Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I'm sure I have alienated all of the James Bama fans out there by asserting that Bama belongs to a group of highly skilled, realistic painters who ultimately are less than successful as artists because they lack a strong sense of design, composition and other judgmental attributes of good artists. Instead of continuing to blather about what I find missing in Bama's pictures, I thought it would be better to share concrete examples of painting that I believe does go beyond mere realism to display design and grace and charm.

These are studies by the great J.C. Leyendecker. They have never been seen by the public before, but I think they are splendid and merit a wider audience.

Note that these are more than just realistic hands. Leyendecker is not simply copying a photograph he likes. He records visual data about shapes and colors and shadows, but he is also seeking out nature's designs and patterns. He is establishing priorities about what "feels" right. There is elegance and poetry in these three studies that is missing from so much of photorealistic illustration.

Here is another great hand, revealing the artists's keen aesthethic appeciation for the crispness of the glove (as well as the bone and muscle underneath).

As much as I respect the ability to paint realistically, in my view it is not the most important part of being an artist.