Let’s take a moment to appreciate the creative work of Patrick Kramer. His images, rich with color and full of soft light that makes the surfaces glow, are lovely. He captures a wide range of subjects — from portraits, to still lifes, to landscapes — as well as more surreal imagery. There’s a serenity and a sense of humor to them that make the pieces approachable, but the most striking thing about them is how they’re produced.
That’s because these aren’t photographs. These are oil paintings.
The Utah-based painter says that he enjoys the moment when people learn that they’re looking at paintings and not photos, because they begin to see the work differently.
In an interview with Wall Hop, Kramer explains this unique interaction. “People will walk past a fairly banal hyper-realistic work, assuming it’s a photograph,” he says, “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.”
When it comes to the diversity of his subjects, Kramer says he’s inspired by pretty much everything.
“I’m inspired by a diverse range of subjects, and my motivations for each painting vary,” he says. “Many of my paintings are just imagery that I find mesmerizing. Dramatic perspectives, reflections off windows, 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. I enjoy these pieces because they can be a lot more personal and creatively gratifying.”
Kramer also has a good sense of humor about his art, and it shows in some of his pieces. “A few of my pieces dabble in humor and the absurd. Fine art can be so serious and pretentious…it’s fun to make a painting that just makes me laugh,” he explains.
Salt Lake Library
If you’re wondering how Kramer manages to get his work so precise and so realistic that you know what the items feel like, the first thing is dedication. Kramer spends quite a bit of time on these, as you can imagine — so much, in fact, that he admits to being a little tired of looking at a painting by the time it’s complete.
To create his images, he first stages them in real life. “I work pretty closely from photographs. I usually start with an idea, gather props, and set up a scene, then take numerous photos,” he says.
For the more surreal images, digital manipulation lends a hand as well. “I use Photoshop,” he continues, “to edit imagery and work out a composition, so most of my creative decisions are done before I start painting.
Lifting the Shroud
As for the actual process, Kramer’s is very traditional, using layers and glazes of oil paints to create the image. He explains, “I work in oil paint, slowly building up the painting in thin layers, adding detail and refining the image as the painting progresses. A small, simple piece might only take me a week, while a large, more complicated painting can take as long as six weeks.”
Many photorealist painters can spend months on their paintings, but Kramer’s works tend to be on the smaller side, with the largest pieces being only about 36 inches. This allows him to produce many pieces while continually harnessing his skills.
As with any art form, Kramer’s inspirations and techniques are constantly growing and evolving. For him, the challenge is to create these photorealistic images without letting them feel static or old-fashioned. “I’m hoping to create pieces that are unique and creative, technically skilled, but not boring or stuck in the past,” he says.
But he also states that he lets his work evolve naturally, taking it one painting at a time and exploring new things with each. “We’ll see where I end up,” he says.
You can see more of Kramer’s work on his website, as well as on Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook. Be sure to check out his pencil drawings, too! You can also see more in one of our previous articles about Kramer’s work.