Andrew Wyeth Lessons (II)

What I learned from Andrew Wyeth, the boring version. (Ref: My post of 11/13/2017, Andrew Wyeth as Teacher)

Choose any great painting by him. If it were a photograph, it would be crap technically.

(Of course, since it’s not a photograph, it’s not crap at all. But, if it were a photograph, the technical aspects of it would be crap: Hundreds of curved tan lines on a smooth brown background (Wyeth’s painting technique) would indicate that a photographer failed to capture the true details of what brown grass stubble on muddy ground actually looks like.)

But, as a painting, it’s amazing! The composition, the emotion, the subject, the object, the feelings, the juxtapositions, the content, the protagonist, the antagonist, the conflict, the story, the colors, the geometry. Etc. And yes, the brush techniques.  All excellent.

Here’s some of what’s going on, I think: As a painter, while he’s constructing his scene, he gets to eliminate as well as add. And, what he eliminates from the scene is every bit as important as what he includes. In fact, in any of his great paintings, 90% of (what is plausibly) the reality of the scene has been eliminated! Leaving the greatness behind as the painting.

As a photographer, it’s sometimes hard to eliminate even as much as 10% of the scene. Even a basic thing as perspective is problematic for a photographer; to position the camera to capture the right perspective in one part of the scene will often create awkward problems in other parts of the scene. The painter is free from this problem.

Also, the photographer usually has to capture unwanted clutter in his image. The painter usually decides to not include the clutter.

So, in this way a photographer is burdened by reality, and a painter is not. Even a painter criticized for staying too much within the confines of realism, as Andrew Wyeth was late in his career, is free from having to show reality as it actually is. A photographer’s chief efforts, once his vision for an image is set, lie in contorting his position and manipulating his camera, so that he can partly escape those confines of reality, or at least stretch away from them like stretching a rubber band away from its rest state.

I’m sure this is a naive realization, but I’m a naive person (artistically) so it’s ok. If this is something other creatives know in their teens or by the end of their first year of making art, and if I’m just now realizing it at my age, well I would say that just fits the pattern of my life. As a late bloomer in almost all of life’s ways, it’s something I’ve made my peace with. (Hey, being this kind of consistent late bloomer should at least keep me from being bored in my 90’s and 100’s.)

With the above in mind, I decided it’s not a bad thing to process the hell out of my photographs in post. Example is below, a grab shot off the pedestrian bridge in Winthrop, WA. Notice its deconstruction of reality, which is intentional.

_2RS7176-Edit-20171225

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s