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Art History - Ralph Goings

Realism can be defined by subjects painted from everyday life in a naturalistic manner, most commonly seen in paintings that have a realistic photo quality. The term realism was brought about by the French Novelist Champfleury during the 1840s and painter Gustav Courbet but back then it was more in reflecting the life of the common people. There have been many artists in the past who captured Photorealistic paintings without the term ever-existing and today in the digital and painting world there are many in my opinion that really can encompass the technique of recreating a photo of an image from life or photograph. A few artists today that I notice are Carla Grace, Linnea Strid, Marcello Barenghi, Nick Sider, and BhelBol which to be honest could be in the realm of Hyperrealism. One of my art goals with my digital art is to achieve some form of Realism within the Procreate realm and in thinking about how I would like to cross that bridge I decided and received some help from my Clutch Fam to delve deeper into the life of one of the Best Photorealist painters of Modern Art, Ralph Goings.


Who Is Ralph Goings?

" My paintings are about light, about the way things look in their environment and especially about how things look painted. Form, color, and space are at the whim of reality, their discovery and organization is the assignment of the realist painter. "

Born in 1929, during the Great Depression, the Goings family saw some difficult times growing up in a working-class family in California. I enjoyed reading how even though he was more inclined to music, he was often found drawing in class, something I reflect on, getting calls to my mom about 'He's smart but he's always drawing in my class'. He spoke about drawing as "a way to figure out how things were - sometimes how they worked. " He was inspired to draw by finding out about Rembrandt from his local library and encouraged by his Aunt to paint and draw. He used anything he could find to begin painting, using the paint from the local hardware store and even old bedsheets when canvases weren't available. As he became of age he eventually enlisted in WWII where he had intentions of becoming a musician but thankful for us he later decided to pursue Art. He attended school at Hartnell College in Salinas but eventually pursued his Art degree at the California College of Arts in Oakland, CA.

His dream to become a Full-Time Artist didn't really come as swiftly as he thought due to him accepting a job as a High School Teacher after graduating. Also he had a wife and four kids to take care of one can imagine how that could slow down his ideal career. He eventually moved to Sacramento, CA to connect with the art scene where some of his first personal development occurred as well as helping him to provide for his family. He was able to join in the Artist Collaborative Gallery where he was able to showcase his work and network with other artists. He began to experiment with different styles but he didn't really feel he connected with it in a meaningful way.

The turning point occurred in 1963, when he saw a magazine cover and decided to paint it to look as "real" as he could. He decided he was done with abstract pictures which was common in the decades prior. A leap of faith soon occurred in 69' when his friend Ivan Karp, a successful gallery owner in New York, asked him to finally crossover and give his Art Career the attention it deserved by quitting his teaching job. At about 40 years old, his first Solo Show took place in SOHO at Harps, OK Harris Gallery. He eventually packed up everything and his family to Upstate New York, where they lived in a old farmhouse. He used the farm barn as his art studio and here is where most of the magic was created.

His style of creating Photorealist paintings began by taking a photograph of an object he planned to paint, project it from slides onto his canvases and painting. He mentioned that "It occurred to me that projecting and tracing the photograph instead of copying it freehand would be even more shocking. To copy a photograph literally was considered a bad thing to do. It went against all of my art school training... some people were upset by what I was doing and said 'it's not art, it can't possibly be art'. That gave me encouragement in a perverse way, because I was delighted to be doing something that was really upsetting people... " (edited quote from Realists at Work) " His subject matter was plainly clear in the 70s as most of his paintings focused on diner culture. As mentioned in his earlier quote the focus was the portrayal of light seeing the reflections and giving them immense details. This is also the height of when the Photorealist movement took off with Ralph and a number of various artist pushing in opposition to the Abstract movement of the 50s and 60s.


Sweet 'n Low, 1984

Personal Reflections

Looking over his work really blew my mind. Honestly, even though I know this is a painting it's still very hard to believe that this is a work of art. This is definitely my Goal to produce one painting either digitally or physically at this caliber of skill. I know some may look at his method and think well he just copied it from a projector and picture how is that real skill? Well to be honest I've tried to copy pictures to some extent and they still never came out half as good as this work. It takes good technique and practice, understanding of color theory, lights, and values to be able to begin down this path. One that I want to pursue and reading his life story helped me to realize a few things. It's ok if I haven't truly perfected or found out my style just yet. Ralph was nearly 40 before he decided to take the leap of faith yet all the while perfecting his craft. He had a family and so do I and if I could talk to him now I'm sure he wouldn't sacrifice his family for the sake of his art. Granted it's clear he had wonderful support from his family as they moved often to help him progress in his career and I'm thankful as well to have a wife who moves me to be able to push myself while remaining balanced.

As I am working toward my still life challenge this month, I realized I have some major work to do but I find that it's good to place lofty goals in front of us because it pushes us to go pasts the limits we unconsciously place on ourselves. Ralph broke the boundaries and although some in the Art World may look down on this form of art and think where is the creativity, I strongly beg to differ. From A creative aspect, I understand what some critics are coming from but at the same time I can see the true brilliance behind the Human Brain and the skill some artists have to be able to replicate what the eye or camera lens captures. To see more about the life of Ralph Goings, visit his website, or you can purchase a copy of his interview from Linda Chase below.


References/Images: Wikipedia,,

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