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Is photo realistic airbrushing an art?

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


  1. retiredgarnham

    retiredgarnham Triple Actioner

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    I am so in tune with @Nada and completely agree with him in every respect. The airbrush is just a tool, that much is true, but so is a palette knife when painting using oils, to which I also enjoy. The thing for me is that being able to paint perfect facsimiles from a photo gives me the ability to use those same techniques to produce the same effects in my own compositions.
    I appreciate that the majority of you artists are highly skilled and far better than me at painting portraits from photos, but I prefer the challenge of actually painting something that hasn't already been done ie a photo or other piece of art. That being said, at the moment I have spent quite a few hours composing a painting for which there is no photo or other reference in existence. I did however use various references to draw from.
  2. Tuffnutz

    Tuffnutz Detail Decepticon! Very Likeable!

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    Simply paint in your OWN style with other things as guides. What’s the point of it all if everybody paints like a photocopying machine. Boring......
    Other people either like what you’ve done or they don’t. Nice to get all info into the Brainbox however small it may be. :)
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  3. Kim McCann

    Kim McCann Double Actioner

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    It definitely is art as is all realism. It's a school of art with a very long, long history. Prior to the invention of the camera, and particularily after the Renaissance is was THE primary school of art. Artists used ever better techniques, methods and devices to portray realistic portraits and scenes, and even the more fanciful pieces of art were usually based on the use of models or scenes to work based off. By the 1600s use of the camera obscura was widespread among the old masters. It was only logical, that working from photographs would be the next step. If your reference is a photo, it really is no different in principle than painting or drawing from models. The advances in photography after the 1800s saw the use of photo references become standard, and by the late 1950s mass production of the camera, making it affordable to the average family and artist led to photorealism as a discipline or school of art, where even the flaws of the camera were reproduced as a new art form. Further advances in high definition cameras led to hyperrealism in the 1990s.

    So yes, it is art, art with a very long, and venerable history that has advanced with technology.

    Now, that isn't to say it isn't controversial. An awful lot of classical painters, and even modern realists reject it outright because they claim that if you want a photo real picture, you should use a camera. A lot of them also don't feel that photographs are artistic either, just a rude mechanical device.

    I strongly disagree with that however. Artists more than any other profession other than engineers have been users of emergent technology to improve2 their ability to represent the real, and from there, move beyond that as they wish. Those that reject the use of the airbrush, or photography as tools in the practice of art, do so with no historical understanding, and I would suggest, place an artificial limit on their own growth and productivity. They are woefully misinformed in my opinion, and clinging on to a hubris that could be charitably described as sour grapes syndrome.

    Now, I will grant that learning to duplicate a scene with your tools IS a mechanical act. But so is loading a paint brush, or knowing how to layer oil paint. As artists, mechanical process is the tool with which we communicate our vision. One could certainly argue that just doing a set of technical exercises and practice aren't art, but then you'd have to consider playing a cello, or piano to not be any form of art either.

    Despite the mad claims of post modernists and lazy abstract art school dropouts who try to divorce art from the mechanical by taping a banana to a wall, the work, dedication, learning, study of light and form, and ability to "see" through another eye, even if that eye is a camera lens, are foundational to art and to an artist.

    All of that being said however, it really comes down to this... Are you creating something that didn't exists before you sat down to do it? Are you learning about yourself, your world and improving your craft? Do you push yourself and your vision each time?

    If you answer yes to any of these, it is art.
  4. Zotilraxx

    Zotilraxx Air-Valve Autobot! Very Likeable!

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    I was going to add something but @Kim McCann explained it very well. Well, I can add one thing: Art is an expression of oneself, whether you like to create a photorealistic representation or not, as long as it is a true expression of your goals, desires, attitude and personality, the I believe you can call it Art...
  5. Franc Kaiser

    Franc Kaiser Detail Decepticon! Very Likeable!

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    Now, let me load some more on top here: “Art” is what most are not able to do. Playing the slot machine in Vegas is egalitarian- anybody regardless of their skill or background can do it (provided they have a coin). Taking a picture with the cellphone - anybody regardless their skill or background can do it (provided they have a cellphone). Creating a photorealistic painting - anybody can not. Hence yes, it is an art.

