Based on a True Story

Step by Step

Step by Step – Luminance pencil and Neocolor II drawing from October 2014

I lied.  I am happy to admit it.  Or more to the point, I bent reality.  Artists do this just like novelists, poets, politicians and screen writers do.  You know at the beginning of a film you sometimes see “Based on a true story” – what does this mean?   How much is true and how much is invented to create a watchable two and a half hours at the cinema?

You can see what I wrote about the above drawing in my post of several weeks ago called “Step by Step“.  I was describing the picture you are looking at – describing my invention.  The reality?  The old lady in the background is not nearly as stooped as you see.  There was a third person in the scene who was bowing at that second to her.  The old lady was bowing to this (now) invisible person.  Immediately afterwards she straightened up and strode forth with as much vigour as the young woman in the foreground.  Also there was some building construction happening so there were bits of timber and orange cones littered about.

I wanted to tell a story as well as create a respectable pictorial composition.  So I took out the bowing third person and the construction materials.  I bent reality my way.  Out of true events, I created my story.

I remember years ago showing a gallery owner some of my oil paintings.  The guy barked at me, “Why did you put that in?” while looking at something I had painted in one of them.  “Because it was there!” I indignantly replied.  He went on to have an apoplectic fit at my answer.  “Because it was THERE?  That is the worst thing you could say!  You’re an artist for goodness sake…” etc etc – something like that.  Of course I was offended but I do get his point. He was saying LESS IS MORE.  If it isn’t essential to the story; if it actually gets in the way of the dramatic essence, then it shouldn’t go in from the start.

These days, every time I consider a photo I am going to use as source material for a drawing, I ask myself, “What do I want to convey here?  What is my point?  What is my story?”  I employ what is called artistic licence.

Less is more.  I don’t know who came up with that statement however I endorse it.  And a little redistribution/embellishment of the facts doesn’t hurt either!



12 thoughts on “Based on a True Story

  1. Ann Kullberg

    Another exquisitely written post, Julie. I stop whatever I’m doing when I get the email that you have a new post. Sometimes I intend to just read a line or two for now, but I am never able to resist reading every word. Love the title of this post. Love your honesty.

  2. anna warren portfolio

    What you are doing is what separates ‘art’ from ‘reproduction’. You have made a unique statement by distilling the facts as presented by the camera into a personal statement, a story, and in fact by doing this, you are making a more ‘true’ statement of the situation before you than if you just reproduced the photo. Bravo!

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      yes, I guess this is where inspiration kicks in. Also I wouldn’t have known that the old lady straightened up afterwards if I didn’t take several photos. Rather than have my camera set on ‘single shot’ I have it on ‘bracket’ so there are sets of shots. One learns a lot from before and after.

  3. Beverly Reid

    I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts Julie, including this one! I was always taught that simplicity can be the most beautiful thing, and that less is more, like you say. It’s wonderful that we as artists can add or remove things that “clutter” or distract from the main focal of the piece, and/or doesn’t add any particular value or interest to what we are trying to say or convey in our work. Good on you for taking your artistic license and eliminating elements that wouldn’t have otherwise added anything more to what you are saying in this particular piece!

  4. sherrytelle

    One of the most intriguing aspects of your pieces are the stories they tell. The fact that you spend time creating a dialogue is evident in each and every painting. It is not just the incredible rendering of your subjects, it is the glimpse into their lives that I find compelling. That you compose your drawings to better convey your message is not a lie, it is creativity.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      I do like stories, Sherry. I like to be told them and I like to tell them. One reason I enjoy blogging so much is that it gives me the opportunity to share with an audience what each drawing’s story is.

  5. stefan2009

    I guess that explains partially why Hyperrealism didn’t encounter a big success, there weren’t the artist’s spirit in the works of art.

  6. occasionalartist

    There should be no apology for artists painting what they want to convey, rather than what is there. I believe it is our job as artists to show the world how we see it, to show things others may not see and make them look more closely or differently at the world. You do this beautifully Julie, and it is always so interesting to know the back story of your work. Another interesting post. Karen

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Karen, this particular photo contained three women. I wanted to turn the composition into a metaphor for life – young woman striding out – old age coming towards her. I had to make the changes I did as the other woman (who I took out) was the third wheel. You are right, we need to modify reality to make our message clear.


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