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Cath Riley’s pencil drawings are amazing to look at, but she regards her hyperreal work as just a stage in her ongoing evolutionary process of exploration and development.
Jono Dry usually works in graphite on large paper or board surfaces
The time in which each takes depends on his subject matter, with this particular A2 pencil drawing taking Lung approximately 60 hours to complete.
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You can follow many different approaches to life drawing and this book captures mostly all of them.
Most concept artists do not need hyper realistic work. But there is a need to understand realism so you can design paintings that actually feel believable.
Stefan Marcu pushes himself to create his best work possible
Each chapter covers a series of lessons starting from the basics of materials, setup, measuring, line work, and doing master copies. Later chapters get far more detailed with exercises on value, tone, and capturing more specific details like human anatomy.
An absolute must-read book for anyone getting started with realist art.
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Light, Shade and Shadow is a cheap guide for realist artists and illustrators/cartoonists. This book talks about the value of light and how the depth of value greatly affects your piece.
Any of the books in this guide should prove useful on the quest to improve your realist skills.
“I believe reality is a beauty in itself so I don’t need to find ways to hide the imperfections of human nature so my work shows the perfection of the imperfections of life.”
But this is definitely one of the most comprehensive books on life drawing you’ll find anywhere on the web.
The title of this book may see like hyperbole, but in many ways this is a complete guide to all beginner aspects of life drawing.
Pencil Drawings Of Women’s Faces Best 25+ Pencil Drawings Ideas On Pinterest | Realistic Drawings – Pencil Drawings Of Women’s Faces
But I still like this book as a realist study guide because the techniques carry over. This is true of most mediums because visual art is generally one all-encompassing topic with different methods to achieve similar end results.
“These objects and scenes in my drawings are thus meticulously detailed to create the illusion of a new reality not seen in the original photo.”
Nigerian artist Arinze Stanley has had a long time to practise his stunning pencil art; he’s been at it since the age of six. Growing up around his family’s paper business inspired his love of drawing, and he expresses himself through what he calls his three P’s: Patience, Practice and Persistence. “Most times it’s almost like I lose control of my pencils and like energy transfer, the art flows through me from my pencil to the paper,” he says.
Author & artist Juliette Aristides covers this curriculum in her book Lessons in Classical Drawing. It spans 208 pages and includes a bonus DVD with video footage of her practice time studying in Italy.
The smaller details of rendering often come down to the type of pencil and quality of paper. This is why pencil drawings can vary so much, and it’s also why I recommend drawing in sketchbooks with a little texture on the page.
From rough sketching to finished pencil pieces, this book has advice for everything on every subject matter.
This newest edition of the book actually combines 6 different books together into one volume. It comes with an amazing price and the lessons are truly actionable for anyone trying to understand life drawing.
Drawing and Sketching in Pencil by Arthur Guptill offers a concise series of instructions for tackling pencil drawing.
German artist Armin Mersmann is the man behind this chilly woodland scene. Although he also works with oils, Mersmann is best known for his intense naturalistic graphite drawings. His work has been featured in more than 150 exhibitions and has won him over 30 awards.
The old masters had a brilliant way of teaching art and that style lives on with ateliers. Many fine artists study at these academies because they offer the best type of training for professional realist art.
This book teaches a lot about shadows, forms, and color selection with realist painting. The information is incredibly valuable but it does expect the reader to have some traditional experience, so if you’ve never done any classical painting you may want to start elsewhere.
All of realist art is mostly just observing and copying accurately. This is quite an understatement because it’s certainly not that easy!
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the images in this article are photographs. But we assure you, they’re not. Each and every one is hand-drawn pencil art – many of them in beautiful black and white.
I adore this title but it isn’t for the faint of heart. The Realism Challenge by Mark Crilley offers a series of exercises to help improve your realist techniques for recreating life on the canvas.
You’ll need to have a decent amount of experience with traditional work, preferably oil or watercolor painting. Each lesson aims to push you outside your comfort zone by approaching realism with the goal of hyperrealism.
A lot of this book actually walks the line of drawing from imagination where you’ll learn how to draw cubes, spheres, and cylinders by coping reference photos.
