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Kant and Aesthetics

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Thomas M. Miovas Jr.
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"You're still assuming that I must be as inept at photography as you are, and therefore I'm lying and being "defensive" when I tell you that I did not copy a photograph? Hilarious."

There's no need to be insulting -- really, calm down. Clearly I touched a nerve, but since you are favorably disposed to modernism, I can't see why: if, as a famous modern artist asserted, that everything an artist spits is art, then I don't see why you should care whether you use spit or copy a photograph.

" And I do think that you probably have reason to be defensive about my speculations. As I said earlier, if you're who I think you are, I understand why you won't post samples of your work."

If it makes you feel better to imagine that I am an inferior artist, you just go ahead -- somehow I'll find a way to live despite it. But your comments about Classical Realism are as equally revealing: you choose to deride the movement, declare it dead (despite it thriving), make snide comparisons to an Amish community, or declare there are errors in perspective by some of the artists (I'm sure there are -- not all artists are equal. And it's easier to get perspective right by copying a photograph than it is by sight-size.). Feeling a bit defensive, aren't you? Nor have you defined "Classical Realism", or explained why a painting of yours would be superior, or more sophisticated (non-Amish). Since, according to modernism, everything an artist spits is art, then on what basis would you condemn those artists? Are they not artists?

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I stand by the distinction that Ayn Rand made in The Romantic Manifesto; and neither she nor I are making a primary / secondary distinction. An entity is everything that it is, there is no aspect of it that is primary versus others that are secondary. The important thing to realize is that we are aware of existence and that existence is composed of entities -- things -- and that the visual arts must be geared towards depicting entities -- things -- rather than smears on canvas, because being aware of entities is how we are aware of existence. We are not aware of existence in terms of smears of colors.

Why should existence outside of ourselves be the sole focus of art, though? I see no reason why art intended to evoke or explore certain emotions should necessarily do so by depicting physical entities. We are aware of and come to understand our own emotions through introspection, a process much trickier and less straightforward than perception. It comes as no surprise to me that much of the art being produced attempts to focus on those types of themes and issues, precisely because they come much less automatically than perception, and I also find it unsurprising that this art chooses a variety of methods to attempt evoking emotions and prompting introspection in viewers, rather than simply the depiction of physical entities.

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"You're still assuming that I must be as inept at photography as you are, and therefore I'm lying and being "defensive" when I tell you that I did not copy a photograph? Hilarious."

There's no need to be insulting -- really, calm down.

I'm not trying to be insulting, nor am I not calm. I'm just identifying the truth.

Sorry if you find the truth to be insulting, but your inabilities as a photographer are not universal. My telling you that I and others can capture on film what the eyes sees, where you admit that you can't, is not intended as an insult. I'm sorry that you're insulted by the idea that others know more about the medium than you do.

Clearly I touched a nerve, but since you are favorably disposed to modernism, I can't see why: if, as a famous modern artist asserted, that everything an artist spits is art, then I don't see why you should care whether you use spit or copy a photograph.

No, you haven't touched a nerve. You've simply been confirming by initial statement that you've got a Dunning-Kruger thing going on. Despite what I've said on this thread, you still believe that your personal limitations when using a camera are the medium's limitations, don't you? Heh.

" And I do think that you probably have reason to be defensive about my speculations. As I said earlier, if you're who I think you are, I understand why you won't post samples of your work."

If it makes you feel better to imagine that I am an inferior artist, you just go ahead -- somehow I'll find a way to live despite it.

Actually, it doesn't make me feel better. As is true with your views on photography, it's really kind of sad and pathetic that you can't see beyond your own limitations, and that you need to pose as an authority.

But your comments about Classical Realism are as equally revealing: you choose to deride the movement, declare it dead (despite it thriving), make snide comparisons to an Amish community, or declare there are errors in perspective by some of the artists (I'm sure there are -- not all artists are equal. And it's easier to get perspective right by copying a photograph than it is by sight-size.). Feeling a bit defensive, aren't you? Nor have you defined "Classical Realism", or explained why a painting of yours would be superior, or more sophisticated (non-Amish). Since, according to modernism, everything an artist spits is art, then on what basis would you condemn those artists? Are they not artists?

I was asking questions about a subject which I'll freely admit that you know more than I do. I haven't attended any Classical Realist ateliers, but I get the impression that many who have attended them might see the plotting-out of a scene in proper perspective as something akin to a sin. The "acceptable," "valid" and "pure" way to paint appears to be sight-size only, even if it results in inferior art. So, I ask again, is it common at Classical Realist ateliers to look down one's nose at plotting out a painting in true perspective rather than sight-sizing it? Is it considered "cheating" or otherwise beneath the aesthetic purity of painting directly from life?

J

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Neither are we aware of existence in terms of musical sounds. Music - with a few exceptions - doesn't depict entities. Is it therefore not art?

Indeed, music does not depict entities as Rand requires in art, nor does architecture. Music and architecture are exactly the same thing as abstract art -- they are arrangements of abstract forms (aural and visual).

J

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The important thing to realize is that we are aware of existence and that existence is composed of entities -- things -- and that the visual arts must be geared towards depicting entities -- things -- rather than smears on canvas, because being aware of entities is how we are aware of existence. We are not aware of existence in terms of smears of colors.

