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Is photo realistic airbrushing an art?

Discussion in 'General Airbrush Discussion' started by Whistlingtom, Jan 12, 2020.


  1. Whistlingtom

    Whistlingtom Triple Actioner

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    Hi Airbrush friends,

    When working on the lastest picture, I started to reflect about airbrush and if the work I so could be considered as art.

    First of all, I consider airbrushing as a very relaxing activity which can be considered as a kind of meditation, giving me a lot of satisfaction. It is a rewarding hobby that (as a side-effect) creates pieces of work to be stuck at my wall. Also, it is nice to watch yourself getting better and your technical skills improving with time. Hence, I adore airbrusing as a hobby worth to be pursued.

    I admire the picture & pieces of fine work I find in your galleries and hope that one day I will be able to produce airbrush painting as excellent as those of my fellows. It its amazing to see, what the airbrush is capable of producing in terms of textures, blends, etc., In particular I am impressed by the impecable reproductions of reference pictures, as tought in the SBSs in the forum and by specialists such as Mitch and Drew Blair.

    However, would you consider the photorealitic reproduction of existing, high quality (original) photos as ART or rather a technical skill and expert use of a tool?

    My dream would be to create a panting , one day, whithout the excessive use of reference pictures, stencils, masks, tools but to start from a rough sketch and let the paiting evolve.

    Sorry for the long reading. Today, I had too much time.

    All the best
    Thomas
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  2. Mr.Micron

    Mr.Micron Royal pain in the air hose Staff Member Admin Mod

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    Yes it is art being all artist use reference's how much or how little of the reference they use all depends on what they want their end goal to be. It is kind of like asking if photography is truly an art or just being at the right spot and clicking at the right time . Most portrait art being with an airbrush or paint brush push to make the end painting look like the reference be it from a photo or having a live model.
    Also not all the photo's used for reference's are high quality .
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  3. Ronald art

    Ronald art Air-Valve Autobot! Very Likeable!

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    this subject could get into a real good discussion about "what is art and what not "
    when I saw my first photo realistic airbrush portrait my first thought was I want to learn how to do that and I did learn it and loved doing it but faith came along and left me with a bad eye sight so photo realism is something I cant do any more but do I regret it ? well sometimes I have the urge to try it again just to see if my sight has become better but most of the time I just pick up the airbrush and play along with it just to get a realistic portrait that is not a exact copy of a photo
  4. Totalpayne Johnny

    Totalpayne Johnny Young Tutorling

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    Many things are considered art from music to drawing to singing to taking photos and so on. It is a place to retreat from the world for a while and be somewhere or something else. In my opinion realistic airbrushing is an art as is fantasy airbrushing and so on. It is an way to express ourselves with images be it real or imaginary. E. H. S. T. O. Everyone has something to offer.
  5. Whistlingtom

    Whistlingtom Triple Actioner

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    Maybe, one could consider an art or a piece of art if two element are there in equilibrium: a) the technical/difficulty/skill to produce the piece in a way one wants to realize it and b) the inspiration and the creation of something original.
    In cases, where one element is too dominant, it sometimes becomes something else and difficult for me to classify it as being artistic, although the result looks nice.
    E.g. Photography: for me on the technical end of the scale (in the extreme, pushing the trigger at the right time in auto mode). Abstract/modern, for instance: a single black dot on white canvas: maybe nice looking, but no challenge to produce.
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  6. Leakyvalve

    Leakyvalve Mac-Valve Maestro! Very Likeable!

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    ART.. probably has the broadest, largest tent of content of any word in existence. "Universe" might give it a run but my brain hurts just trying to define the walls of what is, and what isn't. I mean, I've seen videos of elephants painting works of art.
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  7. LadyCharlie

    LadyCharlie Mac-Valve Maestro! Very Likeable!

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    ....and then there is the duct taped banana. :D. @Nada wins my vote on his You Tube rendition of "da banana".
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  8. Ronald art

    Ronald art Air-Valve Autobot! Very Likeable!

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    I love topics as this :) some people find my work art and have my work on their wall and some just like what I do but cant see it as art and then you have that group that thinks airbrushed paintings can never be considered as art .
    Just 2 years ago I decided I would donate a Harley half tank to a HD club to be auctioned off at a bike rally I had painted photo realistic Rolling Stones portraits on that half tank and seeing as it was a auction on a bike rally I never expected it to bring much but it went for 650 Uk pounds this money went to a good cause
    when I met the guy who spend that money on the tank I just asked him why he payed that much for just a half tank he looked at me and told me it was ART ! and it was hanging on his wall and he would have gladly payed double the amount if the bidding hadnt stopped
  9. markjthomson

    markjthomson AKA QuickDraw and very happy #nobrushleftbehind Staff Member Admin

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    Definitely art. "My dream would be to create a panting , one day, without the excessive use of reference pictures, stencils, masks, tools but to start from a rough sketch and let the painting evolve." This is an awesome goal but does not make the end product any more or less an artwork than one done with these things... these are just tools to the end goal. There may be some aesthetic in achieving the end result this way but it doesn't add or subtract from the fact it is art.

