Pencil Portrait Art: Portraiture Gallery and an art lesson in
innovative Colored Pencil and Mixed Media techniques by American Artist
and Photographer Howard
"There is no greater compliment to a photo-realist than disbelief." ~HDJ
Young girl from India -001 1996: Here's a half-finished drawing, to begin with... DELIBERATELY left unfinished. Media: burnt umber, sepia, and yellow ochre colored pencils on smooth bristol board... Of course all of these Portraits shown here employ his original photography. These simple headshot portrait drawings, based on photos he has taken in his studio usually only take him about a day to create. Complex illustrations such as "Pandora's Box" shown below and those seen in his other Art exhibits take longer. This kind of photo shoot is VERY hard work. The hardest and most time consuming part is finding the right girls and scheduling studio time for the portrait photography session with their busy schedules and shooting the source photos - After more than 30 years of practice, the drawings from these photos are relaxing, fun, and easy by comparison.
|Close-up||Original Analog studio photography||Pencil drawing|
Young girl from India -002 1996; media: Ebony pencil smudged with blending stumps on very rough textured bristol board. These portraits helped refine his techniques for his illustrations. Many of his story telling illustrations in colored pencils, acrylics and Oils are for sale, but these portraits are very personal work and are shown only to help aspiring portrait artists and are usually not for sale at any price. Keep scrolling down to see comparisons between his photographs, colored pencil & oil paintings as well as more large Colored Pencil Art, a free art lesson & information about more free lessons & Foundations for Art: his paid private lessons.
Ann -1 2002; media: burnt umber with sepia, and yellow ochre Prismacolors with Ebony pencil lowlights on Strathmore #400 Bristol Board. ( Note the individual hairs shaved in with razor knife and highlights touched up with white Prismacolor. ) The background is applied so thick it used up four umber colored pencils.
Grace -1 2000; media: Plain old number two pencils, ebony pencils, and a variety of erasers. Early on I used my thumb and forefinger with great force to smooth out unruly areas and then would add more pencil and smudge again. Later after several applications I polished it with tissue. Rolling a rounded grey kneaded eraser over it smoothed roughly blended areas too. This got the grays smooth but I had lost my lightest and darkest values in the process. I then erased out the lightest areas with a #2 pencil eraser. Lastly I added sharp pencil details with an Ebony pencil and darkened the darkest darks to restore the 5 shades of the value scale.
Jessica - (Colored Pencil Portrait #0004) and a close-up to the right rendered in Prismacolors with Ebony pencil lowlights on Windsor & Newton Cotman 140 lb. Water Color Paper . Even with nothing but pencil and paper the use of original photography as a source makes this mixed media. See Johnson's Photographic artistry page for his newly updated exhibit of photographic portraits, some used here.
Did you know the old masters often traced?
Leonardo Da Vinci used "Camera Obscura" which is a lens and a mirror set at an angle with parchment over it to trace onto. Michelangelo used a similar technique. Great Realistic Painters began employing photography as a mechanical aid immediately after it's invention in the 1800's. This is not surprising since artists had been tracing from Camera Obscura for thousands of years. Famous Myths; Leonardo Da Vinci (1452- 1519 ) is often credited with the invention of Camera Obscura because he used it for his masterworks during the Renaissance and mentioned it in his notebooks, but this is simply not true. Similarly, Americans are credited with the camera, but it is also not true. The earliest description of Camera Obscura occurs in the great optical treatise Opticae Thesaurus ( Book of optics ) of the Islamic scientist Al-Hazen who died at Cairo, Egypt in A.D. 1098. Since he says he did not invent it, we know it came sooner.
|I've been asked: "Why do some colored pencil drawings resemble photos & oil paintings and some look sketchy?"|
STYLE and TECHNIQUE
|'First of all, Practice, Practice, Practice, and did I mention Practice?'|
Blair - 1996 (below right) was rendered in Prismacolor Colored Pencils from the photograph taken by the artist. " I wear magnifying glasses while I work like a jeweler. If I can satisfy myself that my colored pencil portraits look good under magnification, the illusion will usually fool the naked eye. One correction computers can't really do well at all is recover from a photo like this one that's just too dark. I was able to easily fix that in the drawing though."~ HDJ
Colored Pencil Drawing
Of course Johnson starts with an outline just like everybody else...after his studio photography portrait session... He usually shoots a whole roll of nearly identical shots per portrait idea in 35 mm format to get one to work from when doing his colored pencil portrait art. To get it absolutely perfect he enlarges it on a Xerox machine and traces it on a glass lap board like a light table. The kind of pencils you use make all the difference. Think that tracing makes it too quick and easy? You'll find once you've finally got that outline done right you're a long, long, way from being finished in any medium...
Raw umber and Sepia Prismacolors are always better than a graphite outline as they blend better with the later colors.
The next and hardest stage in HDJ's photo realistic colored pencil technique is to rough in the shapes and shades of light and shadow with crosshatch or other drawing patterns working from photographs taken in his studio as a guide. Here is a rough and simplistic example to give you the idea. Black and white # 2 and Ebony pencil or Colored Pencils, the technique is almost the same. Raw umber and Sepia Prismacolors are always better than a graphite outline for color as they blend better with the later colors. My portraits employ a much sharper pencil and a more refined approach, but I'm sure you get the idea. After the crosshatch is built up, for flesh tones especially, the pencils are polished down with tissue paper, then kneaded erasers- almost rubbed away- until the paper is stained with color but there is no waxy buildup remaining. This is the perfect underlayment surface to begin laying crosshatch on...
Next a sharper, more precise layer of crosshatch is applied...and polished with tissue and index finger or thumb for trouble spots. Repeat the polishing, erasing, and redrawing process several times... The dark and light areas like on the side of the face blend as the layers build-up. A heavy waxy color build-up is permissible on the background and her lips, eyes and hair, but not the skin. This kind of dry underlayment also works well with soft pastels. This color buildup stage is why some artist's colored pencil drawings resemble oil paintings and photographs and others look sketchy. And of course Practice, Practice, Practice, and did I mention Practice?
