Cities present all kinds of opportunities and difficulties for the artist. For one thing, the overlapping buildings, signs, autos, and people provide endless interlocking shapes and colors to explore. Compositional opportunities abound--perspective as streets that vanish into the distance, atmospheric haze that blues skyscrapers, lapping of shadow and light across bright sunlit boulevards are part of the hive that is a city.
|Richard Estes, "Jone's Diner," oil, 1979|
That isn't to say that high detail in painting can't be successful. Photorealism is a movement that provides a good example of high detail. The works of painters like Ralph Goings Richard Estes and Charles Bell, among a number of others, can be startling because of their resemblance to big photographs, and indeed they are based in photography. The images often seem to include the most minute detail, but even those hyperreal paintings are interpretations in paint. Analog photographs depend on characteristics of the film to provide sharp focus and detail; perhaps digital images will make photorealism even more.photographic.
My work is anchored in realism, but it's more about the paint than about detail. Rather than making paintings in the meticulous and nearly geometric style of the hyperrealists, it's more important to me to show my own view, not the camera's. That isn't to say that I paint on site, outdoors. Mostly I don't use oils outdoors, where I prefer water media. Instead, my own street scenes rely on photographs or those watercolors but evolve from reference materials rather than reproducing them.
|"Novelties," oil,16x20, 2015|
|"Positively 4th Street," oil, 16x24, 2016|
|"Abe's," casein, 20x20, 2017|
Although casein is an interesting medium, my guess is that oil paint will remain my favored medium for this sort of work. The range of values you can achieve, plus the advantage of using various techniques to alter the open time of oil paint make it more versatile and to my eyes the result is more pleasing. But I'm going to continue exploring casein. It's intriguing.