realistic portrait graphite pencil drawing

Family – 25-01-22 (sold)

Back to Realism

This graphite pencil drawing ‘Family – 25-01-22 (sold)’ is a commissioned piece, just as the last commission ‘Opa – 14-04-21 (sold)’. As said before I hardly take portrait commissions these days. That is because I have so many ideas to be put on paper and wood panel. However, drawing in a realistic style can be fun too, once per year for example. It feels like a reset to realism. I wanted to check again what may come when I put my mind to it. After all, my deviations in the abyss of artistic search are widespread. They took me from cubism, the surreal, expressionism and back. Well, a realistic art work once in a while can do no harm.

What is Realism

What is realism anyway? I challenge my students often to think about it. Is a real object dictating realism, only to be caught by the beholder? Or might it be so that realism is what you want it to be? Often I have the feeling it is the latter because I have made so many realistic works and they all are different. Sometimes I use hatched strokes and in other cases the abstraction level is higher. I came to realize that the image the beholder has in her of his head is the only real thing. My images that trigger them certainly are not. They are mere stains of graphite, oil paints and pastel. Therefor is realism what I want it to be. Something real is what you associate it with.


In this case I had to come up with a couple of solutions in devation of the reference picture. Of course the children are lovely but the picture itself lacked artistic quality. The background was white and so was the left girl’s shirt. Besides that, the photo was taken with flashlight. Doing a reshoot wasn’t an option since the picture was made a quarter of a century ago. I decided to draw the background with some gradients and show more shadows in the folds of the attire. I kept the flowery decorations of the girl in the middle quite abstract so it would not catch all the attention. There you have it: realism is what you want it to be!

Graphite pencil drawing (Sakura mechanical pen, Pentel 0.5 mm, 4B) on Canson Bristol paper (29.7 x 42 x 0.1 cm – A3 format)

Artist: Corné Akkers