But, Thomas, smears of color can quality as art by Rand's criteria. If I were to find a smear of color existing in nature, and then paint a realistic image of it, I would be painting an entity from reality, and it would therefore qualify as art according to Objectivism.

I've given these two examples many times in the past (did you bother to read them?):

In the past, here on OO, and elsewhere, I've posted this example of a work of art:

369315155_6fca71f322.jpg

After looking at it, many Objectivists have told me that it does not qualify as art by Objectivist criteria, because, they say, it does not include identifiable likenesses of objects from reality. Some have said that it looks like kitchen floor tiles, that it has no meaning, and cannot possibly have meaning.

Well, what if the image is a realistic painting based on actual stone tiles that the artist had selectively cut and arranged like this:

5414095796_e8052810ee.jpg

Does it now suddenly qualify as art? Simply because of a technicality, Objectivists can now appreciate its compositional beauty and expressiveness, and can deem it to be no less valid as a work of art than any other still life which realistically depicts actual objects from reality?

Or, conversely, would you take the absurd position that certain things, like [paintings of] arrangements of flat, colorful, stone tiles, somehow don't count as being representations of things from reality?

Here's another image, one that I painted, that I've posted in O-forums:

350645875_a6c1aa575b_o.jpg

Does it quality art?

As I've explained when I've posted it in the past:

Smears and drips and abstract shapes can quality as art according to Objectivism as long as the artist paints a realistic representation of an actual smear, drip or abstract shape. One can "go Pollock" just as long as one realistically repaints the initial drip painting on a separate canvas!

J

Edited by Jonathan13
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"Sorry if you find the truth to be insulting, but your inabilities as a photographer are not universal. My telling you that I and others can capture on film what the eyes sees, where you admit that you can't, is not intended as an insult."

The camera is a machine, not a human mind. It cannot record information in the same manner as the human eye/mind combination. It has limitations -- perhaps an analogy would be the comparison between human thinking and computer "thinking" : there are functions that the computer can do more quickly and easily than the human mind. But it is not human, and its "thinking" is not merely a mechanized human mind.

"Despite what I've said on this thread, you still believe that your personal limitations when using a camera are the medium's limitations, don't you?"

Despite what you've said on this thread, I can recognize the marks of someone relying heavily on photography for their painting. And no, I have never said -- or believe -- that my "personal limitations when using a camera are the medium's limitations" -- my personal limitations regarding photography aren't involved.

" I haven't attended any Classical Realist ateliers, but I get the impression that many who have attended them might see the plotting-out of a scene in proper perspective as something akin to a sin."

Hardly -- your impression is inaccurate. Ateliers merely train the eye via methods that have been successful for hundreds of years. What any individual artist does with that training (consider it a tool box that the artist can draw upon) is dependent upon his inclinations and aspirations. Plotting out a painting is simply a good idea, no matter what the subject.

The "acceptable," "valid" and "pure" way to paint appears to be sight-size only, even if it results in inferior art."

Sight-size is merely one method. It does not result in "inferior art" -- inferior art is the result of infoerior artists, no matter what particular method or tool they are using. Obviously if an artist is inclined to paint pictures from his imagination, then sight-size isn't used at all. You really don't know what you're talking about.

"So, I ask again, is it common at Classical Realist ateliers to look down one's nose at plotting out a painting in true perspective rather than sight-sizing it? Is it considered "cheating" or otherwise beneath the aesthetic purity of painting directly from life?"

Nope.

Let me ask you again: define "Classical Realism" -- this would make the third or fourth time I've asked. And tell me, again, why a painting of yours would be superior, or more sophisticated, than one painted by someone calling themselves a "Classical Realist"? If "everything an artist spits is art", according to a famous modern artist, then on what basis would you condemn Classical Realists? Are they not artists?

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"Sorry if you find the truth to be insulting, but your inabilities as a photographer are not universal. My telling you that I and others can capture on film what the eyes sees, where you admit that you can't, is not intended as an insult."

The camera is a machine, not a human mind. It cannot record information in the same manner as the human eye/mind combination.

Photography can record information in the same manner as the human eye/mind combination. Seriously, are you not aware of the fact that cameras have controls that are adjustable, and that people with human minds can use these adjustable controls to selectively limit or increase the amount of light that enters the camera? Might I suggest that you read about high dynamic range imaging, including its history prior to digital cameras? Personally, I think that I first used non-digital HDR techniques in about 1984 or 1985, combining the use of bracketed slide film with sets of orthochromatic negatives and positives for tone mapping. And here we are in 2012 and you've never heard of any of this?!!!

It has limitations -- perhaps an analogy would be the comparison between human thinking and computer "thinking" : there are functions that the computer can do more quickly and easily than the human mind. But it is not human, and its "thinking" is not merely a mechanized human mind.

No, photography does not have limitations in comparison to the eye. As I've said repeatedly, it can capture more than the human eye can see! People can choose how much light enters the camera! They can reduce contrast and expand the tonal range. And they can shoot several exposures and then combine visual information from each of the exposures so as to match what the eye sees in reality, or, if the photographer prefers, he can combine the exposures so as to show more than what the eye can see in reality! This is not esoteric information. Have you seriously never heard of any of this?!!!

"Despite what I've said on this thread, you still believe that your personal limitations when using a camera are the medium's limitations, don't you?"

