I coughed up some thoughts about realism. Castiel has volunteered to assist…
So when artists say, “Draw what you see,” what does that even mean, right?
It means don’t draw the objects. Instead, draw the light that hits the objects. And draw only the light.
Okay, but how.
Well, I guess… think of an Impressionistic painting, like a Monet or a Renoir. Impressionism is about drawing the light, not the object. If you stand close to an Impressionistic painting, you can’t tell what shit is, right? It’s just a mess of smudges and brushstrokes. But if you step back, you start to see shapes.
That’s because Impressionism is about capturing the quality of light, rather than being faithful to the object.
Realism is the same way.
With realism, your job isn’t to be exhaustive. It isn’t about completeness, every pore and every eyelash. That’s called hyperrealism, which is something else entirely. Hyperrealism is about forcing you to see everything whether you want to or not. It’s about confrontation.
Realism, on the other hand, is much more playful. It’s about creating the illusion of completeness. If you look at that drawing of Castiel, you won’t see any pores or eyelashes. You’ll only see the suggestion of eyelashes. And if you keep going with that thought, you’ll realize you don’t actually see anything else, either. You don’t see a nose or a trenchcoat or hair. You only see suggestions and illusions. Afterall, it’s not real. It’s pixels on a screen.
The light is the thing you’re actually drawing. Literally, that’s true. Because your eyes process light information. But more figuratively, too. Light exists between you and everything else. It’s like this invisible, fluid warmth, like a creature that bends and drapes and changes color according to whatever it touches.
So if you’re drawing a portait of Castiel, say, don’t try to draw Castiel. Draw the light that touches him instead. And if the light isn’t touching him—if the light isn’t showing you every individual eyelash or every individual pore—why would you draw it? You don’t have to. You knew what it was. Your brain put it together.
Our brains love to be teased and tempted and hinted at, and that’s what light does. It suggests that there’s something more underneath. It’s hands running over a surface. It gives us hints about what something might feel like or taste like or how heavy it might be, or how warm it might be, or what a person might be thinking or feeling. Like a blind person running her hands over a metal bowl to feel out its shape. But in this case, the light is the hands, and you’re drawing what that feels like. So you don’t have to draw all of it. You only have to draw enough of it to know what it is.
And that was my (completely pornographic, as it turns out) way of describing realism.
Thanks, Cas. With fewer clothes next time, maybe? :3