johannes wessmark: a passion for photorealism

When Swedish artist Johannes Wessmark was a boy, he preferred to clean his own room to make sure it was done the way he liked it. He sorted all his toys in a straight line, ordering them by color.

He also drew and painted a lot – in much more detail than other kids his age. Though he grew up in a big, active family, he mostly preferred peace and quiet, observing on the sidelines rather than interacting.

Johannes Wessmark in his studio.

His mother supported and encouraged his creative talent, once buying him a book entitled, “The Boy Who Wanted to Paint the World’s Most Beautiful Painting.” Call it mother’s intuition or uncanny prescience; today Wessmark is one of the world’s leading hyperrealistic artists.

Wessmark admits he’s not as overtly pedantic in ordering his life now, but technical precision and attention to detail remain important characteristics of his work.

I “discovered” Wessmark’s amazing photorealistic paintings while searching for – of all things – donuts (you’re not surprised?). Of course I assumed this beautiful stack was a mouthwatering photo. 

When I discovered it was actually a painting, naturally I hungered for more. I’ve since learned that although Wessmark excels in still lifes, he especially loves painting figuratives and landscapes. In particular, beautiful women in water. With his figurative motifs, he wishes to convey a feeling of calm and relaxation.

Water has been one of my favorite subject matters for many years. When I started painting women it came quite naturally to put them in water. I love both the beauty of the female form and the challenge of painting moving and reflecting water. This has become more or less my signum even if I have painted many other subject matters through my 30 years as a professional artist.

I’m always impressed by artists who can paint water or glass realistically. The way water, especially, fractures light and distorts whatever is submerged in it, seems especially challenging. But this is Wessmark’s forte, and he’s said that he doesn’t find painting shiny reflections any more difficult than painting a dull area of dirt. 

It is all about observing the reference photo. When you look closely and really identify the details in the photo there are only different colours and shapes. What it represents doesn’t matter.

In addition to his water paintings, I love his cars. 

One of Wessmark’s most incredible pieces is this Rolex watch. It’s actually clearer and more beautiful than any photo could be! 

Wessmark, who lives and works in Karlstad, Sweden, is self taught; he began working as an advertising product illustrator and 3D illustrator/animator before transitioning into a full-time photorealistic artist.

He has a unique way of creating his pieces, using a combination of techniques and mediums. He first blocks in the larger areas and backgrounds with an airbrush and acrylics, then fills in the finer details with small paintbrushes with either oil or acrylic. He also uses colored pencils for finishing touches.

My workflow for a painting is often like this: I decide what to paint. Then I take a photo of it. Or actually, I usually take lots of photos and choose the best one. When I have decided what size I want to make the painting, I print my reference photo in that same size. I make the sketch with help of a light table to get it as close to the photo as possible. Then I am ready to start painting. Mostly I start with the background and paint the main motif in the end. I work best when I play some music. One favorite genre is movie soundscores. Dramatic, exciting, and sometimes emotional music, without lyrics, works best for me. And it should be loud.

When he first started hyperrealistic painting, he was inspired by some of the pioneers who started this genre in the 60s: Ralph Goings, Richard Estes, John Baeder and Tom Blackwell.

Ideas for paintings can come up very differently. It can be a photo I see online, a scene in a movie, something I see when I walk through town. Suddenly there is something that catches my attention and I create my own version in my head.

Wessmark has had many solo exhibitions in Sweden and has been featured in group exhibitions in the U.S., London, and Spain. He’s also won numerous awards, most recently, Winner of “Best Figurative” in International Guild of Realism, Spring Salon; 2021 Winner of “Best Figure & Portrait” Januar in PleinAir Salon from PleinAir Magazine; and 2020 Winner of “Best metal and chrome” IGOR Spring Salon.

He’s represented by Plus One Gallery in London, Gallery Ton in the Netherlands, and Emmaboda Konst and Galleri Ö.K in Sweden. Originals may be purchased through them or via his Official Website. Open edition prints are available at iCanvas and Inprnt.

Wessmark’s U.S. marketing assistant, Kevin Hancock, promotes and sells both originals and prints in the Gulf Coast area. More info about how to contact Kevin is here.

Enjoy this recent video showing Johannes in his studio discussing his background and process.

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*Copyright © 2023 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

7 thoughts on “johannes wessmark: a passion for photorealism

  1. Good morning, Jama. I would never know that these paintings are not photos. Amazing. I especially like the closeup of the cat and the pepper with wrinkles. It reminds me of ME! And, of course, the donuts were calling me!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Photo realism is a baffling genre to me! Though I do see the difference between a photo and the work of hyper-realist artists, sometimes I wonder where the artistic interpretation comes in, beyond what the photographer does. The painters that did enormous works, like Chuck Close, are more understandable to me.

    best… mae at

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like what you said about the Rolex: “It’s actually clearer and more beautiful than any photo could be!” Wessmark’s work may be photorealistic, but he also adds a kind of perfection and glow, a brightness that takes the images beyond the original. Plus, he is a photographer. With photography, beyond the subject and the light, I think half the artistry is simply in the cropping! Thank you for sharing, Jama!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Flabberghasted is the word, Jama. I love that he can paint those jars, the water (as you discussed), always thought they were so challenging. Wessmark makes it all look easy, and of course, beautiful! I do love the donuts and that woman’s braided hair, visited his website for more! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, wow, wow! These are incredible! Amazing artist and I loved seeing these, but like Mae above I prefer “arty-looking” paintings because otherwise I could just look at a photo! But the skill in doing these is genius.

    Liked by 1 person

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