Despite what you've said on this thread, I can recognize the marks of someone relying heavily on photography for their painting.

No, I think what you're seeing is artwork created by someone who has much more knowledge of visual arts techniques than you do, perhaps including perspective techniques that you may have never been taugh, and who therefore has a visual vocabulary that is more informed and selective than yours.

In addition to being a painter and sculptor, I'm also a professional photographer, and have been using very advanced photographic techniques for decades, and despite your assumptions, I'm not bashful about admitting when I use photographic reference for drawing or painting. I also sometimes use other techiques that might be considered impure by classicists, such as computer modeling (I sometimes prefer to construct, texturize and light a virtual scene rather than build one in reality). In fact, an intial sketch that I created of "Resolve" was based on a virtual figure that I had sculpted and posed, but I quickly recognized that it wasn't working out, abandoned the virtual model, and drew from a real model instead.

So, no, in this case, your belief that you can tell when someone has copied a photograph is really just your ignorance of photography and your confusing your limitations with its.

And no, I have never said -- or believe -- that my "personal limitations when using a camera are the medium's limitations" -- my personal limitations regarding photography aren't involved.

You're proving my point about the Dunning-Kruger mindset. You apparently know so little about photography that you don't even recognize that you're imposing your own personal limitations on the medium when falsely asserting what you think its limitations are. I have to wonder how many generations of atelier students have blindly accepted and repeated the same falsehoods as you have while proudly displaying their Dunning-Kruger certainty.

J

Edited by Jonathan13
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"Seriously, are you not aware of the fact that cameras have controls that are adjustable, and that people with human minds can use these adjustable controls to selectively limit or increase the amount of light that enters the camera? Might I suggest that you read about high dynamic range imaging, including its history prior to digital cameras? Personally, I think that I first used non-digital HDR techniques in about 1984 or 1985, combining the use of bracketed slide film with sets of orthochromatic negatives and positives for tone mapping. And here we are in 2012 and you've never heard of any of this?!!!"

None of the technological advances in photography negate my main point: the human eye/mind combination cannot be duplicated by a mere machine. There is no emotion, no subconscious selection, etc.. An image can be manipulated by a human, but nevertheless it is a machine recording visual data, not a human being experiencing the visual world.

"No, photography does not have limitations in comparison to the eye."

Are you claiming, then, that the camera is emotionally moved and inspired by the visual world??

"As I've said repeatedly, it can capture more than the human eye can see!"

And a hawk can see greater detail at greater distances than the human eye -- so what? It doesn't experience visual phenomena like a human being, nor can a mere machine like the camera.

"No, I think what you're seeing is artwork created by someone who has much more knowledge of visual arts techniques than you do, perhaps including perspective techniques that you may have never been taugh, and who therefore has a visual vocabulary that is more informed and selective than yours."

You go ahead and think that, if it helps your self-esteem. But you STILL haven't answered some basic questions -- are you avoiding them? Here they are again: define "Classical Realism" -- this would make the fourth or fifth time I've asked. And tell me, again, why a painting of yours would be superior, or more sophisticated, than one painted by someone calling themselves a "Classical Realist"? If "everything an artist spits is art", according to a famous modern artist, then on what basis would you condemn Classical Realists? Are they not artists? (By the way, I don't consider myself a "Classical Realist".)

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Let me ask you again: define "Classical Realism" -- this would make the third or fourth time I've asked.

On this thread, I've generally been using the term "Classical Realist" to mean those who have attended Classical Realist ateliers and have drank the hand-squeezed lemonade (remember, Kool-Aid is just too damned shockingly modernist for such ateliers). I mean the people who have largely been motivated by their own personal limitations and biases, as well as the absolute certainty of their own brilliance, to avoid learning anything that they don't already know and agree with. I mean the uppity notion that anyone who could find anything of value in modernist art theory and technique must be an "apologist" or a "traitor."

And tell me, again, why a painting of yours would be superior, or more sophisticated, than one painted by someone calling themselves a "Classical Realist"? If "everything an artist spits is art", according to a famous modern artist, then on what basis would you condemn Classical Realists? Are they not artists?

I generally don't assume superiority. I just find it comical when I see people talking the talk but not walking the walk. When I see lots of rather sloppy perspective among Classical Realists, including in online examples of atelier faculty members' works, I have to suspect that, as is true of you on the issue of photography, they apparently stopped learning at some point because they assumed they already knew everything, and perhaps their teachers had the same mindset and limitations -- perhaps the Dunning-Kruger thing has infected many of these ateliers.

J

Edited by Jonathan13
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"On this thread, I've generally been using the term "Classical Realist" to mean those who have attended Classical Realist ateliers and have drank the hand-squeezed lemonade (remember, Kool-Aid is just too damned shockingly modernist for such ateliers)."

So, in other words, a "Classical Realist" is someone who: A. -- attended an atelier; and B. -- disagrees with you. Yet I know of many realist painters who didn't attend an atelier (some actually endured the modern art school), but who nevertheless reject modernism and its tenets. So, would they be considered "clasical realists", even though some might not have even heard the term?

"I mean the people who have largely been motivated by their own personal limitations and biases, as well as the absolute certainty of their own brilliance, to avoid learning anything that they don't already know and agree with."

