Yesterday I was looking at a wonderful water colour work by a renowned Australian artist on Facebook.
Lots of good comments appeared and one fan said that it looked just like a photo.
In fact, the painting looked nothing like a photo, unlike some photo-realistic work which is painted to look photographic.
This “it looks like a photo” comment is quite common with paintings that are not photographic. I have come to the conclusion that viewers are looking for another word, but they can’t find it.
Many years ago I was thrilled with the comment of a master artist who thought one of my works was convincing. I think convincing is the word that most viewers can’t find, and instead use those five little words that can be quite alarming to a painter that leans toward impressionism!
The work mentioned at the top of these comments was indeed convincing.
So, what does ‘convincing’ mean in relation to a painting?
Importantly, it doesn’t mean that it looks like a photo, when clearly the brush marks and colours shout out that it’s a painting.
A convincing painting is one that convinces the viewer about the atmosphere conveyed in the work and not the photographic realness of it.
In the painting in question, the sunlit fields impress us first and this is because of the shadows, both foreground and background. The trees are mainly abstract in shape but they look and feel like trees. The colours, tones, and the shapes, are believable even though most of them are mere brush strokes.
There is no photographic element in the painting, but the feeling of it is completely believable.
In the representational world of painting, believability is on top of the list. A convincing painting can place the viewer right inside of it, and they can breathe it.
To have someone mentally enter your painted world is a compliment like no other, and makes the ‘it looks like a photo” thing pale into insignificance.