Here, some seriously talented illustrators have pulled out their best pencils and drawing techniques to create some truly exceptional pencil art. Featuring celebrity portraits, animals, natural scenes, everyday objects and famous landmarks, there’s something to inspire you in each entry here. Enjoy…
When you first start drawing from life your work typically looks like scribbles. This is normal, and Bert’s book is perhaps the only one that tells you it’s okay to be messy at first. He includes a ton of visuals and step-by-step guides to help you understand the actual drawing process.
It’s a pretty nice resource to keep near your workstation and use as a reference during model breaks.
When we first saw the work of Scottish artist Paul Cadden, it took a while for us to realise that they were in fact pencil drawings – the hyperrealist artist used just graphite and chalk to create these stunning images.
I’d say this works best for semi-experienced artists but you can learn a lot even as a beginner. This is a book you’ll reference frequently during your artistic career so it’s a title you might keep on your bookshelf for years to come.
Burattini found an audience by sharing his pencil drawings on Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram, where he regularly shares his works in progress. This drawing was created using black coloured pencils, graphite pencils and charcoal.
George Bridgman is a revered artist and he’s published a handful of books on many different subjects. One of his most well-known books is Bridgman’s Complete Guide to Drawing from Life.
“My focus is on the study of art and my personal development in all its branches, and I am obsessed with excellence in the creation of any product.”
But learning realism is very different from learning to illustrate or draw cartoons. It has a lot more to do with measuring and copying exactly what you see in front of you.
Her incredible pencil drawings are included in collections all over the world, and she has worked with clients including Nike, GQ, M&C Saatchi, The Economist and The New York Times.
Many of these techniques rely on construction first so you’ll learn how to block in certain areas of the figure fast.
Every chapter places a heavy focus on life drawing with the ultimate goal of realism. If you can express realistic ideals in your work then you’ll learn a lot from this book and take these exercises with you for years.
“Hyperrealism in my work displays the beauty of the imperfections perfectly, opening a door within the subject that is not normally depicted in real life,” says Italian artist Giacomo Burattini, who drew this unusual portrait.
“Although the drawings and paintings I make are based upon a series of photographs and video stills, I use softer and more complex focuses on the subject so that the resulting art presents it as a living, tangible being,” he explains.
If you want to improve your realist work then studying at an atelier is a great idea. But if you don’t have the time/money then Juliette’s book is the next best option.
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It’s certainly not the tome of pencil work but it does have a lot of advanced techniques that can bring your artistic skill up to the next level. The book is sizable with 210 pages and just over a dozen chapters.
But in the book How to Draw What You See you’ll learn valuable techniques for creating realistic drawings with both graphite and charcoal. This book starts with the absolute basics explaining forms, shadows, perspective, and even how to properly hold your pencil.
This incredible portrait of Hollywood actress Anne Hathaway is the work of Franco Clun, a self-taught artist from Italy, who has picked up everything he knows about drawing from reading manuals and plenty of practice.
She’s now moving in more experimental and abstract directions in her work, including very large-scale drawing projects based around the human figure.
Over 300+ pages you’ll learn how to set up and structure your life drawing work to get the most out of each session. The Complete Guide to Life Drawing simplifies anatomy and the figure so you learn exactly what to look for, and more importantly what to put down on paper.
Realism is defined by the details and how much effort you put into rendering. But rendering is just a fancier way of saying lights & shadows, both of which are kinda the same topic but work differently on the page.
It’s almost impossible to believe this incredible image is a pencil drawing
Drawing Realistic Textures in Pencil is your ultimate guide to rendering accurately in graphite. This book goes into every type of texture including glass, plastic, metal, wood, hair, you name it.
Illustration 18 phenomenally realistic pencil drawings 18 phenomenally realistic pencil drawings
Marcu created this study of a gorilla as his entry for The National Open Art Competition UK. “I’m pleased with the piece as it personally represents a big leap in scale, detail and patience,” he says. “It is roughly twice the size of my previous work and I learnt a lot working on this beast.”
Remember that no single book can make you a great artist. Only consistent practice can do that. But sometimes you need a nudge towards what to practice and this book offers far more than just a nudge in the right direction.
“The drawing process immersed me for hundreds of hours, interpreting and translating what I saw and felt from hundreds of reference photos, collected branches, twigs, and revisits to the site.”
All the materials are covered in the very first chapter so you’ll know exactly what you need to get this working. From there you can work through each lesson step-by-step or jump around using the index to find lessons that interest you the most.
