Friday, September 28, 2012

The Difficulty of Stylized Realism

This was something that I woke up thinking about, so I thought I would take a moment and get my thoughts out.

I saw this amazing gallery of artwork on my Yahoo homepage this morning displaying the work of artist, Dirk Dzimirsky. His work is truly breathtaking and fools the eye into think it's looking at a photograph. You can visit and see all his work on his website here.

Breath, 2010 - Charcoal Drawing on Canvas by Dirk Dzimirsky
I started to think about how difficult it must be to create these images. And honestly when I see incredible artwork like this, I start to feel pretty crappy about my work. I'm sure it happens to most artists when we compare our work to someone else. We start to see all the flaws in our work and get this helpless feeling like we can never be "that" good. In a way it's a good thing as it constantly makes me strive to be better and pushes me further.

But I do think it's important to take a step back and tell yourself you are doing a great job and what you create -is- amazing. So I started thinking about stylized realism because that's what I always try to aim for in my work. And once I started to think about stylized realism, I began to realize how difficult that style is and what talent it takes to create it!

Think about it...with stylized realism you have no reference to go from. Sure you can accumulate references for your work, and I typically do for my pieces, but in the end they don't end up looking anything like that photographic reference. Because artists who create stylized realism look at a picture of a tree and then magically translate that into their own stylized version of a tree.

I think that my Cheyanna piece is a perfect example of what I'm trying to explain:

Cheyanna - Watercolor and Ink by Nikki Burnette
I studied photographic references for all aspects of this painting: the pose of the fairy, the foxes, mushrooms, trees, leaves, etc... But have you ever seen anything in nature that looks exactly like the different elements in this painting? I think if you walked through the forest and saw this exact scene in nature, you would think you were transported to a magical land. And I guess if you think that, then I've done my job correctly!

I think with stylized realism, it is all about taking the realistic shape, form, value, etc... and simplifying it. You have to take that super complex leaf with all its veins and textures and figure out how to simplify it, yet still make it look and "read" as a leaf. And with my particular style, I also have to translate 3 dimensional form into 2 dimensional linework which adds a whole different aspect of difficulty to it. For instance, on the foxes...they don't really have lines on their bodies anywhere! But I had to figure out where to add lines so that it made sense for my style and still came across as a fox.

Now I'm not trying to say that stylized realism is more difficult or better than extreme realism or vice versa. I'm just saying that I realized there are some extremely difficult aspects to creating a stylized piece that I had never really thought of before. Our minds have to create the image that we see by changing details yet keep it similar enough so that people know "that's a fox" or "that's a leaf." It really is an interesting thing and takes a lot of talent! So if you're a stylized realism artist like myself and are feeling down about your work, just think about that for a moment. All artists have a talent that is uniquely our own and create a world through our art for others to enjoy.