That you can learn the rules of painting and then, cameralike, reproduce whatever you see on your canvas is a misconception that is partly responsible for the notion that only those painters who distort reality are using their creativity.
The biggest difference between twentieth-century painting and the painting that preceded it is depth: modern painting isn't concerned with it. Modern painting is about flatness; it explores possibilities of a flat canvas. Klee, Picasso, Mondrian, Pollock, Motherwell, all of them, to a greater or lesser extent, champion the two-dimensional surface.The “integrity of the picture plane” is what they are exploring.
Even the new realism that's emerged over the last fifteen years doesn't violate that flat sensibility.The new realist paintings, for the most part, are derived from, and look like, photographs. The viewer's reaction isn't "Doesn't that look real!" but, "Doesn’t that look like a photograph!".Flatness is preserved. Why a whole culture should have renounced such a rich tradition as chiaroscuro painting is a big puzzlement.
If I were an artist, I wouldn’t paint.