    And, to be fully honest: I tend to think that conceptual artist simply cannot draw or paint (and want to gloss over that shortcoming), hence they choose conceptual or abstract art instead of a pencil or figurative work.
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  6. Ttxela

    Ttxela Needle-chuck Ninja

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    I sort of agree, apart from the phots with a cellphone bit, a cellphone these days can take fantastic photos but not everyone has the ability to take full advantage of that capability - theres still a bit of art involved, composition, light etc.
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  7. Franc Kaiser

    Franc Kaiser Detail Decepticon! Very Likeable!

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    Of course - I don’t say the process or outcome has to be pedestrian per se - but again this takes skill, knowledge and experience of the tool as well (and, the right flash of inspiration and dedication).
  8. Rebecca

    Rebecca Needle-chuck Ninja

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    Great discussion here. My question is this...who is the authority on whether something is art ? NOBODY. Artists, whether traditional, airbrush, tattoo, musician, photographer, dance, acting...all have their own style and all use tools to perfect their style to their liking. So don’t listen to any art snobs who say it may not be art. What they really mean is that it is not art to their taste or liking. I don’t like rap music, but it’s still music, and I don’t particularly like abstract art but it’s still art.
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  9. Zotilraxx

    Zotilraxx Air-Valve Autobot! Very Likeable!

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    I admire and aspire to be as good as, a lot of digital artists who has done awesome work in fantasy. Who has strived to create believable and photorealistic characters, beings and worlds. Copying a photorealistic reference is just a step, whether you stop here or move forward and start to create your own concepts, is entirely up to the artist...
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  10. Whistlingtom

    Whistlingtom Triple Actioner

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    Thanks a lot for all of your contributions. It is great to see what an excellent discussion has evolved around the topic.

    Now that I know it is an art, I sleep much better.
  11. Whistlingtom

    Whistlingtom Triple Actioner

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  12. AndreZA

    AndreZA Elite Member! Elite Member! Very Likeable!

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    What all these teachers will tell you is that they don't teach you to be a copy machine. They still want you to do original work and if you do, you would know how to get it life like.
  13. brushit

    brushit Gravity Guru

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    As a self taught air brusher for 15yrs my only simple comment would be. I have sold many,many helmets over the years and continue to do so. These have all been to extremely satisfied customers , who in some cases have paid me above the asking price. They all thank me for the great " artwork" . So , much like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder. I don`t refer to myself as an artist, but if someone labels me that, i will accept it, as they have accepted my work as art. And yes, i use photos for reference. Would one day like to be able to produce some of the fantastic artwork that some of you guys out there produce. Wishin` an` hopin.
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  14. AndreZA

    AndreZA Elite Member! Elite Member! Very Likeable!

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    There is nothing wrong with that. I ONLY copy photos and never do anything original. Even greats like Borris Vallejo and Julie Bell use references BUT they take it further and create originals from that.
  15. JackEb

    JackEb The Dragon Hunter Staff Member Admin

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    Do I want to be able to create realistic paintings, yes. Only so I can learn the appropriate techniques to give ‘life’ to an object. My ultimate goal is to be able to create original pieces and give them life.
    As for ‘are realistic paintings art’ I say yes. If you’ve started with nothing and created something that someone enjoys looking at then to me it’s produced by an ‘artist’ and is therefore ‘art’.
    That principal applies to paintings, sculptures, cake decorating etc etc.
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  16. Jurien72

    Jurien72 Have Airbrush - Will Travel! Very Likeable!

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    Wow what an interesting topic! I would say that any art usually involves some form of technical skill, applied in various ways. Visual arts can be applied in many different ways. Just as music can be played in different ways. Whether its country, pop, heavy metal, it's still music which is "art". I tend to think of "art" as a verb more than a noun.
    An interesting side note: does a DJ who makes remixes qualify as a musician? As an artist? I think of the "photorealistic" argument in the same light. (Reminds me of a comment I once saw about people aimlessly spraying across a paper and creating perfect works of art lol)
  17. Whistlingtom

    Whistlingtom Triple Actioner

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    This would be my final goal , too, knowing that I still have a long (but fun and enriching) way to go to reach this goal.
    Until then I try my best to improve my skills, using the fantastic material in this forum as a invaluable source of inspiration.
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