Below Left: Original 35MM Photo of model Ann Bratton. Right: Original Colored Pencil Drawing.
...With the portrait above right, a selection of different colored pencils are used with intermixing. Sepias, umbers, for the layout then the reds, salmons, peaches, and lots of burnishing layers and top layers with whites were used, with a touch of green for the eyes. Ann's portrait shown here was done on #400 Strathmore double ply bristol board. Of course the large original art has a glow no photo could ever have that you can't see here on the web.
Then another layer is added, and another and another. The picture shown above has more than fifty thin transparent layers. Warning: Keep additional layers thin - most pencils will crack if you try to apply the additional layers too thick in the large LIGHT areas like the forehead and cheeks. Tips: Tissue paper (Toilet tissue) is the miracle ingredient for photo-realism - intense pressure in circular motions, followed by a new layer of fine crosshatch. He sometimes uses his erasers to draw with during this stage as much as his pencils.
Then there's even more varieties of mixed media... You can mix other media with your colored pencils like Soft Pastels -left- and Acrylics -right- for mad amounts of fun... There is no one way to do it right... but you can find the way that's right for you, or for your next picture- don't be afraid to experiment! Practice, Practice, Practice, Oh, and did I mention Practice? This next picture below "Miss Lillian" was done five years before David ever sat at a computer station - it employed yellow ochre, sepia, black and white colored pencils on # 400 Strathmore Bristol Board and employed no burnishing, smudging, or polishing techniques, simply fine point pencils, applied super-fine point crosshatch heightened with white and and then shaved away for sharper highlights with a #2 exacto-knife... Since 1996 David does not do these kind of pictures for money anymore, he draws portraits in Prismacolor now to relax, for fun, for love and for the families of his subjects to treasure!
"You sure can't get textures & effects like these with computers! Believe me- I've tried! There is NO such filter!" ~ HDJ
There are those who believe artists who use mechanical aids can't draw free hand and demand artists all prove their talent first by drawing WITHOUT any mechanical aids. Hilarious. These pencil drawings below and HUNDREDS of others he did in the 1970's WITHOUT tracing settled this issue forever when he was a teenager.
I was against mechanical aids myself in those days, but when I found out that ALL the artists I admired most used all the mechanical aids at their disposal, and I had not been told this, I started using them myself.
"Jesus walking on the Sea" Graphite 1978 was done without any mechanical aids of any kind or reference whatsoever. Those of you who feel the need to judge my talent, just compare it with Michelangelo's work done at the same age. I think talent is overrated and hard work is a hundred times more important than talent when it comes to creating good art. I've known a lot of talented people who were so lazy that hard workers with next to no talent and a teachable spirit easily surpassed them. There is no substitute for hard work, not even mechanical aids...
Business and Retail Services:
Who is American Illustrator Howard David Johnson?
In one of David's invitations to the Florence Biennale Contemporary Art Exhibition, (a partner in the United Nations' Dialog among Nations), UN Secretary General Kofi Anon wrote him: "Artists have a special role to play in the global struggle for peace. At their best, artists speak not only to people; they speak for them. Art is a weapon against ignorance and hatred and an agent of public awareness... Art opens new doors for learning, understanding, and peace among nations."
Howard David Johnson is a contemporary realistic artist and photographer with a background in the natural sciences and history. David works in a wide variety of mixed media ranging from oil on canvas to digital media. David's realistic illustrations have made appearances in every major bookstore and game shop chain in America as well as magazines and educational texts around the world.
Some of David's more prestigious clients have included the
University of Texas, the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in
England, The Australian Mint, The National Geographic Society,
Paramount Studios, Universal Studios, MGM Studios, Warner Brothers Home
Video, ABC/Disney, CBS TV, PBS TV, The History Channel, Enslow
Educational Publishers, Adobe Photoshop, Auto FX, Tree-Free Greeting,
Verizon wireless, Apple IPOD, Penguin, Doubleday (Now Random House),
Harlequin Top Historical Romances, and the History Book of the Month
Club, as well as appearing in periodical publications like Popular
Photography and the Wall Street Journal.
A Traditional style portrait of the artist. [Photo by his son Erich.]
After a lifetime of drawing and painting, David's Traditional Art was exhibited in the British Museum in London in 1996, ( 3 years before he got his first computer ) as well as numerous American ones since, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Working in a variety of media David offers his customers a variety of options and more than three decades of experience. As an illustrator he has not only used the computer but has been involved in the development and marketing of software for Adobe Photoshop. Digital art, Colored pencils, Pastels, Mixed media, & also Oil Paintings can also be commissioned for select projects.Digital illustration projects start at $500.U.S. and group rates are available. David delivers custom made copyright free illustrations & old fashioned customer service when he does work-for-hire. To publish existing pieces of his realistic art, David sells licenses starting at only $99.USD.
You can e-mail for more details at:
Your business, letters and links are always welcome!
