Am I actually expressing myself fully by painting realistically?

by | Art | 4 comments

Pencil Study: Jesse, 11"x14" pencil on paper. © Sarah Marie Lacy, 2012

Pencil Study: Jesse, 11"x14" pencil on paper. © Sarah Marie Lacy, 2012


I get a lot of concerned feedback about my choice to be a representational artist.

People worry that I’m not “fully expressing myself”. They wish I would just “let loose” and really “pour myself into the work.” I wrote about this in more depth a while ago here, along with offering tips on giving advice to other artists.

But today, I don’t want to talk about why people make comments like this, or how to deal with them. I want to tell you why I’m madly in love with painting realistically.

My decision to be a realist artist is not a common one. In a world where free-flowing expression is popular and beloved, it can seem like realism is really just perfectionism, a desire to slavishly copy what’s in front of them.

And I admit, I’m sure that’s true in some cases.

But I am not a photorealist. I don’t want my work to look exactly like a photograph (copying a photograph note for note doesn’t really work anyways, due to things like distortion.) I give my creativity free-reign when creating a piece – I move elements around, I cut things out, add things; I change colours, intensify them, cool them down or warm them up.

And it’s not that I don’t have respect and admiration for abstraction or more expressionistic art forms. Like any kind of art, I love some of it, hate others and feel indifferent about the rest. It’s a taste thing.

My choice for realism though isn’t about disliking abstract art or wanting to copy photos.

It’s about expressing the vision in my head.

I see all of these moments of peace, beauty and aliveness that surround us. I am fascinated and mesmerized by the shapes and colours, the glory of so many simple things.

Tell me, have you ever sat down and looked at the world around you? I mean really looked. Yes, there is the obvious beauty of a sunset, but what about something really common, like your hands?

Just for a second, forget that it’s your hand, and all of the hang ups you have about it. Just look at it. Look at the beautiful shapes that create it. Look at the colours – the pinky-red of the knuckles, the blue green of your veins shimmering beneath the surface, the delicate pink of your fingernails. Look at all of the colours within the skin itself – orange, yellow, purple, green, blue.

There is a whole world of magnificence within the palm of your hand. Literally.

That’s how I see the whole world. That’s why I love painting my Tiny Gems so much because even within the simple objects of our everyday lives, there is a delectable visual feast. I get quite giddy with excitement.

My vision is completely rooted in the physical world. I have never once felt that I wasn’t expressing myself fully because everything that I want to express and explore is right here in front of me. Nature and the natural world is pretty freaking amazing in my opinion and I could spend 4 lifetimes just getting started on all of the things that I want to say, and all of the things that I want to show you.

I want to show you the world through my eyes – all of the beauty, all of the joy, all of the power and peace, the fragility and bliss.

I am mesmerized and humbled by the world that we live in. I love it. And so I paint what I love. Hopefully, I can help you love it a little more too.