Patrick Kramer is a 33 yr old hyper-realistic painter living in Springville, Utah. He studied art at Brigham Young Universtiy where he graduated in 2008, and he’s been painting ever since. I know what you’re thinking… and the answer is yes – yes these are actually paintings!
Tell us a little bit about your fascination with realism in your artwork.
I always enjoyed observational drawing as a child (mostly copying animals from National Geographic, ninja turtles, air planes – typical boy things) and refined my craft through junior high and high school . In college, I wanted to see how far I could take it, so I kept pushing the limit, making my work as detailed and lifelike as possible. I never really intended to pursue a hyper-realist style, it’s just hard to loosen up once you’ve gained that skill.
Can you explain to us your process – do you work from photographs?
I do work pretty closely from photographs.
I usually start with an idea, gather some props, and take dozens of photos. I then edit, combine, and play with the images in Photoshop until I’m satisfied with the composition. I print off this image and use it as reference for my painting. I try to work most things out digitally beforehand, so really all of the creative decisions are done before I start painting.
When compared to a photograph, what effect would you say your paintings to have over the viewer?
I would say it’s a unique experience for the viewer. You approach a painting so much differently than a photograph.
A hyper-realist painting may look identical to the source photo, but because there is a process, a performance even, to the hand-crafted work, the painting is far more engaging. (I don’t mean to bash photography. It’s just not my medium.)
People will walk past a fairly banal hyper-realistic work, assuming it’s a photograph, but when told it’s a painting, will do a double-take. They’ll go back and scrutinize, look for brush strokes, analyse the work in a way that would never occur with photography. The image hasn’t changed, only the process behind the work, but it changes everything for the viewer.
From goldfish, to flowers, to marbles and sheets of music, how do you choose your subjects & composition? What significance do they have to you?
My work is pretty diverse, due in part to my own struggle to define myself creatively. My motivations for creating each piece vary, and I guess I’m still looking for my “thing,” though I don’t know if I will ever find it.
Many of my paintings are just imagery that I find mesmerizing. Dramatic perspectives, reflections bouncing off windows in long hallways, light refracted through glass – things that I find visually captivating.
Other work is more expressive and emotive in nature, unique compositions and juxtapositions that I find compelling. These can be a lot more personal and creatively gratifying compared to other pieces, a little less sterile.
A few of my pieces dabble in humor and the absurd. Fine art can be so serious and pretentious, it can be fun to create a piece just to make someone smile.
For you what has been the most challenging piece to date? What made it so difficult?
The “Salt Lake Library” piece was quite challenging, simply because of the time involved in creating it. It took over six weeks, working full time. It can be difficult to maintain interest working on a single piece for that long. (I know some hyper-realists spend months and months on their paintings… I admire their dedication)
Also, with each passing day, I was calculating my hourly wage. Starting out, the sales price of my paintings never really matched the hours spent on the piece, which could be quite depressing for an artist trying to start a career.
What about the piece that’s most rewarding?
I enjoy the pieces where I get to paint my friends and family. My wife has modelled for me several times, (“Lifting the Shroud”, “Serenity”, “Departing”). She’s very patient with me.
Your technical proficiency is astounding – what kind of work ethic have you had over the years to get to where you are now? Further to that question, what does an average day look like for you?
It takes a lot of hours. I pretty much lived in the art studio in college. My workday is pretty typical though. I put in 40 – 50 hours a week and treat it like a regular job, though my hours are flexible. I’ll start painting as early as 8:00 AM, and end as late as 7:00 at night, though I try not to paint too late into the evening or I’ll have painting dreams, which I find obnoxious.
How old were you when you sold your first painting and when did you know that you wanted to be a career artist?
I was in my mid twenties in college when I sold my first piece. It was a commission a father wanted of his son, who played on the hockey team.
I ended up studying art in college because I was terrible at math, and not great at writing. It was kind of by default. I wanted to pursue a career in something that I actually enjoyed doing, and nothing else really interested me the way art did.
With the amount of time and effort that go into each piece – do you ever find it difficult to part with them when they are complete? As an artist how do you cope with parting of your paintings?
To be honest, not really. I don’t know how other artists feel, but I spend so much time working on a painting, by the time it’s finished, I’m a little sick of it. I see every little flaw and area that I could have done better. I need to put it away and not look at it for a while before I can begin to appreciate it.
I’m happiest when I can ship it to a gallery and find someone who appreciates it enough to invest a significant chunk of change on the piece. That gives me a lot more joy than if I were to hang on to the painting myself.
What has been your biggest accomplishment professionally to date?
I had my first solo show last year in Park City, which felt like an accomplishment, even if it took me a while.
What can we expect to see from you next? / what is your next big challenge to tackle?
Honestly, I’m not sure. I take it one painting at a time and let my work progress organically.
I’m hoping to create pieces that are unique and creative, technically skilled but not boring or stuck in the past. We’ll see where I end up.
You can see more of Patrick’s work on his artist website & you can connect with him on facebook & Instagram.
Interviewer: Rob Green