This Gallery has been honored by more than 35,000,000 Unique Visitors
from the Four Corners of the Earth
My Friends from around the world thus far :
Scotland, Wales, Ireland,
Monaco, Andorra, Italy, The Vatican
Greece, Macedonia, Cyprus, Turkey,
The Faroe Islands, Greenland, Yugoslavia,
Macedonia, Croatia, The Czech Republic,
Bosnia, Herzegovina, Slovakia, Slovenia,
Luxembourg, Latvia, Estonia, Hungary, Bulgaria,
Lithuania, Poland, Austria, Romania,
Spain, The Russian Federation, Estonia,
Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Malta,
Iceland, Finland, Norway, Netherlands,
Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Sweden, Portugal,
Albania, Armenia, Georgia, Slovak Republic,
Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Gibraltar,
Israel, Palestinian Territories, Egypt,
Libya, Mali, Algeria, Niger, Saudi Arabia,
Oman, The United Arab Emirates,
Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen, Iraq,
Iran, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon,
Eritrea, Liberia, The Republic of
Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, Angola,
Ghana, The Ivory Coast, Zambia, Zimbabwe,
Sudan, Nigeria, Namibia, Sudan,
Uganda, Kenya, Eritrea, Tanzania,
Botswana, Malawi, Senegal, Djibouti, Cameroon,
Chad, Gambia, Mozambique, Swaziland,
Lesotho, South Africa, Seychelles, Viet Nam,
Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong,
Macau, Mongolia, Mauritius, Singapore, Thailand,
Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar,
Macau, Malaysia, Taiwan, Nuie, New
Cook Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, American
Micronesia, Polynesia, Papua New Guinea, The Heard
and McDonald Islands,
The Philippines, Guam, Palau, Cocos Island, The
Kingdom of Tonga,
Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, India,
Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan,
Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Chagos Islands, The Republic
Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan,
Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Nepal,
Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay,
Paraguay, Brazil, Peru, Aruba,
Venezuela, Bolivia, Suriname, Guyana, Aruba,
The Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Costa Rica,
Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and
Barbuda, Barbados, The Virgin Islands, Saint
Lucia, The Netherlands Antilles, Panama,
Northern Mariana Islands, Saint Vincent &
Grenadines, Grenada, Ecuador,
Belize, Nicaragua, El Salvador,
Jamaica, Dominica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Cayman
Islands, The Bahamas, Honduras,
Madagascar, Central African Republic, Ethiopia,
San Marino, Saint Kitts & Nevis
Anguilla, Burkina Faso, Equatorial
Guinea, Polynesia, Madagascar,
Mauritania, Burundi, and my home, The Great
Free State of
Oman, The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Morocco, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia, The Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, Angola, Ghana, The Ivory Coast, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Nigeria, Namibia, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Eritrea, Tanzania, Botswana, Malawi, Senegal, Djibouti, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, South Africa, Seychelles, Viet Nam, Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Mongolia, Mauritius, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Macau, Malaysia, Taiwan, Nuie, New Zealand, Fiji, Cook Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, American Samoa, Australia, Micronesia, Polynesia, Papua New Guinea, The Heard and McDonald Islands, The Philippines, Guam, Palau, Cocos Island, The Kingdom of Tonga, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Chagos Islands, The Republic of Maldives, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Nepal, Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Peru, Aruba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Suriname, Guyana, Aruba, The Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, The Virgin Islands, Saint Lucia, The Netherlands Antilles, Panama, Northern Mariana Islands, Saint Vincent & Grenadines, Grenada, Ecuador, Belize, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Bermuda, Cuba, Jamaica, Dominica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Cayman Islands, The Bahamas, Honduras, Mexico, Madagascar, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Gabon, San Marino, Saint Kitts & Nevis Anguilla, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Polynesia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Burundi, and my home, The Great Free State of Idaho (USA)...
If your home is not listed here please e-mail and tell us where you're from...
Your business, letters and links are always welcome!
Essay and Articles Section:
Philosophy, Art, & Art Philosophy
Personal Opinion Essays on Realism yesterday and today by the artist.
STYLE and TECHNIQUE
Howard David Johnson is an outspoken proponent of mechanical aids to visual art. Unlike the opponents of mechanical aids, his mission is not to prove his talent but to help preserve our vanishing Western cultural heritage. In addition to his mastery of the traditional media, now combines drawing, painting, photography, and digital media with more than thirty years of experience in these fields to create his Realistic Art Numerica in 21st century paintings and pictures. Did you know the Greek word "Photography" means "Painting with Light"? Today with the advent of computers it truly lives up to it's name. Due to developments in Art and Technology, a broader definition of painting is needed than that which is found in common usage. Introducing Art Numerica- an exciting merger of traditional visual art and cutting edge technology... a new art form for the twenty- first century... Art Numerica is not limited to realistic art but also offers limitless horizons for everything from cartoons to abstractions.
It is the most dramatic development in the visual arts since the Renaissance.
| There is a
school of thought that seems to think that a caveman’s beating on a
hollow log with a stick is automatically superior to Beethoven’s Ninth
Symphony performed by the world’s finest symphony orchestra because
less technology is involved. I do not subscribe to this kind of
Personally I LOVE computers! First of all, there’s the freedom from
fear! The undo button is empowering and liberating!
More importantly, publishing customers can't afford to pay me for old-fashioned traditional methods like oil on canvas. I can do them, and do them well, but no one but millionaire art collectors can afford to pay even poverty level hourly rates for all that time. The masters often took a year for a single painting. With digital media I can create pieces that look very nice for very nice prices and with blazing speed.
The publishing industry is not noted for its patience. In the early days of my art career, mailing traditional media originals was scary at best, but now they can be scanned and shipped without risk.
"Helen of Troy" MMVII Prismacolor Pencils
~ Howard David Johnson
ABOUT THE ARTIST:
|Howard David Johnson is a contemporary visual artist and photographer with a background in|
|the natural sciences and history. He works in a wide variety of media ranging from traditional|
|oils, pastels and others to cutting edge digital media. He loves mixing media. This site features|
|examples of his Realistic Art, including illustration, photography, experimentalism, and fine art|
"Elven Fairy Magic" MMVII Prismacolor Pencils
The various galleries linked to by the icons above show many examples of His Realistic Art, and are grouped by theme rather than media. Since boyhood he has passionately copied the old masters. Using a strategy employed by J.W. Waterhouse (The old master David has imitated most) - his wistful and graceful models cannot be underestimated in their contribution to the stunning beauty and the potential for lasting appeal of his work. To create his work, he usually starts with a thematic concept, then working in his Photography studio with live models. He then assembles a variety of elements which are realistic and original. As a boy he dedicated his life to art in 1960. From 1965- 1999 he used xeroxes and tracings to make his preliminary photo montages. This is patterned after the manner used by Maxfield Parrish and other 19th century notables. For this he offers no apology as many of the greatest artists in history employed any and all means of technology at their disposal such as Camera Obscura or even the evil manufactured tube paints. See his article below: "On Art and Technology: When Seeing is Not Believing" An essay dealing with mechanical aids to visual art from Camera Obscura to Computers for more on this. The digital montage is a natural evolution of the preliminary photo collage David learned from great Realistic illustrators like Maxfield Parrish and Norman Rockwell. You'd think by now everything would have been tried but it hasn't. Exploring new art mediums is just as exciting today, just as full of freshness and newness as it ever been.
