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March 3rd, 2012 #1
Realistic Art Style and the Double Standard
I wish to discuss fundamental ideas of plausibility and the realistic illustrator.
Weeks ago, I presented to a friend, work in progress for a set of creatures that that were strictly based on hard science. The exercise was designed to create a set of creatures under both realistic and impossibly false, yet important ideas of fiction. My goal was to make them plausible through heavy research. The challenge scraped a lot of initial ideas but I came to several solid designs. When I showed my Friend the work, she examined them for awhile, then she said, "Ok, I'm convinced, but why didn't you just draw them?" She meant what was the point of all that research. Please remember that my goal was to design fictional creatures that were very plausible.
During the exercise it occurred to me that my first ideas about the creature's designs was largely superficial. I think they failed to have the look I was going for because of my lack of expertise in what I was trying to design.
Growing up with misconceptions of the world is something everyone has to deal with. Children make sense of the world by their own empirical mind. Aspiring artists seeking to draw realistically are faced with this reality again when their work is rejected because they have not met the criterion of plausibility that professionals must adhere too. The aspiring artists are advised to go and study in order to fix this issue. They may also be advised to look at professional artists to study. Surprisingly, the artists that were referred to make the same type of inconsistencies the art student made in school, albeit they may be subtle.
I am aware my effort may be viewed as misguided. Although, this was precisely the point. I did it so that I could observe what would happen. How much information is too much for a realistic illustration to be plausible?
At the academic level I have modestly witnessed confusion is widespread across all disciplines. In short, ignorance is at large between amateurs and professionals. For realistic illustration, It seems that there is a double standard for what is accepted as plausible and what is not. At the same time there seems to be some rejection to the idea of too much realism. Let me be clear. I do not know where the line between being wrong and exercising artistic license is drawn. I conclude there is much more importance in the perception of truth rather than in actual truth in presentation.
I am curious to what you guys think? Is there a double standard for realistic art styles? Do artists of this type of style need to be perfect or not? And where does artistic license fit in with realistic illustration?
Last edited by kinjark; March 4th, 2012 at 08:08 PM. Reason: Unreadable- Kinjark
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The purpose of representational art is, roughly, to tell a story. This means it ties to what already exists in the eye of the beholder, and serves the purpose of storytelling. It is not so much aiming at constructing an alternative reality, which has its own purpose, how fascinating that may be...
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March 3rd, 2012 #3
I understand and agree with what your saying. Although my aim for this thread is primarily on plausibility which is an aspect of many in representational art not its overarching purpose. do you think there is a double standard in plausibility?
March 3rd, 2012 #4
That depends on what you mean by realistic. There's realistic as in everything needs to be the same as in reality. And realistic which the norm of viewers would call believable.
I'm far from a great artist but I draw something and someone comes up and says that's so realistic. It really isn't but it gives the basic perceptions of such with defining form, lighting, perspective etc.
Most viewers aren't experts in what your drawing and going to think "BAH that's not right at all". Unless your drawing for something like a medical illustration or something existing. If it's fictional and in a fictional setting especially. If your based in another world the rules of this world don't apply as much. While any normal creature on this planet would perish in lava, suddenly I create a lizard that's body is designed to withstand intense heat. There's no plausibility in that as far as our world, the materials in it and the design of a creature. But if it's fiction the rules of such things don't apply as much imo.
There are plenty of artists that of course research things like existing animals how they work and such when constructing their own. I'd just say don't over think it.
March 3rd, 2012 #5
Yes it does depend on what I mean by realistic. There is a varied spectrum related to realistic styles. the one in my exercise was an attempt at one at the far end between fiction and non fiction. Although i do not know if it makes a difference as to be correct in argument or just simply the appearance of correctness.
I mean to highlight plausibility. Is plausibility of this style given different standards set to similar situations?
(Amateurs can't make mistakes because it is noticeable but professional can no because one notices and if they do whatever its just a story!)
This is the reason why i did this exercise in the first place. I was not motivated by anxiety of being absolutely correct, but was curious as to how the double standard (which i believe to be one) would relate to a vigorously researched illustration. Would some say "yes, and learn molecular processes while your at it!" or something like " bah just draw". It seems that after all that work, only the perception of being truthful was all important.
Do you think there is a double standard?
Last edited by kinjark; March 4th, 2012 at 08:10 PM. Reason: spelling error- Kinjark
March 3rd, 2012 #6
You're confusing two different things.
