I did this illustration in 1984 for some magazine that I can't remember today. Is it realism? Maybe not realism but certainly everything is 'depicted'. No it's not realism but it can be read like language. We understand every object from the carrot to the triangle and t-square. It's in a humorous shorthand, a vernacular so to speak of realism.
When I was a student in the 60s at The School of Practical Art, soon to become The Art Institute of Boston, under instruction the illustrator Norman Baer I had a lot of the tools necessary to learn to paint decent realism. There was just one thing in the way. Me. I was from a working class home in a Massachusetts mill town. I was angry, had little confidence and a cultural affinity for alcohol. I did have one thing in my favor though. I was a funny bastard. There I was in a program focused on illustrating using realism and my lack of confidence held me back. But I used my humor to keep myself afloat. I started drawing my humor. I became a humorous illustrator. Painting realism was forgotten.
Through the 70s I was lucky to have found work art directing and doing humorous illustration. I was part of a group of illustrators in Boston working for the alternative newspaper The Real Paper. We had great times and made great illustration. A maturing time for both me and my generation. I cast out demon rum. I actually made an okay living. Got married and moved to NYC and Madison Avenue. My humorous illustration was not as funny in New York as it had been in Boston. There were a lot more funny bastards in New York. At the same time technology was blossoming and I got the bug. By the late 80s I was a tech guy inventing tools procedures for varied clients and training folks at top publications in the way of the digit. It was a better business, pay was prompt and generous. Life was good but not so funny.
All through most of the 70s I was painting. Mostly realism mostly portraits. I painted in acrylic. When I say mostly realism I mean a stylized realism.
By 1980 i was beginning to work in watercolor doing what I called realism. I was doing paintings like this rock and flowers watercolor strictly for myself. I was driving myself to realism. I had gotten married. Quit drinking and smoking and started painting realism. I kept it to myself not thinking it to be very good or not good enough. Throughout the 80s and 90s i polished this approach to watercolor realism in my down time from work. My work changed and went in different directions but a painting style developed and matured. It was a personal and infrequent thing. Come along to 9/11/2001. The world charged for me, loosing most of my active clients in one horrible morning. Manhattan changed. We were both all of a sudden out of work. After about a year I got serious about being a painter. I struggled for a while looking for a style and medium. I want back through my watercolors and realized this was it. Straight up realism. I had done a series of 'Chairs' paintings in the late 80s that very real and had a styled approach that I began grabbed on to. Guess what? It was one thing to leisurely do the occasional watercolor for myself and quite another to it for real.
So there i am, 2003, pretty much out of work painting realism stylized but surely real. How do I recreate the magic moments i encountered while developing my process during the past 15 or so years?
I was doing a lot of renderings not really painting. I look at them now and I want to puke. Great renderings but only surface. Realistic but nothing real. No heart, just objects. All I was doing was building inventory. I started using oils which I hadn't touched since I was a teenager. I painted a few boat paintings and sold them too cheaply. I was getting away from just a rendering. The water i was painting was completely stylized but even more real quicker too read making more impact. For several years I exhibited my stuff in the traveling circus of the juried art fairs. Life in a camper and a tent. Weird but I loved it. I met and talked with hundreds and hundreds of people. Got to commiserate with other artist and artisans. It was the lifestyle of the gypsy artist. Great fun but not very profitable. Not at all.
2006 the financial crisis begins and we are again both without income. I've got to find work. I had been accepted into a lot of the better shows for the winter art fair season in Florida and had no vehicle of money. I was offered a job in a prestigious financial news organization. I had to take it if not for the money the challenge and prestige.
Flash forward to 2012. We were selling our apartment in NY and using the proceeds to build a beautiful home on land we had in PA. My wife had found the one great job there but I was still in the city soon to be homeless when boom. No job in poor health from too much stress. After dealing with the move and organizing a studio space I finally started painting January 2013 after a complete layoff of 6 years. The longest period ever without painting or drawing. I was very worried about my skills. It took me about 3 months with help from Mark Carders production oriented method and a lot of life drawing to get me back on my hands and production skills. Remarkably I'm handling paint now better than ever.
I've done a few good paintings but I'm starting to seeing objects again. Rendering surfaces to the exclusion of reality. It's easy to fall into this.
Realism in painting is like it is in in life, it's under the surface. I hope to be able to achieve showing that more in my paintings. So far I've touched on it a little, but I'm not there yet. I feel sort of like that guy in my 1984 humorous illustration with the carrot and painting reality in realism is a really big stick.