Since 1972 when he began his career as a scientific illustrator for the University of Texas he has earned his living illustrating all kinds of books, magazines, CD covers, and all sorts of games, greeting cards, calendars, portraits, tapestries, murals and the like with his contemporary realistic art... David's Realistic Art has appeared in every major bookstore chain in The United States and has been used in educational texts and magazines all over the world.
Philosophy, Art, & Art Philosophy
Personal Opinion Essays on Realism yesterday and today by the artist.
"Those who are enamoured of practice without science are like a pilot who goes into a ship without rudder or compass and never has any certainty where he is going. Practice should always be based upon a sound knowledge of theory, of which perspective is the guide and gateway, and without it nothing can be done well in any kind of painting."
Essay One: "THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME..."
(A Brief essay dealing with attitudes toward Traditional Realistic Paintings, Pastels, Colored Pencils and Art Numérica )
"Painting, in art, the action of laying colour on a surface, or the representation of objects by this means. Considered one of the fine arts"
"Painting. noun. 1.) The act or employment of laying on colors or paints. 2.) The art of forming figures or objects in colors on canvas or any other surface, or the art of representing to the eye by means of figures and colors any object; the work of an illustrator or painter. 3.) A picture; a likeness or resemblance in shape or colors. 4.) Colors laid on. 5.) Delineation that raises a vivid image in the mind; as in word painting.
~ Webster's Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language
Pastel, Acrylics, and Colored Pencils combined
Snobbism in the arts is nothing new. Some people will tell you that oils are the only valid medium for realistic paintings. That Colored Pencil, Digital, and other Realistic Painting and Drawing Media are not valid for "real" art. Young artists, Don't let them bother you. Their forerunners used to condemn Pastels before they gained acceptance and called them "crayons" when Johann Alexander Thiele (1685-1752) invented them. Mercilessly disrespectful art critics of the time could not stop the Experimentalists no matter how viciously they attacked and derided them. "Crayon-painting" as it was called in England was practiced early on by persecuted pioneers in Switzerland and many other nations. What a debt we owe to these master artists who refused to knuckle under to the pressure of those short-sighted critics during those historic and experimental times. It took until 1870 with the founding of the "Societe` Des Pastellistes" in France that respect came at last to these heroic & immortal visual artists.
In England the liberation of the Pastellists from slight regard and undeserved disrespect came with the first exhibition of "The Pastel Society" at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1880. Pastel Painters like Mary Cassat and others from America and other nations forever silenced the snobs with their masterworks and gained recognition at long last for Thiele's invention as a valid art medium. I am persuaded that history will repeat itself. Like Pastels, I believe these wonderful new colored pencils and even Digital Realistic Art Media will one day receive the recognition they deserve as powerful mediums of artistic expression just as pastel paintings did. What is your definition of art? Have you thought about it?
Mine is: "anything that makes you feel or think."
Consider dancing... it can be a little skip in the step or rise to the level of the incomparable Russian Ballet. Did you know that just the materials alone for a single oil painting cost up to a thousand dollars these days? Even paying the artist less than minimum wage no one but the super rich can afford them anymore. Something's got to give. Realistic paintings in oil have been highly prized for centuries and the appeal and following of realistic art is undiminished to this day. Oil paintings featuring Abstract Art and Realistic Art are generally the most treasured form of all the visual art media and with good reason. But snobbish art critics favoring abstract art have declared that realistic paintings, or illustrations are not art for a century. With so many representationalist paintings by so many immortal master artists hanging in the Louvre, the Hermitage, and the British Museum and others I think the disrespect for realistic illustrators that dominated the 20th century is academically ridiculous as well as vain and intolerant, insisting theirs is the only valid opinion. What is your definition of Art? I believe almost any form of human expression can be raised to the level of "high art" especially visual art and Realistic illustration...
The detail reveals Realistic art and abstract art combined
By my own definition of art, which is: "anything that makes you feel or think" most abstract paintings are not "real art" to me personally, because abstract paintings usually neither make me feel or think, usually focusing obsessively on technique and avoiding any coherent content. I usually draw a complete blank mentally and emotionally when I look at them. In 1979 the Houston Metropolitan Museum of Art displayed a triptych of 3 giant paintings they paid fifty thousand dollars for- three blank white canvasses entitled "untitled". Then there was "The incredible new artistic Genius" with an I.Q. of 62 ...Congo the chimpanzee with his gala New York art exhibition...an elaborate prank played on the Snobbish American Art critics about a generation ago by research scientists in the field of primatology. Imagine how upset they were when he created one of his "ingenious masterpieces" right before their eyes.
( My Source for this is the Time Life Science Library volume entitled "The Primates". )
Art education has been almost completely removed from American Schools as a result of generations of this kind of fabulous nonsense contributing to America's cultural illiteracy crisis. Now, the works of Leonardo Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, and other notables are being removed from school libraries. After generations of this, most American college graduates today cannot name even one living visual artist, abstract or realistic.
There is no way that mandating more math, requiring more reading, or scheduling more science will replace what we have lost as a culture.
