was inspired to give Hyperrealism a shot. I am not yet confident enough with oil paints, so I figured that for my first attempt, I would try a pencil on paper drawing of my uncle. James is the result.

Drawing James took me over 30 days to complete (mostly in 30 to 45 minute increments before work), and given the continuous attention to detail (particularly in the beard and the plaid shirt), there were times when I thought my head would explode. James is nowhere near as good as Paul Cadden’s drawings, but I worked through a challenge, and I learned a lot in the process.

I appreciated Stacie’s suggestion, but I admire the talents and work ethic of hyperrealist artists. As Igor Babailov said, “It is far easier to debate about realistic painting than it is to paint one.” There is no easy way to produce hyperrealist art, and after completing this drawing, I have even more respect for Chuck, Gottfried, and Paul.

P.S. Chuck Close is one of America’s greatest artists, and he deserves a separate post. Gottfried Helnwein’s works are disturbing and not easily forgotten, but they are important – for why, read this article. Separately, I took to Helwein as much because of his dedication to his family, as I did due to his paintings. As for Paul Cadden, he’s a good Scot, who can just bloody well draw.