But since you've never attended an atelier, how do you claim to know about any self-described "classical realist's" motivations, self-confidence, or openness to learning? Do you think you're omniscient, knowing the thoughts and aspirations of people you haven't even met? You don't like to think that there are artists out there (whether "Classical Realists" or not) who reject the tenets of modernism, who laugh at its pretensions.

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None of the technological advances in photography negate my main point: the human eye/mind combination cannot be duplicated by a mere machine.

That was not your "main point." Your point was that there are "limitations of the camera in regard to values and color," and you accused me of having taken photographs which suffered from these alleged limitations, and you asserted that I then copied the limitations without knowing it. Now, after I've blown that uninformed opinion out of the water, you're claiming that you had a different "main point."

There is no emotion, no subconscious selection, etc.. An image can be manipulated by a human, but nevertheless it is a machine recording visual data, not a human being experiencing the visual world.

So, your new uninformed-expert theory is that humans cannot selectively use photography to capture and/or express emotion? Do you not know that photography is almost universally recognized as being much more spontaneous and effective at capturing emotion than painting is? Have you never heard the quite common criticism of artists who paint only from life that their figures look posed, staged and lifeless in comparison to photos? Are you not aware of the fact that posing a model for hours on end and painting only what one sees is the reason that so many life paintings have dour or expressionless faces?

"No, photography does not have limitations in comparison to the eye."

Are you claiming, then, that the camera is emotionally moved and inspired by the visual world??

Where did you come up that? Are you trying to bluff your way out of admitting that you didn't know what you were talking about? No one has been talking about a camera being emotionally moved and inspired. Rather, you were making false assertions about the "limitations of the camera in regard to values and color," and I was rejecting those assertions.

J

Edited by Jonathan13
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"Your point was that there are "limitations of the camera in regard to values and color"

The camera does not record information in the same way that the human eye/mind combination does. This is going to affect values and color, regardless of the capabilities of the camera to record the same or more colors and values than the human eye can. And that is a limitation if an artist relies too heavily upon photography. Nothing you have said about your expertise in photography or the capabilities of the camera negates that -- a machine is a machine, not a human mind, and is incapable of duplicating the myriad and entirely personal processes by which we are moved by the visual world. This is not to say that photographers cannot be excellent artists in photography -- but a painter who relies heavily upon photography, whether taken by professionals or by amateurs, is shortchanging his work.

"So, your new uninformed-expert theory is that humans cannot selectively use photography to capture and/or express emotion?"

Obviously they can and they do. My comments have to do with a PAINTER relying heavily upon photography as his main source of reference, not with the work of photographers.

"Have you never heard the quite common criticism of artists who paint only from life that their figures look posed, staged and lifeless in comparison to photos? Are you not aware of the fact that posing a model for hours on end and painting only what one sees is the reason that so many life paintings have dour or expressionless faces?"

First off, painting "only from life" can be a valid technique if one is so inclined, though certainly other methods have always been used by the great artists. As for "dour and expressionless faces" -- like those of Velasquez? John Singer Sargent? William McGregor Paxton? Renoir? Bouguereau?

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"The normativity of Oist conception of art is still being missed here. The "what might be and OUGHT to be". It's the OUGHT to be that motivates Mrs Rands claims."

"What might be and what ought to be" is valid as an expression of Ms Rand's personal tastes and preferences. But it is incomplete and too narrow to serve as a "conception of art".

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"On this thread, I've generally been using the term "Classical Realist" to mean those who have attended Classical Realist ateliers and have drank the hand-squeezed lemonade (remember, Kool-Aid is just too damned shockingly modernist for such ateliers)."

So, in other words, a "Classical Realist" is someone who: A. -- attended an atelier; and B. -- disagrees with you. Yet I know of many realist painters who didn't attend an atelier (some actually endured the modern art school), but who nevertheless reject modernism and its tenets. So, would they be considered "clasical realists", even though some might not have even heard the term?

You left out C. -- is clearly ignorant of subjects on which he poses as an authority.

You don't like to think that there are artists out there (whether "Classical Realists" or not) who reject the tenets of modernism, who laugh at its pretensions.

Oh, I know that there are people who become very upset about modernism. It's a highly emotional issue for them. They tend to be so emotional about it that they can't come up with any rational explanation for why they're enraged by it despite not being enraged by other abstract art forms that also don't meet their criteria (and in fact are less qualified to be art by their criteria).

J

Edited by Jonathan13
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"You left out C. -- is clearly ignorant of subjects on which he poses as an authority."

OK, so let me get this straight -- an artistic movement that is concerned with standards of craftsmanship and excellence, which employs teaching methods that have been proven of value to aspiring artists over hundreds of years, is reduced by you down to people whom, you claim, are ignorant of subjects that they claim to be authorities on, who attended an atelier, and who disagree with the tenets of modernism (they "drank the hand-squeezed lemonade", as you put it.) You also claim that this movement is dead, despite the contrary -- the movement is clearly growing, with ever-increasing numbers of aspiring artists wanting to learn methods and tools that will help them realize their artistic vision. More ateliers open each year. On what basis would you call that dead? You simply disagree with them, that's all.