What is your definition of Art?
|Note: Abstract Paintings by Congo the
Chimpanzee outsold Warhol and Renoir by over 25,000 dollars in June
2005 at a London art auction. Born in 1954, Congo created more than 400
drawings and paintings between the ages of two and four. He died in
1964 of tuberculosis. There is no precedent for this kind of sale.
Essay Two : The Rebirth of Realism
More thoughts on realistic art yesterday and today by the artist
Art History has entered a new era with the birth of Art Numérica, or digital art media in the 21st century. Artists never stop exploring with mediums. Artists have been developing techniques, experimenting with different tools since at least twenty- five thousand years ago, when the first artist picked up a charred stick and scratched a picture out on the wall of his cave. You'd think everything would have been tried by now, but it hasn't. Exploring new mediums this very day is just as exciting, just as full of freshness and newness as it ever was.
|The creation of Realistic art has been the goal of most artists since the dawn of civilization. Realistic art was the pride of ancient Greece. The world's greatest museums are full of realistic art. Realistic art WAS art until the advent of the abstract expressionist movement in the twentieth century. The coming of the camera in the nineteenth century changed realistic art forever. Suddenly, realistic art was not the only way to create realism in portraits and historical records. The work of the realistic artist was suddenly made into an expensive luxury. The political power of the realistic artist was broken and they were no longer an indispensable member of society. Hostility to the creators of realistic art goes back to ancient times and the jealousy of advisers to the Pharaohs and others who were not able to spend as much time with their rulers as their portraitists. Although with the aid of photographs, realistic art achieved levels of excellence undreamed of, the realistic art movement of the late nineteenth century was short.|
None of these people earning their living creating realistic art could
compete with the speed and low cost of photographic portraiture.
Determined to survive, great realistic artists like Pablo Picasso
ingeniously turned inward and began to explore things that could not be
photographed in a new school of art, abstract expressionism. The day of
the fine art superstars had arrived. It was now largely just a hobby to
abstract and realistic artists alike. Illustration, because of advances
in printing technology enabled an elite few to earn a living with their
realistic art. These illustrators working in realistic art media
were condemned and ridiculed in much the same way Europe's great
symphonic composers were condemned for working in motion pictures after
fleeing the nazis during World War Two. The rift between realistic and
abstract art grew wider and wider. The universities and key media
usually sided with the abstract camp and derided anyone working in any
realistic art media declaring boldly that realistic art was not "real"
art. Immortal giants of realistic art such as Maxfield Parrish were
mistreated their entire lives. They were accused of selling out for
creating beautiful pieces of realistic fine art to earn a living. The
attitude that the true artist must suffer and starve and die in poverty
became a rule. There were the Abstract art superstars, the professional
realistic illustrators, and the hobbyists who, although cut off from
gainful employment and social influence still recognized their artistic
gifts as a calling rather than a profession.
Early abstract art masters proved themselves as realistic artists before delving into realms of the intangible. They had to do this at that time to prove themselves because of the challenges they faced from the establishment for going against the status quo. In the latter part of the 20th century, realistic artists like HDJ were challenged to do abstract art to prove themselves as shown in the example above (Deirdre of the sorrows). Later realistic art training was abandoned in most schools and things like splattering paint in fits of rage were deemed more than enough. By the end of the 20th century something as destructive and ridiculous as nailing a pack of cigarettes to a shoe was considered fine art but not realistic paintings. Fashions in art have often been as silly as fashions in ladies hats. As the century drew to a close, many people had had enough. The realistic revolt was at hand. The rebirth of realism was fueled by the advent of the digital era. Now, for the first time in almost two centuries, an artist or illustrator could earn a decent living again with his realistic art. This is historic. Realistic art is not going to go away, especially now that photography has truly merged with traditional realistic visual art. Photography comes from the Greek words meaning "painting with light". Now with the advent of digital media the capability of realistic art has become almost limitless, truly, "painting with light". The merger of all the world's art forms to realize the potential of motion pictures has come now to still realistic art media. This website for example, combines music, prose, poetry, photography and traditional realistic art media to create an experience beyond merely looking at realistic paintings.
The twenty- first century is already seeing a new renaissance in the arts because of the world wide web. There has never been anything like it. Abstract art, computer art, photographic art, and realistic art are continuing to be separate schools of art but are also blending to create exciting new horizons. Although Digital art does offer completely new horizons to the artist in the 21st century it does not mean the end of our time honored art traditions. Instead, it offers additional ways to keep these traditions and schools of thought fresh and alive. ~ HDJ
Essay Seven: NEW!
On Art and Technology: When Seeing is Not Believing
An essay dealing with mechanical aids to visual art from Camera Obscura to Computers
When the camera was finally made commercially available in the 1830's it exploded on the world scene and sent shockwaves through the art world as history had never seen before. Visual artists all over the world were suddenly put out of work and resentment and outrage followed. Suddenly much more realistic portraits could be had at a tiny fraction of the cost of a painting and delivered almost instantly. The art world would never be the same. When motion picture cameras were new, seeing was believing and human consciousness changed forever in the 20th century. Sometimes even Terror and Panic came from the initial shock! In 1905 cinema patrons defecated and urinated in their seats as they broke each other's arms and legs desperately fleeing for their lives from a crowded theater to escape a train charging straight for them! ... train footage filmed safely from a bridge with a camera lowered down on a rope. A modern cinema patron would not even feel uncomfortable. The Photograph and its manipulations have changed human consciousness and history... and will continue to do so in the future.
The Camera changed everything.
The Camera of Today owes it's origin to the Camera Obscura, a light- tight box with a lense and a screen that receives an image. This device has been used by artists since ancient times to trace the projected image of whatever they set before it on a screen. Intrigued by the idea of producing a permanent light-formed image instead of reproducing it by hand, a long line of inventors studied the problem and successively made contributions to the solution.
