Realism is a word that is often used to describe artwork. And, for whatever reason, if something looks realistic, the work is considered good. But, what is realism exactly? How should we define it. What do people actually mean when talking about realism? And how does style come into the equation.
I think first we do need to define what we mean by realism. I think when most people talk about realism, they are talking about photorealism or hyperrealism.
I think this distinction–so realistic it looks like a photo– when using the term “realism” needs to be made, especially when we are teaching our students about artwork and how to talk about artwork.
The next word we need to define is style/stylized. For me, this means the artist’s personal “twist” on how they present their work. They can make their work look realistic…proportional, recognizable, three-dimensional…but they’ve added themselves in how they do this.
Most artists work with a sense of realism, but they add their own personal style to their work. Some artists are very tight. Others works are very free and flowing. Then you’ve got those that work in a sketchy-like manner. Style can add interest and evoke feelings in ways that maybe a photorealistic work can’t. Style is what makes an artist unique.