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Extreme realism

Iain Gardiner reveals how he painstakingly painted a large-scale, realistic self-portrait in oils, often using miniature painting techniques

I have often been asked why I choose to paint in a highly realistic style at a time when photorealism seems to be out of favour with most of the artistic establishment. Each painting can take years to finish; you often have to fight against stress, depression and anxiety. You wonder if it is worthwhile finishing it; you go through self-doubt, your finances and personal relationships are under constant strain and finally you have to open yourself to scrutiny by exhibiting it.

The reason I put myself through these creative marathons is that I always aspire to create work that is unique and will, hopefully, amaze. The whole point of these paintings is to create disbelief and awe. They are an illustration of reality created in paint and once the viewer realises they are looking at a painting they instinctively start to admire the detail up close.

Opinions about highly realistic paintings are improving as people begin to understand and appreciate the complexities involved in creating these works.

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About The Artist

Welcome to our February issue with our extra 16-page guide to art courses and holidays for 2018, including Kevin Scully's article on what to take into consideration and what to pack to make the most of the opportunities offered by a structured course away from home. Our artists also offer plenty of ideas and inspiration for painting a variety of subjects in a broad range of media, including pastel pencil animals, a horse in watercolour, trees and an orchard in pastels, mixed-media collages inspired by old buildings, a photorealist self-portrait in oils and more. In addition, Hazel Soan starts her new three-part series on light and shade in watercolour by explaining how to train your eye to see and interpret tone, Judi Whitton demonstrates how to mix and exploit a wide range of lively greys in your watercolour paintings, while Paul Gadenne shows why and how acrylics can be the key to achieving greater spontaneity in your work. Be inspired and enjoy trying some new ideas under the guidance of our fantastic team of contributing artists!