Photography was neither discovered nor invented by any one man. It was the outcome of the early observations of the alchemists and chemists on the action of light, a subject that belongs strictly to the domain of photochemistry. Although the blackening of silver salts was known in 1565, it was not until 1727, when Johann Heinrich Shulze of Germany used a mixture of silver nitrate and chalk under stenciled letters, that it was definitely recognized that this darkening action was caused by light and not by heat. In the years that followed experiments with silver nitrate on leather and wood were successful. In 1817 J. Nicephore Niepce first tried photography with silver nitrate and paper. In 1826, L.J.M. Daguerre, a painter who had experimented with silver salts approached him and formed a partnership. Daguerre discovered accidentally that that the effect produced by exposing an iodized silver plate in a camera would result in an image if the plate were fumed with mercury vapor. The Daguerreotype process was a complete success. These chemical processes would be improved again and again until the advent of the digital camera we know today. The attitude that Photography was not art and was a purely mechanical process requiring no talent whatsoever was put forth with great force and hostility in an attempt to get people to refrain from choosing it for their portraits instead of paintings. This is a typical reaction to new technology, when Pastels were first invented they were dismissed as a child’s plaything rather than a viable art medium. These attacks on new technology are not limited to the arts of course. When the Wright brothers were making history at Kitty hawk with the first manned airplane their detractors said: "If man were meant to fly, he'd have been born with wings." This kind of negativity is just human nature to some kinds of people.
Photography came into being through an artistic, not a scientific urge. Daguerre was an artist, a scene painter whose illusionistic diorama was a landmark in Paris long before his name was connected with photography. Critics were merciless as usual, with scathing condemnations of the media. However, in the hands of a sensitive artist, photography quickly showed it's artistic possibilities. David Octavious Hill, a Scottish Painter invented the camera set up and the pose as we know them today in the 1840's and was the first of a new breed of master photographic artists. Photography was here to stay. Diverse forms of retouching techniques followed both by accident and by design and took the medium to new levels of artistic excellence. Now, more than a century and a half later only an uneducated or blindly hateful person would say Photography is not an art form. Of course we've all seen our share of awful pictures with the heads cut off taken by amateur photographers but we've also seen the work of studio masters like the great portrait photographers from Hollywood in the 1930's and forties. Anyone who has tried to create such a sophisticated studio photograph realizes quickly that this is a very difficult art form to master even if a trained orangutan can take a bad snapshot with an instant camera made for children.
The use of Photography as a mechanical aid to traditional oil paintings and other forms of realistic art came right away. This is not surprising since artists had been tracing from Camera Obscura for thousands of years. Famous Myths; Leonardo Da Vinci ( 1452-1519 ) is often credited with the invention of Camera Obscura because he used it for his masterworks during the Renaissance and mentioned it in his notebooks, but this is simply not true. Similarly, Americans are credited with the camera, but it is also not true. Origins: Unlike the camera, the inventor and time of invention of Camera Obscura are unknown. Perhaps a crude form of it was known to the ancient Greeks, but there is no material evidence to substantiate such a point of view. The mathematical precision and perfect anatomy of Greek art combined with their passionate love of science and mathematics is testimony enough for many scholars. The earliest clear description of Camera Obscura occurs in the great optical treatise of the Islamic scientist Al-Hazen who died at Cairo, Egypt in A.D. 1098. His Opticae Thesaurus ( Book of optics ) was rendered into Latin sometime during the 12th or 13th century by an unknown translator. Al- Hazen honestly declares that he himself did not discover it, so we know from this it had to have been masterminded before A.D. 1098.
In the early 1600's the telescope came into use and Camera Obscura spared viewers the harmful effects of gazing directly into the sun. I regret, but that we must acknowledge the fact that almost every art medium throughout the ages has been corrupted. In the 2nd century, the Roman emperor Hadrian had the head of his lunatic predecessor Nero removed from a statue and replaced by that of his favorite. Much later in 1539, Holbein painted a glamorous and flattering portrait of Anne of Cleves for Henry VIII. When the future queen arrived in England, King Henry met the surprisingly less than dazzling and glamorous Anne. His disappointment made history. Our modern society certainly can't claim t he honor nor take the blame of being the first to manipulate art forms.
By the 21st century instead of the traditional assistants and apprentices, artists employed overhead transparency projectors, opaque projectors, artographs, light tables, slide projectors, color photocopying... and suddenly, computers and image editing software, which brings us to some very compelling controversies regarding these modern imaging technologies and their impact on various media and further changes to human consciousness. For example: The integrity of Photography as evidence in our courts of law stood for many decades until it was shattered by the digital manipulation of photographs and new standards needed to be introduced. Websites sold peeks at photos of celebrities' heads pasted onto photos of wild women in scandalous poses for all the world to see- but advertised as real celebrity pix. Scandal rocked television and other news media when digitally altered photographs were being passed off as reliable evidence of important news stories...
On a positive note, no one was threatened by how this technology enabled motion pictures to do epic things they could only dream of before. They were supposed to be make-believe images appearing real! A golden era in special effects cinema ensued. Then, this powerful digital imaging technology, like the camera, fell into the hands of the common man through computer programs like Adobe Photoshop. A new culture of skepticism had abandoned the age old adage; "seeing is believing" Photography has never told the whole truth, just parts of it. Photography is also an art form and therefore rightfully susceptible to creative alterations. In addition, the advancement of digital manipulation technology cannot be undone or halted. I believe that we must recognize that this digital technology exists on a gigantic-scale, and will never go away. Therefore, I suggest that digitally altered photos are distinct from traditional photography, and should be treated as such.