    In terms of quality of reproduction... the reason we use these tools is for accuracy and to achieve things you cant do with an airbrush (for example, you cant get a sharp hard edge with a spray pattern!).

    In terms of references, etc... you will be hard pushed to find any artist creating an image who doesn't use some form of reference, be it a photo or the actual object. There are some but my pick is they are in the minority.
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  10. jagardn

    jagardn Airbrush Acquisition Disorder Patient Forum Supporter

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    If duct taping a banana to a wall is art, I’d say applying paint to any substrate is.
  11. Whistlingtom

    Whistlingtom Triple Actioner

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    Hi friends,
    Thank you for your opinions and contributions to this nice discussion. Very valid points, to most of which I fully agree.
    In the next painting I will just try to use less masks and stencils and more freehand brushing to have more of a feeling of being an artist. Nevertheless, my children (4,7) doubt the latter anyway, as the horses they ask me to draw by pencils rather look to like handicapped dinosaurs..
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2020
  12. Whistlingtom

    Whistlingtom Triple Actioner

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    Maybe we should combine both to have art to the square and airbrush a photorealistic painting of the duct taped banana.
  13. Franc Kaiser

    Franc Kaiser Detail Decepticon! Very Likeable!

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    Thomas, your question rings true for me, as I got similar ambitions - using airbrush to create things that are on (or, in) my mind. I think that photorealistic airbrushing can be either, or sometimes both - an art and an advanced technique. Ideally, the advanced technique transcends eventually into "Art" (whatever the definition of Art may be). Important is that we all approach the work with an mind open to observation and learning... probably now then ever it has been lost on 99% of people to sit down and really observe a simple form (and what light, shadow, perspective, and so on does with the object). We all believe we know what reality looks like, but most fail miserably to replicate it. To replicate it you must understand it first. As @markjthomson mentioned here, a reference is really important and part of the learning curve. Today, you can have a 3D printer replicating the object you were considering, but then you still don't really understand the actual object. This step cannot be skipped, or simply be "downloaded", but requires dedication and patience - hence an investment. I still believe such an investment is worthwhile eventually.
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  14. markjthomson

    markjthomson AKA QuickDraw and very happy #nobrushleftbehind Staff Member Admin

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    I'm pretty sure @Nada has already done this... :)
  15. musicmacd

    musicmacd The Createx Bandit Very Likeable!

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    I find it both artistic and technical, also you have to have solid understanding of colour and how paint works, then there’s the ability to be able to faithfully reproduce textures. I would call it Art but I also understand if someone said what’s the point? My point for studying it is simple - when you can faithfully recreate a reference there’s no reason you can’t reproduce what’s in your head! I find it an incredible teaching tool too!
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  16. AndreZA

    AndreZA Love this place! Forum Supporter Very Likeable!

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    That is essentially an illustrator. It takes so much work.But the airbrush is just a tool. You can paint it as realistic as you like.
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  17. Whistlingtom

    Whistlingtom Triple Actioner

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    I also fully agree, that reproducing a ref. Photo as good as possible is a neat way to learn airbrushing and to improve own painting skills. A compromise could be to take an artistic ref. picture oneself and reproduce this by airbrush. This way, one would be the origin of both the creative and the technical part.

    Anyhow, the most important part is to have fun, whatever we call the process or the product.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
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  18. Nada

    Nada Air-Valve Autobot!

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    Hey that painting sold... to a fan. Who just thought my thoughts on the absurdity was on the money : ) Thanks!
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  19. Nada

    Nada Air-Valve Autobot!

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    And sold the painting too : ) Of course to the buyer, it was one a painting from me, and secondly an example of the absurdity of the art world, which of course is why i painted one : )
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  20. Nada

    Nada Air-Valve Autobot!

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    Photorealism is a technical skill no question. And there are very valid reasons to learn such. Is it art , that depends on your perspective. I admire the workmanship. I consider it a form of art, but one that can become tedious and lacking if it is not a passion. Some people have zero desire to do so. Before picasso painted what he is famous for he was actually a very accomplished portrait artist. So as all things it is subjective. I dont hang photoreal art in my home usually, I also wouldn't hang a picasso. I prefer realism with a little twist or flavor you might say. But I certainly paint my share of pretty realistic pieces, and if approaching a new subject I want to learn the ins and outs of every detail before i feel I can break from that, just for the understanding.

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