Realism is its own art movement that was founded by Gustave Corbet and included Jean-François Millet and Honoré Daumier among others (Manet is arguably also a Realist.) Although some of the artists opted for a style of optical realism (which I'll elaborate upon further later,) the visual style of the artwork was not the focus of Realist artworks. Instead, the artists were focused on the subjects that they were portraying. The works of the 19th century were mainly fantastical or mythological in subject matter (see Bouguereau, etc.) and all other subject matters were deemed below the standards of fine art. Inspired by the Enlightenment, which rejected religious ideals in favor of science and a materialistic (what you see is what you get) ideology, Courbet began to paint commonplace scenes, mostly portraying the working class. This didn't conform to the strick law of art's portrayal of only mythological, religious, and (neoclassically) historical subjects. Furthermore the subjects weren't dramatically exaggerated (as was common in Romanticism.) They were portrayed as they could be seen in actual life. The core principle of realism could be summed up in a quote of Courbet's where he said, "Show me an angel and I'll paint one." (Meaning he only would paint things that he could see to exist.)
Optical realism is another thing entirely, and it's what most people mean when they say "realism" nowadays. Optical realism has to do only with the visual style and aesthetic of a piece. It has nothing to do with the subject matter. It only means that you are painting things that gives them the illusion of reality. In a sense, it means that you are painting your subjects, no matter what they may be, in a sort of photographic quality. If you paint an alien with the greatest illusionary conviction then, no matter if it is "real" or not, it appears real and thus it is a realistic painting according to the skewed vocabulary of the 21st century. As an example, Bouguereau's work may be the hight of optical realism, but it lacks Realism in every other way.
Most of the art that is appreciated here and in similar places on the web are painted with optical realism but are in no ways Realist paintings.
Last edited by OldJake666; March 4th, 2012 at 02:55 AM.
March 3rd, 2012 #7
Realism and realism (you add optical- and others would add tonal-) are in fact to different ideas. The capital one is like you said, movement compiled in retrospect by art historians. This is similar to Abstract and abstract and Mannerism and mannered. The other a visual aesthetic with a variable spectrum. I mean the latter not the former as there are no capital words of "Realism" in my posts.
Last edited by kinjark; March 3rd, 2012 at 02:15 AM.- Kinjark
March 3rd, 2012 #8
I found an interesting excerpt that deals with this discussion of importance of plausibility in science fiction writing.
Link is here
"What counts as ‘plausible?’ I’ve got a reputation for writing ‘hard’ science fiction, with rigorously worked-out and plausible ideas–but I can tell you right now that I’ve never written an SF novel that didn’t hinge crucially on at least one utterly preposterous and impossible idea. Ventus? –Faster than light travel. Permanence? –Same. Lady of Mazes? ( …Mmph, I’ll get back to you on that one… maybe I wrote one…) Sun of Suns? –A ‘technology suppression field.’ Listen, anyone with a microgram of rhetorical talent can make anything sound plausible (a fact that explains nearly everything about the Predicament of Mankind); it’s all in how you present it. Jay Lake’s got a whole universe built as a vast Victorian clockwork mechanism, and I buy that. China Mieville does a wicked satire on Hegelian philosophy in Perdido Street Station, a kind of intellectual drive-by shooting, but I haven’t heard anyone complaining about the ‘plausibility’ of crisis theory.
Of course, the flipside of all this is something that Nietzsche pointed out and that far too few people consider: “Just because an argument is convincing, that doesn’t mean it’s right. It’s merely convincing.” Judging some SF as ‘better’ because it’s more ‘plausible’ is as foolish an exercise as believing seven impossible things before breakfast.
Here’s my rule: am I having fun? Yes? Then I’ll keep reading." -Karl Schroeder
March 3rd, 2012 #9
Was there even such standard to being with? Sure people may not be able to draw or design a time machine that actually works, but that doesn't mean they should stop drawing.
You're broadening the standards of realism to apply to everything, when artists do not necessary need to concern about making everything experimentally plausible.
What is needed to be plausible, however, are the things that already exists in nature, which a major component of is light and form. For the things that don't exist, are all a matter of theoretical plausibility in terms of function.
If everyone had the mindset that because something might not be experimentally plausible, then they should not do it, you wouldn't have movies like Matrix or Lord of the Rings, which are successful even though things in it may not be experimentally plausible. No one is saying that, so there is no double standard.
Take into account the fact that we thought the universe revolved around a stationary Earth in the past. And that time travel, invisibility, and teleportation are to a certain degree plausible today, even though they are completely and "scientifically" implausible in the past. In fact, our imagination acknowledged the former three phenomenons before science, in novels and stories.
Last edited by Vay; March 3rd, 2012 at 02:29 AM.My Sketchbook
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March 3rd, 2012 #10
why are you making life harder then it has to be? Does it really matter, is knowing this going to progress your art in anyway shape or form?
March 3rd, 2012 #11
Should those who cant design or make something as complicated as a time machine work stop drawing? I don't think so. Though, don't you think that question of quitting making pictures because of failure at a difficult task a little off base?
