Friday, June 15, 2007
Bert Monroy - Re-Creating Reality
Bert Monroy is a Photoshop master who uses software like a brush and canvas all at once. He's not a photographer, but a digital painter who pushes the software envelope to create his art
Bert Monroy makes beautiful photographic images, but he doesn't do it with a camera. His photographs aren't photographs, and he's not even a photographer. He's a painter. Beginning with a blank canvas—actually, a blank computer screen—Monroy meticulously creates detailed images from sketches, notes and snapshots. Most people call Monroy a photo-realistic painter because they mistake his work for photography.
“I'm not really a photo-realist because photo-realism is a movement and I don't adhere to it,” says Monroy. “For one thing, I'm not true to the photograph. In a photograph, there will be depth of field, whereas my paintings are more true to the actual scenes—like being there. Wherever you look, your eyes will come into focus, whether it's a minute detail at the bottom of some bench or a building way off in the distance. It's more like being in a place than being a photographic representation of a place.”
Although Monroy works digitally, he thinks of himself as a painter. Instead of paint, his medium, much like a photographer's, is light and his brushes are Photoshop. Monroy says he couldn't do what he does without the computer, and as a traditional painter, he wouldn't even have tried.
“I'd say that the computer did it for me,” recalls Monroy. “I was a photo-realist before the computer because I used to work with traditional media and I'd pretty much follow what I saw in a photograph. But the computer gave me the ability to zoom in. I can go up to 1,600-percent magnification and create little details that I wouldn't be able to do with a brush. No matter how large my canvas or how small my brush, I couldn't get the kind of details I'm getting now. Back in 1984, when the first Macintosh came out, that's when I got hooked. Even though it was only a nine-inch screen in black-and-white, it was that zoom capability that made me realize that this was my medium. And I grew with it.”
In an era when illustrators and photographers often use the same tools, the lines dividing their work are blurred. Monroy's goal isn't to have his paintings mistaken for photographs, but he does appreciate a certain amount of mistaken identity as a yardstick for his success.
“When people confuse it as photography,” he says, “I find it very complimentary. I've always liked re-creating reality. I always liked to make things look very real rather than being abstract. I'd rather have realism.”