I don't consider myself a "Classical Realist" -- I don't like the term, frankly -- but I am encouraged to see so many people reject the laughable pretensions of the modernist crowd. If you and others like it and see value on it, hey, it's no skin off my back -- you go right ahead. But at least the stranglehold that modernism has had over the last several decades is beginning to loosen. More freedom for all, I say...

By the way, I did answer your other post but the moderator rejected it.

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"Your point was that there are "limitations of the camera in regard to values and color"

The camera does not record information in the same way that the human eye/mind combination does. This is going to affect values and color, regardless of the capabilities of the camera to record the same or more colors and values than the human eye can.

You're talking nonsense. A camera, in conjunction with a human mind which knows what it's doing, can be used selectively to capture less than the human eye/mind sees, or the same that the human eye/mind sees, or more than the human eye/mind sees.

And that is a limitation if an artist relies too heavily upon photography. Nothing you have said about your expertise in photography or the capabilities of the camera negates that -- a machine is a machine, not a human mind, and is incapable of duplicating the myriad and entirely personal processes by which we are moved by the visual world.

How are you not understanding that cameras do not act on their own, but that human minds are involved, and that these human minds can use their knowledge of photography to capture all of the nuances of value and color that the eye sees, and then some? The "myriad and entirely personal processes by which we are moved by the visual world" can be applied to photography just as they can to painting. Granted, you may not know how to apply such selectivity to photography, but as I've said repeatedly, I don't share your limitations -- your limitations are not the medium's limitations.

A photographer who knows what he's doing can alter and emphasize or deemphasize what he sees just as a painter can. A painter, such as myself, who has knowledge of photography which massively exceeds your knowledge of it, would not be limited to your personal limitations when taking reference photos for a painting.

And perhaps they didn't give you permission for this at the atelier, but a painter who is not working from photographs can choose to selectively limit what he puts on canvas compared to what he sees in reality for the purpose of aesthetic impact, and he can show less detail in his painting than what the eye would see in reality, as well as less detail than what would show up in photographs! That's what I did with my painting "Resolve." See, painters are not machines! They don't have to follow rules about how much value or color is classically supposed to be shown in a painting because the instructors at the atelier said so!

This is not to say that photographers cannot be excellent artists in photography -- but a painter who relies heavily upon photography, whether taken by professionals or by amateurs, is shortchanging his work.

A painter who has your level of knowledge of photography would indeed be shortchanging his work if he relied on photographs that he took.

J

Edited by Jonathan13
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A painter who has your level of knowledge of photography would indeed be shortchanging his work if he relied on photographs that he took.

I'm a little mystified at the discussion of photography. Like usual, I feel the need to preface this with a warning about my lack of specialized knowledge (in that I have none). Maybe I should just make a signature that I basically don't ever know what I'm talking about...?

But okay. Is Avila's contention that photography is a lesser visual medium than painting? Or is it that a painter cannot make a good painting based on a photograph?

I suspect it is the latter (though the conversation has seemed at times to address the former). If so, how is that? I understand Avila's observation that a camera will simply record what it "sees" as opposed to the filtering that a man's mind may do. Let's take that as granted (while also acknowledging Jonathan's point that a man may add effects to the initial photograph which are indicative of his mind at work).

Well, what of that?

If we're discussing painting from a photograph, then doesn't the painter still need to... look at the photograph? And at that point, can't he make any artistic determinations he needs as though he were still on site? I guess I don't understand how using a photograph for reference is supposed to be limiting. Avila? Anyone? Bueller?

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If we're discussing painting from a photograph, then doesn't the painter still need to... look at the photograph? And at that point, can't he make any artistic determinations he needs as though he were still on site? I guess I don't understand how using a photograph for reference is supposed to be limiting. Avila? Anyone? Bueller?

Avila is saying that when looking at a photograph, an artist is necessarily lacking information that the eye would see in reality because photography is limited compared to the eye, and therefore an artist who uses photographic reference is missing that information. And Avila believes that he can detect this missing information in paintings, and therefore conclude that they were based on photos which didn't include the information, and that the artist lacked the knowledge of objects, lighting and anatomy and therefore couldn't put into the painting what was missing from the photograph.

His position is totally false and his method of arriving at it is irrational. Photography is not lacking compared to the eye if one knows what one is doing (as I do, and as I have for decades). As I've said, photography can capture more than the eye can see (and, really, it doesn't take much experience with a camera to learn how to expose film so as to capture more than the eye can see).

J

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Avila is saying that when looking at a photograph, an artist is necessarily lacking information that the eye would see in reality because photography is limited compared to the eye, and therefore an artist who uses photographic reference is missing that information.

If this is really the dispute, then I'm totally unfit to judge what's right and what's wrong, based on my current level of knowledge.

But if this were really the dispute, then wouldn't it just be a technical matter that could be answered decisively? I imagine that experts in photography and the technology that goes into cameras know quite well how it stacks up to the eye, by now. I'd also imagine that this would be documented somewhere.

In any event, I don't see how it would necessarily make paintings based on sight better than those based on photography, or vice-versa, whichever happens to provide the most information. Is the quality of a painting simply down to its fidelity to a real-life scene? I wouldn't think so.

And Avila believes that he can detect this missing information in paintings, and therefore conclude that they were based on photos which didn't include the information, and that the artist lacked the knowledge of objects, lighting and anatomy and therefore couldn't put into the painting what was missing from the photograph.