Yes, I am broadening my scope of realistic to meet what most would consider hard science, as the exercise was to do just that. Why? in order it find where to much is too much.
I would agree that there must be consistency with what is already known which is the function of paradigms in science. I also agree that things outside of existence are matter of theoretical plausibility meaning it is consistent with what is already known.
I believe there is ambiguity between what is required for plausibility in a fiction and so I ventured into the realm of where we all look too keep our pictures feeling believable. why did i go as far as i did? I was experimenting with how much information is too much information. I concluded that no matter how much truth i put into illustrations, it is the human perception that is key. What do you guys think?
Last edited by kinjark; March 4th, 2012 at 08:07 PM. Reason: spelling error- Kinjark
March 3rd, 2012 #12
Does it really matter what? Are you referring to the limit of how much one should know or demonstrate or this discussion of it.
I am not sure what you mean by it does it really matter. I can't really answer your last question.I will try.
I have learned more from this exercise (about picture construction, story telling, draftsmanship, and how expertise in overlapping fields of science can all aid in plausibility) than many countless random sketches I have done with no direction or real purpose. I should also mention I am in my sixth year at a classical atelier, and so progressing my art shape or form as you put it (i like that!) does receive benefit from exercises like this one as i see my work rapidly progressing after hitting a plateau. There is great talk about plausibility in my school in terms of classical painting but I mean to speak of plausibility in the realm of popular styles of which i think is so interesting. I'm curious to see if others like my self have wondered how much the masters of realistic illustration are to strict science in their work. and where does artistic license fit in. I am curious about this very much as it is fundamental and i believe somewhat overlooked. What you guys think?
Last edited by kinjark; March 3rd, 2012 at 11:21 AM.- Kinjark
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March 3rd, 2012 #13
I read this excerpt and thought of your last post. It seems you and this guy are from a similar stand point
"I’d argue that scientific plausibility is vastly overrated — and speaking as someone whose novels have actually been used as core texts in both science and philosophy courses, I should really be a poster boy for the anal-retentive science-huggers in the crowd.
The fact is, though, that the state of scientific knowledge itself changes daily. Twenty years ago, the concept of “dark energy” was fantasy. Today we’ve got leading physicists admitting at least the possibility of time travel. To slavishly adhere to what we “know” to be true today is to claim that we’ve already pinned down the fundamentals, that there are no paradigms left to shift — and that’s one of the most profoundly antiscientific sentiments I can imagine.
But beyond that philosophical stance, there’s the more intimate fact that the plausibility of any given piece of SF is more a function of the reader than of the work being read. Larry Niven’s stuff is frequently cited as a good example of Hard-SF — it certainly rocked my world back in high school — but anyone who knows the first thing about molecular genetics knows that aliens devolving into humans, genes that code for luck, are the stuff of pure fantasy. Somewhat further along the scale, I’m constantly trying to cover my ass against all those ferret-faced nitpickers I left behind in academia. I’ve flailed around for pages at a time, trying to explain how a fictitious doomsday germ might subvert signal molecules on the cytoplasmic side of a host-cell vesicle so that the vesicles avoid fusion with lysosomes — and while my handwaving would pass muster with a high school grad or even an undergrad, it would be every bit as implausible as Niven’s to a professional microbiologist.
But you know what? In either case, it doesn’t fucking matter. Science fiction is not about “facts” any more than science is (and science isn’t about facts any more than a house is “about” bricks). Science is a process. What’s important isn’t so much that you adhere to facts as to principles. Given the “impossible” premise of an ftl drive or spacing-guild navigators that trip out on Space Mescal to steer between the stars, does the story explore the consequences of that conceit in a way that makes sense?
And that’s why I continue to have a soft spot for Niven after all these years; he didn’t just predict the automobile, he predicted the traffic jam (to paraphrase a famous line I’ve seen attributed to at least three different people). Transplant technology strengthens the death penalty; teleportation between different latitudes unbalances an object’s energy budget; aliens, while frequently wrong in the details, are clearly designed with the process of Darwinian evolution front and center.
So if someone writes a story in which the hero’s house is built of upsydaisium, you’re not going to score any critiquing points with me by pointing out that upsydasium doesn’t exist. Science fiction isn’t here to say This is true or This will happen: it’s here to say Suppose it did: then what? Those of us who insist on conforming to today’s paradigms and no others (The Mundanistas come to mind) are welcome to do so.
Personally, though, I think they should lighten up." -Peter Watts
While not speaking of realistic illustration I feel a parallel in Science fiction.
I do see this author's point but of course there are other perspectives out there. I find it rather ironic as he states in his opening lines, his books are used as a reference in a variety of context becuase of how accurate they are and yet he is saying it doesnt even matter. I like what he has to say though.