Contrasting views: anti-manipulation advocates’ fear a negative impact of digital manipulation in a court of law, and pro-manipulation advocates say that we must wake up to the fact that for for decades pictures have not been reliable evidence in court and that any good lawyer will attempt to discredit photographic evidence. In response to claims that photos should always tell the truth, the pro-manipulation camp would say that photos have never told the unvarnished truth. A camera shows, and has always only shown, a fraction of reality, and even then what we see is taken out of context or even fabricated. Photography from its onset has been subjected to modifications. In 1839, the Frenchman Louis-Jacques Daguerre patented the daguerreotype, or what could be called the first "picture." Simply explained, the daguerreotype combined the usage of the camera obscura and silver iodide to produce a permanent image on a copper plate. A very exciting innovation, Daguerre boasted of it, "With this technique, without any knowledge of chemistry or physics, one will be able to make in a few minutes the most detailed views" ("Photography"). Almost immediately, the daguerreotype, especially daguerreotype portraits, became immensely popular. Its popularity, of course, can be attributed to its novelty, but also because people believed the daguerreotype produced a more real image than a painting. The general attitude toward the daguerreotype was that it could create images more realistically because there was no artist to interpret and modify it in his own style.
Opponents of Digital Manipulation insist Photography should always represent the truth, asserting Photography's first and foremost function is to portray reality. Many assume that photographs have never been manipulated, and that this recent outbreak in digital technology damages the integrity of photography. Without delay, anti-manipulation proponents demanded an end to all "dishonest" photography, as it severely misleads the public. Also, they view digital manipulation as a purely mechanical process, with no talent or skill involved. Furthermore, anti-manipulation proponents fear manipulated photos might acquit murderers or rapists in courts of law. The thought that photography had replaced painting abounded. "As if photography needed to absolve itself from its ‘original sin’--of having brought about the death of painting", a movement known as pictorialism thrived around 1890-1914, the Art Nouveau period. Proponents of pictorialism primarily set out to gain the recognition of photography as an art rather than just a mechanical process. The pictorialists fashioned bizarre and oddly focused images in order to prove photography was indeed a creative art. It was here that such concepts as shading and enhancing during development appeared. Because of these new shadings and angles, it can be said that Art Nouveau saw the dawn of "Photo manipulation." So the manipulation of photography actually began early in the the 20th century.
In 1982 there was outrage over the manipulation of the Great Pyramids on the cover of National Geographic but the Genie was out of the bottle. There was no going back. In the 1990’s Computer programs like Adobe Photoshop began to be available to the general public. Now, even someone with little or no talent could produce delightful works. On the other hand, sensitive artists could produce masterpieces on a scale undreamed of. It seems clear that using this technology to willfully falsify photographs for slanderous, scandalous, or persuasive ends is morally wrong, but what about using it to create obvious unreality that looks real or Fantastical Realism in art as in pictures of fairies or mythic creatures?
What is realism? Realism in Art and literature has always meant that the artist attempts to represent persons, scenes, things, and facts as they are, life as it is. The word is used in many senses- as opposed to romanticism, to conventionalism, to sentimentalism, to idealism and to imaginative treatment. Sometimes it is a term of praise, and sometimes it is a term of derision. During the 19th and 20th centuries the use of the word realism often implied that the details brought out were of an unpleasant, sordid, obscene, or generally offensive character. Even the greatest illustrators of the day were ridiculed. Realism is commonly applied to a 19th century school of writers and artists; but realism, in it's prime and proper sense, is as old as art and literature themselves, but in the hands of it's most notorious exponents, it quickly degenerated into a connotation of the more sinister features of realism.
Many 20th century contemporary realists and artists working in the Photo Realism style were trained in an educational system openly hostile or dismissive to Classical realism and art tradition and were only taught the tenets of Abstraction and Expressionism. As a result many of these artists are more akin to the abstract and expressionist schools than the "Classical Realism" of the ancient Greeks, which adored beauty and nature. Contemporary Realism does not embrace the math and design of the Classical school but does not frown on beauty. Photo Realism only strives to look as much like a photograph as possible and sometimes the results are shocking or disturbing. Other times they are mundane and so ordinary as to be boring. They often deliberately decline to select subjects from the natural, beautiful, and harmonious and more especially, depict ugly things and bring out details of an unsavory sort for social and political purposes. The real mission of Photo-realism is not to record everyday life like a Norman Rockwell painting, but to expose the unconscious way we look at and accept photographs.
By the 20th century realism had spread to nearly all nations- realistic elements combined with those of Impressionism, Symbolism, and other movements. Fantastic Realism on the other hand, is born of these movements and tied to them in style and technique, but prefers to explore subjects that are strange or strikingly unusual rather than scenes of everyday life or objects. It is often bizarre in form, conception and appearance and even wondrous in its beauty. Sometimes macabre and grotesque, it is rarely boring like the other forms of Realism in visual art so often are. Fantastic Realism can be completely apart from reality, yet appearing to be quite real. It is versatile in that it can combine with or be a part of the Classical, Contemporary or Photo-realistic schools or stand as a style unique unto itself. I combine elements from all of these schools of Realism and then take it a step further by also combining a wide variety of media from traditional oil paintings to today's cutting edge digital media in my exhibits. Naturally, the darker side human nature shows itself again with condemnation of new schools of expression, and new art media and technology. Like the photographers before them, digital artists wanted the recognition of their work as an art rather than just a mechanical process. Unlike the snapshot camera or an abstract painting, a trained chimp or orangutan cannot do it: it takes the same visionary and eye to hand skills as any traditional art media to do it well.
Since the times of the ancient Greeks, Art History records a relentless quest for Realism and artistic excellence. The masters of each generation strove to perfect their craft, then passed on the torch of their accumulated knowledge and skill to the next generation.
The accomplishments and technological breakthroughs of one generation have often set new standards of excellence for the next.
