Drawing Realism & Painting Realism

photo of paintbrushes

How do you create realism?

As a contemporary realist artist, you're an observer, designer, and a visionary. You're a creative maker, an artisan, well on your way to mastering your craft.

No lack of resources, support, or lack of education can stop you. The most likely obstacle that you'll encounter on your way to mastery will be you. It's time to get out of your own way.

I'm on a quest to take my work to new levels. I'm sharing everything I learn along the way. My goal is to help you take your art to a higher level.

Want to make your drawings and paintings look more realistic? Let's get started.

What is realism?

Realism in art sometimes refers to a specific art movement from the past where subjects were drawn and painted as they were, in their natural state with little to no embellishment.

For our purposes, realism in art simply means drawing or painting what we see. We are drawing or painting realistically. This is often called modern realism or contemporary realism. By making art that looks realistic, we are creating representational art. Representational art, modern realism, and realistic art are pretty much the same.

Realistic artworks can be created in a wide variety of styles, from loosely painted to tightly controlled. The thing about art and realism is that the subjects or objects are recognizable. The proportions are believable. A drawing of Sally looks like Sally. A painting of fruit looks like fruit.

Photorealism and hyperrealism are extreme versions of realism. Both are painstakingly accurate depictions, capturing details so well that the painting may look photographic. Photographic realism requires meticulous attention to detail. Realistic paintings that look like photos are photorealistic.

What is realism in art vs. naturalism?

Originally, realism was an art or literary movement. Realism in art or fiction historically depicted the ordinary lives of common people. Like modern realism, realistic paintings and drawings depicted things as they were in real life. Naturalism is said to be a somewhat darker version of this style. Naturalistic paintings and drawings went a bit darker, often depicting the effects of crime, violence, etc.

Today, I'd say that realism in art is primarily concerned with representation. Modern realism may be considered an art style.

How to describe realism in art?

I would describe realism in art as making art that looks real. When we draw realistic drawings, paint realistic paintings, or try to capture a person's likeness in a portrait, we are striving to create a sense of realism.

What is a modern realist artist?

Modern realist artists tend to represent people, places, and things realistically. They tend to be observers, drawing and painting what they see.

Quick tips for drawing realistic:

  • Draw with straight lines
  • Achieve believable proportions
  • Draw lightly and build up layers slowly
  • Focus on the shadow shapes
  • Turn the form by blending the midtones
  • Don't outline anything, create areas of light and shadow
  • Don't make the darks too dark or the lights too light

Quick tip for pencil drawing realism:

Work with a variety of art pencils. Sharpen your pencils often, using only the sharpest of pencil points. This helps keep your marks light.

Understand art pencil degrees of hardness and buy a variety of pencils that vary in the degree of hardness, softness, or blackness. Harder pencil leads make lighter marks. It's best to start light and build up layers slowly.

Ideas for painting realism:

Want to paint realism and need ideas? Consider painting one of the following:

  • Realistic paintings of nature
  • Realistic paintings of people
  • Realistic paintings of animals
  • Realistic paintings of objects or still lifes
  • Realistic paintings of flowers
  • Realistic paintings of fruit
  • Realistic paintings of food
  • Realistic paintings of trees
  • Realistic paintings of water

photo of a realistic painting

Looking for ways to bring your art to the next level? Me too! I'm on a quest to take my artwork to new levels. I'm sharing everything I learn along the way.

Artwork Examples

Flower Oil Painting Flower Oil Painting
Oil Painting of Hand
Madonna oil painting
Oil painting portrait Portraits
Oil Painting of Hand Hands