When we look at a realist painting we tend to think that we are looking at the items within it — a face, a chair, a street scene, etc. But what pulls us into the painting to start with has nothing to do with detail and how well it is painted, it has to do with overall design. Take the wildlife paintings of Robert Batemen. He paints animals exquisitely, no doubt about it, and his scenes are rendered in perfect detail. What elevates him above the many other artists who are superb draughtsmen is his great design skills. His paintings are almost abstractions and come to life and engage us because of their daring arrangement of space on the canvas.
Classic Bateman sees the main object of his work set off to one side of the canvas. There is dramatic use of very low or high horizons and huge areas of white space. Animals are viewed from unexpected angles and often seem to disappear into the background, just as they would in nature, so that we must go searching for them and then enjoy the act of discovery. His paintings are first and foremost about shapes and design and because they jolt us with their daring arrangement of blocks of colour upon the canvas, we can then become aware of the detail and of the skill that lies behind it.