~ Howard David Johnson MMIV
Art and Technology: From the Camera to the Computer
A brief overview of the shifting cultural attitudes toward Realistic Art in the last 150 years
~Essay #8 by Howard David Johnson
The first decade of the 21st Century has seen a grass-roots counter-revolution in the art world which has overthrown the stranglehold elitist proponents of Abstract expressionism gained on academia, the media and the art world at large in the early 20th Century.
Realistic Art was declared obsolete and irrelevant at the beginning of the 20th Century due to the easy chronicling of persons, places, and events by the Camera - in spite of this new technology empowering the greatest era in Realistic Art history. The “Modern Day Artist” refused to die and began to explore realms of the heart and mind the camera could not record. The proponents of Abstract Expressionism gained control of elite art collector’s markets followed by academic institutions and the media leading to the abandonment of centuries of classical teaching methods and traditions in our universities. Even the best realistic art was later denounced and ridiculed as the dismissive and often even hostile Art establishment created elitist scorn for Realistic Art in general. This created a disconnect with the general population who could not relate to the tenets of Abstract Expressionism. The advent of the internet broke the absolute domination of the opinions of the Abstract School on media and academia and opened the floodgates of artistic expression and free opinions. Free at last from institutionalized condemnation, more and more artists began to choose realistic treatments and a tidal wave of fabulous new realistic art has been created in every conceivable visual art media for museums, galleries, books, movies, and video games.
As the camera became commercially available in the early 19th Century it became clear that the visual artist was no longer an indispensable member of society. Just about anyone could point and shoot this device at persons, places, and things and get very fast and very realistic results. Resentment from thousands of years of artists’ social and political influence fueled the notion that visual artists should be declared obsolete. The adoption of the camera as an artist’s tool and the advent of an era of glorious and unprecedented realism in painting did not stop the movement to crush the political and social influence of the artist.
Great realistic artists like Pablo Picasso and others like Vincent Van Gogh courageously answered this challenge by exploring concepts that could not be photographed with brilliant and visionary works. It was from these honest and ingenious notions that the schools and sub-schools of Abstract Art developed. The freshness and innovation of this movement took the art world and academia by storm. The excitement of defining the tenets and the delight of bewildering the masses gave rise to an elite class of critics who could control the lucrative art collector’s market with obfuscation and intellectual snobbery.
This wealthy art collector’s market gave credence to Abstract Expressionism’s “high art” status and the advice of well placed critics became extremely valuable and they formed an alliance with like-minded academics. As time passed, this trendy movement whose concepts were so hard to argue with gained control of the establishment and elitism took root. It was not long before traditional painting methods were not taught in universities any more as realistic art was no longer considered “Real Art” and tenets like; “Art must be ugly”, Art must be new” Art must be obscure”, and “The best Art is offensive” took hold in schools and printed media.
Not satisfied with control over the most lucrative galleries, collector’s markets and academia, these elitists moved from dismissive to openly hostile attitudes toward those who still loved and created realistic art. The merciless and unprovoked rebukes of great realistic artists like Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth and so many others are well documented in 20th century histories. That’s not “Real Art” and why do you waste your talent on “Mere Illustration” were some of the nicer comments. Illustrators in the 20th century wore these rebukes like badges of honor, like black eyes gained from standing up to schoolyard bullies, knowing in their hearts what they were doing was worthwhile and the narrow minded views of their critics were not the only valid opinions. By the end of the 20th century, the long apprenticeship tradition was broken and classical realistic art methods were lost forever. The Shock Art movement in the 1990’s carried the tenets to new extremes as “ART” became a dirty word. U.S. Government Endowments for the Arts were discontinued. Abstract Art had become the norm with its obfuscated themes and was then itself considered irrelevant and academically worthless. Art programs were then removed from countless public school curriculums to make time for standardized test preparation. There is no way that mandating more math, requiring more reading, or scheduling more science will replace what we have lost as a culture.
At the turn of the 21st Century the Abstract Expressionists had been in control for generations with a thought control blockade in books, newspapers, radio, television and schools. Anyone who disagreed with them was told they were too stupid to understand “Real Art” and theirs was the only voice to be heard. What had begun so beautifully and sincerely was hijacked and violated until it became a byword for vulgarity. Then came the internet and the realistic artists, long silenced began to express their views. It was like the boy who cried: “The Emperor has no clothes!” This revelation spread like wildfire through the cultural consciousness. Suddenly, it was no longer a disgrace to hold something other than those narrow views. Galleries on the internet showcased generations of repressed artists realistic works in a tidal wave art history calls: “the Realistic Revolt”. Of course, Abstract Art still flourishes today especially on college campuses, but the narrow views of its most fanatical proponents are no longer cruelly dominant.
The Realistic Revolt has brought the return of respectability to illustration and realistic landscape and portraiture. When I see the works of today’s vast multitude of realistic artists coming from a thousand different directions at once, tears come to my eyes, for I have worn the title “illustrator” as a badge of honor for decades and am deeply moved to have lived to see new developments in art and technology drive the visual arts to levels of quality beyond my wildest dreams. I predict 3D and digital media will grow more and more realistic until photos seem noticeably inferior. The internet has not only opened the floodgates for artistic expression, but employment and untold artists are earning a living shattering the “Starving Artist” stereotype so engrained in our cultural consciousness. The beginning of the 20th century saw technology threatening the survival of the professional artist and the end of it saw the unbridled tenets of Abstract Expressionism like “Art must be offensive” threatening the very existence of art as a part of our culture, the modern day artist has once again refused to die and has embraced technology to create a rebirth of realism that Art critics, collectors, academics and everyday folk can all embrace and celebrate in ways I once feared had been lost to us forever.
~ Howard David Johnson (2012)
Your business, letters, & links are always welcome.
Thank you for visiting the colored pencil style and technique page of Howard David Johnson...
Visit Celtic Mythology or click on Art Lessons to see more large Photo- realistic Pencil Art
Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky ( 1840- 1893) - "Swan Lake"