I guess, given the premise that photography routinely limits certain detail/information in a predictable fashion, that a person could begin to see similarities in paintings based on photos (in that they would characteristically lack those same sets of details)... but like most stereotyping, I'd still be careful when judging a given work. I mean, how would you know for certain that detail X being left out of the painting was on account of detail X's not being visible (due to working form a photograph) as opposed to being a conscious choice of representation on the part of the painter, whether working from real life, a photo, or from the imagination?

And in the face of the artist saying, "no, I didn't work from a photograph," why would you insist that they did? I don't know.

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"But okay. Is Avila's contention that photography is a lesser visual medium than painting?"

No, not at all. I know quite a few artist photographers (Jim Brandenburg, for example -- I have spent time with him at Ravenwood). But they don't pretend to be painters, which is the subject here.

"Or is it that a painter cannot make a good painting based on a photograph?"

That depends.....photography is a legitimate tool for painters. The difficulty arises when the artist is too dependent upon photography, which shows in the artist's work.

"If we're discussing painting from a photograph, then doesn't the painter still need to... look at the photograph? And at that point, can't he make any artistic determinations he needs as though he were still on site?"

Yes, of course the artist is looking at the photograph. But when recording the emotional response of the human brain to the beauty of the visual world, I ask you, what has more impact? The immediate experience, or a mechanical recording of it? Not that a skilled artist can't use both to express his response to visual beauty -- but it does take skill. Let me make an analogy: I have twice heard Mozart's Requiem Mass played in concert, in a church. The music seemed to float down from above -- it was glorious. I purchased a recording of the one of the performances I attended. It is wondeful to hear, but it is a pale shadow of the actual experience.

"I guess I don't understand how using a photograph for reference is supposed to be limiting."

It doesn't have to be. It can be a useful tool: the problem arises when it becomes a crutch.

"In any event, I don't see how it would necessarily make paintings based on sight better than those based on photography, or vice-versa, whichever happens to provide the most information. Is the quality of a painting simply down to its fidelity to a real-life scene? I wouldn't think so."

Yes and no -- first of all, it depends upon what one's objectives are -- there are certain qualities that can only be attained by painting from life, but those might not be important to the artist's objectives. What Jonathan seems to be unable to grasp is that the atelier is NOT a "system" that determines subject or method, but rather is a proven training ground wherein the artist develops the necessary skills that will help him express his artistic vision, whatever that might be. If one is portraying a theme from ancient literature (something from the Iliad, for example, or Dante), then obviously it's not a question of "fidelity to a real-life scene". However, a sound training in rendering figures will be invaluable.

"I guess, given the premise that photography routinely limits certain detail/information in a predictable fashion, that a person could begin to see similarities in paintings based on photos (in that they would characteristically lack those same sets of details)... but like most stereotyping, I'd still be careful when judging a given work."

I agree with your caveats, but over the course of many years I have come to see the distinctive mark of being overly dependent upon photography. Jonathan can sneer at this and attribute it to my lack of skill as a photographer (since I have never posited myself as a photographer, and photography isn't a big factor in my own work, I really don't care), but it has been clear enough to see in the work of prospective students. Jonathan's blusters about the capabilities of photography is meaningless -- as a teacher, I have seen the result of would-be artists relying too heavily upon photographs, with some prospective students who could work from a photograph fairly well being completely at sea when trying to draw what was in front of them. What can I say -- the marks are there. Let me put it this way: whom would you recognize more as a master of chess -- the man who has it all in his head, or the man who has found a cool computer program (which he did not invent) that has it all? What requires more skill -- to trace a photograph, or work on location, the editing done by one's brain?.

" I mean, how would you know for certain that detail X being left out of the painting was on account of detail X's not being visible (due to working form a photograph) as opposed to being a conscious choice of representation on the part of the painter, whether working from real life, a photo, or from the imagination?"

Your confusion is one result of modernism - after all, if everything an artist spits is art, then who can one possibly say that this particular inept rendering of the human form is deliberate, or intentional?

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"Or is it that a painter cannot make a good painting based on a photograph?"

That depends.....photography is a legitimate tool for painters. The difficulty arises when the artist is too dependent upon photography, which shows in the artist's work.

Hmm. Well, "dependency" is kind of a scary word, because it suggests that the artist would be limited in his means of expression. But then I take it that you see nothing wrong with an artist choosing to base a work off of a photograph for some select reason? (As opposed to doing so because he isn't skilled otherwise; feels that he has no choice.)

Yes, of course the artist is looking at the photograph. But when recording the emotional response of the human brain to the beauty of the visual world, I ask you, what has more impact? The immediate experience, or a mechanical recording of it?

Impact? On me? The immediate experience almost certainly. (Although I might do well to hesitate a bit more here, because it occurs to me that there are aspects of an experience that I might not be sensitive to in the situation, that will only become palpable to me upon a... more distanced reflection. I might have a different emotional response. Being in the midst of something might well cause me to be "overstimulated" for lack of a better word, and less able to key in on certain details.)

