The Magic of Realism by Joan Meade

“Nothing is less real that realism. Details are confusing. Only by omitting and emphasizing do we advance the true meaning of things.”

“It is surprising to me to see how many people separate the objective from the abstract. Objective painting is not good painting unless it is good in the abstract sense. A hill or a tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or a tree. It is lines and color put together so that they say something. For me that is the very basis of painting.”


I found these two quotes by Georgia O’Keeffe on a recent trip to the Northeast, where my husband and I visited 3 significant exhibitions. First, The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, NY, featured a wonderful exhibition of Georgia O’Keefe’s Lake George period.  Second, The Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, NY, on the tip of Long Island has an impressive new building and a fine permanent collection from painters who were part of the summer art colony in the Hamptons. These include many landscape artists. Third, The Shelburne Museum in Vermont has mounted an outstanding show of artwork by N. C., Andrew and Jamie Wyeth. All of these artists have different approaches to realism, and seeing their works and reading their words reinforces my own realistic approach to painting.

Solana Beach by Joan Meade

Solana Beach by Joan Meade

In my own landscapes I use shapes, lines and color, and an additional element of texture through my medium of sculptural acrylics, thus increasing the sense of reality. My goal is to be part of “the best of landscape painting (which) has the power to focus our vision and expand our sense of beauty of the world around us.” * I’m thrilled when the viewer says, “I feel I could walk right into the painting.” My image looks real, even more that a photograph would, yet I do not recreate everything I see. I rearrange the elements to suit my composition, and omit much including trees, rocks, or any manmade structures that might detract. In this I take the naturalist’s approach.

Boca do Inferno

Boca do Inferno by Joan Meade

While I work, I am caught up in the place I am painting. It is almost always a place I have seen in my travels, and I am there again, hearing the sounds, smelling the scents, seeing the light and shadow that define the shapes.  Most of all I exult in the mood, be it tranquil or turbulent. I have had the very good fortune to have patrons tell me they have experienced some of the same sensations while looking at a painting of mine. This is the magic!

Evening Sun by Joan Meade

Evening Sun by Joan Meade

Reality is redefined by the artist. As the artist and art critic Fairfield Porter once said, “The realist thinks he knows ahead of time what reality is and the abstract artist what art is, but it is in its formality that realist art excels and the best abstract art communicates an overwhelming sense of reality.”

*on the wall at the Parrish Art Museum


To see more example’s of Joan’s work, go to her website.

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Posted in: LandscapePaintingTravel Inspirations

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