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.
If you’re looking for him on social media, you’ll probably find him under the name DiegoKoi. Diego Fazio is a self-taught artist, who is a master of understanding the dynamics of shade and light and translating them into powerfully detailed pencil drawings. Diego Fazio earned his nickname by drawing koi. While his drawings fall under the the description of hyper-realism, he tends to challenge his own realism by picking perspectives that change the appearance of his subjects or refract their images. For instance he is a master of drawing wet faces as well as faces that are reflected through wet glass. Diego Fazio has won many awards for his drawings which have been shown all over the world.
“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.”
“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.”
A few hundred years later, our contemporary artists are mastering the art of pencil drawing. Unlike in those past eras when artistic masters might only have been “found” after they died, the digital era and social media allows you to see talented contemporary masters in the here and now. Whether its hyper-realism or surrealism, graphite drawing is blowing up right now, and here’s what you need to know about the scene.
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.”
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Illustration 20 phenomenally realistic pencil drawings 20 phenomenally realistic pencil drawings
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.
Jay Varma’s skills have been recognised by many, with his work featuring in various prominent publications. In his pencil drawings, Varma pays particular attention to mood and lighting.
“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.
The Most Famous Graphite Pencil Artists and Drawings in History
“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.
Varma captures every tiny detail in his coloured pencil drawings
How to draw and paint – 100 pro tips and tutorials01. Franco Clun – Anne Hathaway
The practice of making detailed graphite pencil drawings goes back to the the 17th and 18th centuries, when Plumbago drawings were popular for minor portraits. Plumbago refers to the combination of graphite and clay that makes up the core of most graphite pencils even to this day. These plumbago portraits were primarily drawn on vellum, not paper, and their details and shading tend to be lighter than the hyper-realistic pencil portraits of today
Randy Owen creates incredibly realistic pencil drawings – like this image of Samuel L Jackson, drawn using Mars Lumograph black pencils – in his spare time.
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.
She’s now moving in more experimental and abstract directions in her work, including very large scale drawing projects based around the human figure.
The winner of 2012 ArtPrize Competition, Adonna Khare is a contemporary artist from the United States who combines realistic depictions of animals with fabulist, image-based storytelling. She tries to create work that is relevant to our world, but, in doing so, she asks us to see her messages through different perspectives. Adonna Khare’s artwords are large-scale carbon and graphite pencil drawings. Adonna Khare has currently put together a coloring book of her work, so that you can join in on the beauty of her imagined animal-based world while practicing your colored pencil skills.
Marco Mazzoni is an Italian artist who merges design and botanical elements into modernist portraits with his pencil drawings. While his portraits of 16th-18th century Sardinian herbalists, their associated flowers, butterflies, and other assorted critters, show a knack for realistic drawing, Marco Mazzoni’s colored pencil drawings make their imprint with a powerful usage of negative space and a flair for design. As an artist Mazzoni has had his work displayed in Italy, the United States, and throughout Europe.
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.
Paul Lung is a self-taught hyper-realistic graphite pencil artist who seeks to develop and improve his skills with each new work. He works as a designer and still postsmuch of his work in progress on DeviantArt. He renders animals, particularly cats, with careful attention to texture, shade, and light. Lung also has a great volume of excellent graphite portraits in his portfolio.
This series by Cath Riley features hyperrealistic pencil drawings of flesh
The time in which each takes depends on his subject matter, with this particular A2 pencil drawing taking Lung approximately 60 hours to complete.
Give self-taught artist Jay Varma a set of coloured pencils and a piece of paper and it will undoubtedly result in a gorgeous illustration, like this architectural study.
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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.
“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.
Known as PEZ on various social media websites, Pierre-Yves Riveau is a French artist who focuses his efforts on both content and detail to offer statement pieces with realistic rendering. PEZ works in many mediums, including painting, illustration, and graphic design. In each medium, his concept pieces are always fascinating. Often including social commentary, PEZ offers new perspectives on the lives we live and the things we do. These creative designs and illustrations include questions of personality and the environment. PEZ’s portraits are symbolic and impressionistic rather than realistic. In all cases, he highlights the key features of his drawings with stunning and clever pencil rendering to make his point.
Art runs throughout Varma’s family, his grandfather being master oil painter Raja Ravi Varma – one of the most highly regarded artists in India.
Paul Cadden is a Scottish contemporary artist who turns his artistic eye to urban scenes and everyday people doing everyday things. He is able to represent these scenes with photographic reliability, such that his style lies in his perspective, choice of subject, and treatment of that subject. Cadden’s gorgeous detail tends more toward the lighter side of graphite drawings than most hyper-realists. His dark lines and negative space tend to be less dark than you might expect, giving you the sense that you are looking at an old photo.
A graphite artist from London, Cath Riley finds her niche in the intimates spaces of portrait and drawing study. These graphite artworks do not just present their subjects with photographic accuracy, but they also form meditations on human relationship and longing. With drawings of hands grasping skin and body parts, she is able to put a whole realm of need and expectation into the greyscale of graphite. She explains her drawings as continuing expansions and evolutionary development.
“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.”
“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.”
Hector Gonzales focuses many of his graphite pencil drawings on mastering depictions of eyes. He is known to draw eyes of all types. His eyes are descriptive enough to be illustrative of faces as whole, but often enough he doesn’t stop at the eyes. While his work is realistic, he is comfortable drawing from the imagining, bringing fantasy creatures to life with the same shade and light that would make any more human feature feel real. You can find his work on Instagram @hg_art.
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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 artwork here. Enjoy…
On his ridiculously good Deviant art portfolio, he explains his aim: “Portraying the human essence in a traditionalist manner, while not being ignorant about contemporary trends, is my goal as a craftsperson.”
German artist Armin Mersmann is the man behind this chilly woodland scene. Although he also works with oils, Mersmann is most 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 masterworks of these 9 graphite artists are sure to get your creative juices flowing and give you some ideas as to what you can do with graphite, given the time and practice. Not to mention this is just the tip of the iceberg as to extremely talented contemporary graphite masters. Connect with them on social media and look for new artist to follow to start expanding your own artistic horizons in the field of pencil drawing.
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.
Dzimirsky is a German artist who draws hyper-realistic pencil artworks. It is easy to mistake Dirk Dzimirsky’s works for photographs, as he achieves the goal of hyper-realism, which is to render in art an image of photographic reliability. He is able to masterfully capture unique aspects of human features and human emotions through observing and translating the tiny details of human appearance. His work has been displayed in exhibitions all over the world.
It’s almost impossible to believe this incredible image is a pencil drawing
Mersmann’s work has been featured in exhibitions all over the world
Burattini believes his work highlights the beauty of imperfection
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.
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.