But also here, I'm running into my own lack of experience as an artist. Because it occurs to me that we're not necessarily interested with the impact of a scene on the artist, are we? We're primarily interested in that which the artist can convey through his own art. Or, to follow your provided example:

Not that a skilled artist can't use both to express his response to visual beauty -- but it does take skill. Let me make an analogy: I have twice heard Mozart's Requiem Mass played in concert, in a church. The music seemed to float down from above -- it was glorious. I purchased a recording of the one of the performances I attended. It is wondeful to hear, but it is a pale shadow of the actual experience.

I don't doubt that hearing Mozart's Requiem in a church might not be the greater experience than hearing a recording of it at home... but if your goal was to learn to play that Requiem, would we insist that you listened to it exclusively in a concert setting? Would there be key information lost, for the purpose of your learning to play it, if you chose to study the recording instead?

"I guess I don't understand how using a photograph for reference is supposed to be limiting."

It doesn't have to be. It can be a useful tool: the problem arises when it becomes a crutch.

Well, okay. I don't feel the need to argue that point at all. :) We don't want to turn a tool into a crutch. (Except perhaps literally, when we've fallen down a flight of stairs.) Your charge, then, is that Jonathan not only uses photography, but that he is dependent on it?

"In any event, I don't see how it would necessarily make paintings based on sight better than those based on photography, or vice-versa, whichever happens to provide the most information. Is the quality of a painting simply down to its fidelity to a real-life scene? I wouldn't think so."

Yes and no -- first of all, it depends upon what one's objectives are -- there are certain qualities that can only be attained by painting from life...

All right, this sounds like a fruitful avenue of exploration. What are these "certain qualities" that can only be attained thus?

What Jonathan seems to be unable to grasp is that the atelier is NOT a "system" that determines subject or method, but rather is a proven training ground wherein the artist develops the necessary skills that will help him express his artistic vision, whatever that might be.

I've no dog in the atelier fight (as yet, at least). I'm a believer in a big skill set, so I have nothing against instruction in a wide variety of artistic method.

If one is portraying a theme from ancient literature (something from the Iliad, for example, or Dante), then obviously it's not a question of "fidelity to a real-life scene". However, a sound training in rendering figures will be invaluable.

I can't imagine anyone arguing that an artist wouldn't want to have sound training in rendering figures. And insofar as the ateliers help the artist acquire "skills that will help him express his artistic vision, whatever that might be," and insofar as his artistic vision requires rendering figures, I guess we're on the same page here. (Though I'm unsure that every artist in fulfilling his vision, even of portraying ancient literature, will necessarily wish to render his figures in an anatomically faithful way, if that is partly your implication. I don't know.)

I agree with your caveats, but over the course of many years I have come to see the distinctive mark of being overly dependent upon photography.

Again, this seems promising. Since Jonathan has provided some of his work for consideration, and since you've apparently found this "distinctive mark" in his work, can you name exactly what you're seeing such that perhaps I could see it, too?

Let me put it this way: whom would you recognize more as a master of chess -- the man who has it all in his head, or the man who has found a cool computer program (which he did not invent) that has it all?

Strictly? I don't know that I can answer based on the information provided. I might have to either play them both myself, or (better) have them play each other. My (cheeky? I don't mean it that way) answer to your question may apply to our topic thus: knowing that one man has painted from real life, while another has painted from a photograph will not help me to judge between the success of their artwork.

Of course, if we posit that the second man doesn't also "have it all in his head," I can answer and say the first man. But I'm still allowing that an artist might work from photographs by choice, and not by crutch. (And for what it's worth, we've still not ascertained that Jonathan has worked from photography in the artwork he's provided, and he says that he didn't. And I don't think I have any real grounds to doubt his word.)

What requires more skill -- to trace a photograph, or work on location, the editing done by one's brain?

Is painting from a photographic reference the same thing as "tracing"? And weren't we agreed that a man could look at a photo and do the same sort of "editing" that he might do on location?

" I mean, how would you know for certain that detail X being left out of the painting was on account of detail X's not being visible (due to working form a photograph) as opposed to being a conscious choice of representation on the part of the painter, whether working from real life, a photo, or from the imagination?"

Your confusion is one result of modernism - after all, if everything an artist spits is art, then who can one possibly say that this particular inept rendering of the human form is deliberate, or intentional?

Welllllll....

In the first place, I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone around here who would claim that "everything an artist spits is art." So, while I've noticed you use that phrase a few times in this thread, you might give thought to retiring it... ;) Or at least, I certainly have no such belief, so you and I can dispense with that notion while we discuss this together.

But I was talking about an artist's choice re: level of detail, and I don't think that's merely a byproduct of a poor/"modernist" artistic education. I think that sometimes artists intentionally do not include certain details, in order to produce certain effects. Or maybe I'm talking out my ass? Quite possible. Am I wrong on this point?

If you would claim that Jonathan's work left out detail... detail that his work should incorporate, I must ask what details are missing, and how would their inclusion specifically make his work better?

Finally, I know it's been bantered a bit as to whether your work is available online, or where it is, but I have to say that I'm curious. I imagine that you've refrained from sharing as to not give "ammunition" to your critics -- but I can tell you that how I feel about your art won't predispose me to think you right or wrong on anything. So, at long last, are you willing to share? :) It might be helpful to see what you consider to be the right amount of detail work, and etc., when trying to understand your arguments, and to see those qualities that you've incorporated from working on location that Jonathan (you assert) cannot access, because of his supposed reliance on photography.

