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Is Realism Art?

Realism in art, as we know today first originated in France in the 1800s. Since then, it has only flourished as an art form, and despite people having divided opinions about it, it continues to remain one of the most popular genres in art.

There are many people who argue about the need or purpose of realism. What is the point of copying something realistically when you can just as easily take a picture of it? Some people argue that photorealism was needed only when there were no cameras, and is irrelevant now. This is what made me feel apologetic and self conscious about calling myself an artist for YEARS! If that is the case, why are we still so mesmerised with speed drawing videos of coloured pencil portrait artists? Well, because they are absolutely freaking amazing.

I think when you look at art as merely the material constituting it, or it’s outward appearance, you might not see the point of a photorealistic piece of art. But when you see it as the artist and what it took to create it, you go deeper and start seeing the magic in it. You are amazed by the sheer ability of humans to create something incredible. Even for the artist, creating a photorealistic piece can mean so much more than just the desire to create an exact likeness of something. It is meditative and therapeutic to spend hours trying to make something two dimensional look like a real three dimensional object.

I have put up this coloured pencil drawing of some chillies in my kitchen. When I did this, it's not that I wanted a chillies on my wall. I wanted art on my wall. When someone puts up a photorealistic painting of a banana up on their wall, most likely it’s not the banana they are looking at, or want to display in their house. They are displaying the skill of the artist, their creative choices and their style. The art in most cases could not be replaced by a photo of the said banana and hence make it look even more realistic, because it’s not like the purpose of putting up the art is to have a banana on the wall. My point is, drawing and photography will always have two different motives, and two different identities and purposes.

In my opinion, realism is and will always be an integral art form, one that is rare and precious, and must be celebrated. And a note for artists - In most cases, you wouldn’t know how to make abstractions and progress to newer styles of art before first at least learning the basics of realism. Learn realism, and then evolve it into your style. Do not label your inability to draw as “You Style”.

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