Back in the day working as a pictorial artist, I must have painted a few dozen billboards with liquor ads and this little paint brought back the memories. Always enjoyed doing those illustrations because I got to really loosen up and fling some paint around.
It is a very abstract subject to paint, the effect of refracted light through the melting ice, liquor and glass are gratifying objects to depict. You get to play with the medium, manipulating the best qualities of oil paint in thick and thin passages, the looser and more abstract your brushwork the better.
Abstraction is everywhere when you look, and in this imagery of reflections and transparencies it can be seen easily, it's what makes it so satisfying to paint. Using loose open brushwork that describes the structure and creates an illusion of three-dimensional form, a real tangible thing - is Abstract Realism. I personally prefer the term Painterly Realism because it does not sound like such a contradiction, however I consider the terms interchangeable.
It's a very hard thing to accomplish, being descriptive while holding those abstract qualities underneath the picture. If only I could always paint that loosely with definition. Painterly Realism is something we should work towards; but is not a technique, it is developed over time through observation and knowledge using nature as your guide. The study of form, space, depth and atmosphere. Often artist's rush to that "loosely painted” brushwork where they trade expression for knowledge.
However, many great painters seem to have found that balance, Rembrandt, Titian, Sargent and Vermeer all exhibit the unique and subtle equilibrium in which the abstract beauty of paint combines with a recognizable image.
I am always trying to figure out where I should keep details and where I should let things just soften. What paint quality do I need to describe this or that passage, with color, edges, textures and shapes. I certainly will try any paint application I can think of to arrive at that result; glazes, scumbles, impasto, scratching and scraping. Whatever needs to be done to make it look like that surface.
So the marks we make need to reflect the object and be authentic to that specific thing we are describing. Creating lots of brush strokes and being impressionistic tends to look formulaic and mechanical which takes away from the natural realism I prefer. Look at contemporary artists like Jeremy Lipkin, Conor Walton or David Kassan, they maintain the abstract and yet are very descriptive. So the brushwork or looseness/tightness of the approach follows the object you are portraying. The goal is to master the medium and be truthful to the subject.
Form is what I am most concerned about. When people ask me what I paint, the real answer is form. That is, translating three-dimensional form to a two-dimensional surface and creating the illusion of reality with space, depth and atmosphere. When you can arrive at this with some bravura brushwork and attention to detail that synthesis is what I consider Painterly Realism.
So for me it is all abstract. If a painting is successful at some level, the abstract beauty of paint viewed up close merges into a recognizable image from a distance.
Wild Turkey, oil on panel, 8 x 10 in, Jim Serrett
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