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But if this were really the dispute, then wouldn't it just be a technical matter that could be answered decisively? I imagine that experts in photography and the technology that goes into cameras know quite well how it stacks up to the eye, by now. I'd also imagine that this would be documented somewhere.

This might be a good place to start learning about what is possible with photography:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tone_mapping

"Yes, of course the artist is looking at the photograph. But when recording the emotional response of the human brain to the beauty of the visual world, I ask you, what has more impact? The immediate experience, or a mechanical recording of it?"

Impact? On me? The immediate experience almost certainly.

My answer would be that it depends.

There are many photographs which capture emotion much better than classicist artists who have painted a posed model. As I mentioned earlier, the results of such posing are often dour or expressionless faces -- models can't hold an expression for hours on end, and therefore a painter who can't work quickly or from imagination is stuck with copying a staged pose which lacks emotion.

But on the other hand, some painters can breathe life and energy into an image at a level which is rarely seen in photos.

But, also, I don't accept the premise behind Avila's question -- that art is an act of "recording the emotional response of the human brain to the beauty of the visual world." I see my task as inventing, not recording emotional responses to what I've seen.

All right, this sounds like a fruitful avenue of exploration. What are these "certain qualities" that can only be attained thus?

I too would be interested in hearing what the "certain qualities" are. Avila began by falsely asserting that photography is limited, and that he saw the limits copied in my art. But now, since I've explained that I don't share Avila's photographic incompetence -- I would know better than to take reference photos which lack infomation, and in fact would take photos which contain more information than what the eye can see -- I'd be very interested in hearing what he comes up with next.

J

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"Well, "dependency" is kind of a scary word, because it suggests that the artist would be limited in his means of expression."

That is exactly what I am suggesting. The dominance of modernism in art schools has led to poor training, leaving otherwise talnted individuals lacking in basic skills. To draw an analogy from music: if a person aspires to become a professional pianist playing classical music in concert halls, then one spends years -- often doing fairly boring repetive exercises -- to acquire basic skills. If, however, the dominant culture in music held that such training was stifling, and unnecessary anyway, as whatever a musician produced on the piano was going to be music no matter what it sounded like, then that person would likely find it difficult to find the necessary training to achieve his goals.

"But then I take it that you see nothing wrong with an artist choosing to base a work off of a photograph for some select reason? (As opposed to doing so because he isn't skilled otherwise; feels that he has no choice.)"

Yes, there's nothing inherently "wrong" about that.

"Because it occurs to me that we're not necessarily interested with the impact of a scene on the artist, are we? We're primarily interested in that which the artist can convey through his own art."

The two are inextricably connected -- when you admire a well-done landscape or some other subject (including those drawn entirely from the artist's imagination), you are seeing what inspired the artist in the first place. Even when trying to render a figure exactly as an exercise, the individuality of the artist comes through -- for example, when my students are working from the nude, I can tell who drew which drawing, despite their only trying to render the figure accurately (it's an exercise in rendering accurately, not in creativity). If you give the same students a photograph of a nude and ask them to render it exactly, the drawings will lose much (not all....) of their individuality. Why? I'm not entirely sure -- I suspect it has to do with the role of the mind in selectively interpreting a three-dimensional figure versus a two-dimensional photograph.

"if your goal was to learn to play that Requiem, would we insist that you listened to it exclusively in a concert setting? Would there be key information lost, for the purpose of your learning to play it, if you chose to study the recording instead?"

That I don't know -- I was speaking about the experience of "the real thing" versus a reproduction of it.

"Your charge, then, is that Jonathan not only uses photography, but that he is dependent on it?"

Yes -- I can see the effects on his work.

"What are these "certain qualities" that can only be attained thus?"

Again, it depends upon what one's objectives are, but here are a few: Sensitivity to edges (lost and found edges), which is particularly important in still-life and figure work. Sensitivity to color -- this goes across the board, but is especially noticeable in landscape work and in flesh tones (although in the case of the latter, many artists in the past employed conventions as opposed to actual color. The impressionists of the late 1800s were concerned with actual color). Sensitivity to values -- one of the characteristics of artists who rely too heavily upon photography is the flattening out of values, with a preponderance of mid-tones.

"I can't imagine anyone arguing that an artist wouldn't want to have sound training in rendering figures."

Yes, but it is hard to find serious training in modern colleges and art academies. It's not entirely absent -- when I went to the Mpls. College of Art and DEsign, there was some figure drawing -- but it is not very intensive, and often there is little or no real instruction or correction. I have had students who received degrees in art from a variety of colleges who felt they learned nothing of value -- lots of horror stories there.

"Though I'm unsure that every artist in fulfilling his vision, even of portraying ancient literature, will necessarily wish to render his figures in an anatomically faithful way, if that is partly your implication."

I agree with you, and would emphatically NOT imply anything to the contrary. But the basic training is necessary to do anything: if a pianist wishes to improvise on a theme from Beethoven, he's not going to be able to do it very well if he is unable to play Beethoven -- or anyone else -- faithfully to begin with. If, in his formative years, he had nothing but music teachers who did not correct his playing when he played the wrong notes for fear of stifling his creativity, or out of contempt for old-fashioned ideas of teaching, he wouldn't likely progress very far.

I have to run -- I will answer the rest of your post later.

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