This series by Cath Riley features hyperrealistic pencil drawings of flesh
This is one of the newest books in my list written by fine artist Leonardo Pereznieto. You Can Draw! follows 18 specific projects from start to finish aimed at anyone from novices to more experienced artists.
I usually recommend this for novice artists just getting started but it can also be useful for artists who haven’t practiced drawing from life very much.
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This mindblowingly realistic image of a cat was created by traditional artist Paul Lung. The Hong Kong-based creative’s portfolio on Deviant Art is astonishing, featuring realistic portraits of both humans and animals.
Realist artists need to do a lot of life drawing because it teaches everything you use in every type of visual art. This book goes far beyond the basics with 270 pages of tips, techniques, and exercises you can practice in the figure room.
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Almost every artist should practice realism in some way. Drawing from life is ultimately how you develop raw skill and translate that into anything you wanna do: animation, concept art, you name it.
Either way this book is a great read for anyone struggling to reach believable values in their pencil drawings.
But later lessons dive into more specific subjects like rocks, tables, gemstones, and even a glass of water(not an easy subject to draw!)
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If you’ve mostly just drawn cubes and shapes then you won’t be able to draw a chair or shoe from life. But by following these exercises you’ll learn how to approach anything from life and copy it accurately every time.
Some sections also cover basic shading on volumes like spheres and cylinders. This is more pertinent to cartoonists who construct forms out of their imagination.
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Each chapter includes all of Bridgman’s original sketches and visuals while including newer up-to-date qualities of the prints. This is the best copy of any Bridgman book you’ll find and it’s often a staple for many art colleges.
Giacomo Burattini believes his work highlights the beauty of imperfection
“The very act of drawing every branch, twig, highlight and shadow, rendering textures from the extreme winter skins to the silkiness of new-fallen snow, transforms the scene into an intimate journey. This undertaking is considerably different than merely taking a photo or simply being there,” he explains on his site.
What I like most about this writing style is how it’s super approachable. Anyone can pick up this book and work through it, plus these exercises are worth practicing many times over so this book is fantastic to come back and reference in the future.
Most professional artists agree that drawing the human figure is a necessity to improve your skillset. Everyone has a different method of life drawing, but ultimately the goal is to improve your overall understanding of capturing life.
The author discusses many styles of pencil drawing with chapters on life drawing and cast drawing, both of which are valuable exercises for realist artists. Later chapters get into constructing drawings from reference photos and how to bring your values into the work.
Armin Mersmann’s work has been featured in exhibitions all over the world
Entitled Sensazioni (sensations, in English) this mind-blowing pencil drawing was created by artist Diego Fazio. Over a period of roughly 200 hours, Fazio drew this intricate piece, which we still – no matter how long we look at it – cannot believe is a drawing. Simply amazing.
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The very early exercises talk about color, material choice, design style, and how to work with shading to create a realistic effect on the page.
I am a huge fan of Bert Dodson’s Keys to Drawing. It has been around for almost thirty years and it’s still one of the best books for beginners to learn accurate drawing skills.
Just note the digital/ebook version is terrible so it’s recommended that you go with a print copy if you want quality visuals.
With the right learning materials you can pick up realist work fast and that’s why I curated this massive list of books to get you started on the right track.
“From the age of five, I started drawing, and over time I added more skills, such as drawing, painting, sculpture, all types of graphic design, caricature and digital photography,” explains Stefan Marcu, the artist behind this stunningly realistic gorilla portrait.
Realist art is about re-creating life but often includes a certain style or depth. Value choice is a huge part of this process when you’re working with black & white. This book offers some handy tips on shading and how to think about value in your work.
Self-taught South African artist Jono Dry has quickly earned a name for himself with his unique style of drawing that blends photorealism and surrealism on a massive scale. His work has the look of vintage photography, but usually with an unsettling or incongruous twist; if you like the look of it, he has prints available to buy through his Etsy shop.
This is not the only way to draw, but it is the most relevant for beginners learning realism along with cartoonists or illustrators who don’t do much realism in their primary work. Definitely a nice read for any aspiring entertainment artists or anyone just starting with realist drawing.
Arinze Stanley has been honing his skills since the age of six
Drawing from Life is more of a traditional figure drawing book with an emphasis on realism.
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Some artists spend decades practicing realism so you can’t expect to become a maestro overnight. But with enough practice and the right learning materials you can make huge strides in just a few months of consistent work.