Realistic Looking Art - A Tip

A photograph showing my first progress shot.

Progress shot 1 from my acrylic painting A Little Light © 2014.

A number of years ago my friend and I used to write songs together. My friend was fantastic on the harmonica and I was keen to learn one of his techniques, how he could bend notes. So I asked him how he did it. His answer was "You just feel it man, you feel the note bending and it bends itself". I insisted that there must be a particular skill or technique to it, so I wanted him to explain. I was expecting him to say that he changed the shape of his mouth or maybe he contolled his breathing, or at least something like that. But instead he repeated again "Just feel it man, just feel it".

The question I most often get asked about my artwork is "How do you get it to look so realistic?". The simple answer is years and years of practice. I realise that answer is about as helpful as the one my friend gave to me, but there's not an easy answer for me to give. What I can do however is give a few tips.

My favoured style of painting is built up using layers. Many, many layers. The technique works for both real paint (like acrylics or oils) and digital artworks. Each new layer is an opportunity to not only add new colour, but to add details and refine shapes too. As you can see from the first progress shot (above), I don't start with a detailed, precise drawing that is paintstakingly coloured in.

A photograph showing my second progress shot.

Progress shot 2 from my acrylic painting A Little Light © 2014.

I don't start with precise base layers of colour either but I do make things more precise with each new layer that I paint. By reworking the shape and position of all the features I begin to get more accuracy and, resultantly, a greater likeness and realism. I add more colour and do some blending as I go too. But I don't worry too much about making little mistakes, they can always be fixed in the next layer (or layers).

A photograph showing the finished painting.

The finished painting A Little Light © 2014.

The result, if you do it right, is quite realistic. But not too realistic that it could just be a photo. There's a huge amount more involved in what I do to create art, but when I break it down to the basics, that's essentially what I do. There's no simple answer or quick fix on how to paint the way I like to. It's a bloomin' hard thing to do and it's even harder to perfect. Even so, don't dwell on mistakes, they can be fixed.

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