What’s Real?


This stunning painting, by Mark Tennant, pushes the concept of realism to its limit. With so little information to guide the viewer, why does it still appear so realistic? The answer lies mainly in strong draftsmanship and an accurate use of values. These two qualities are the most important skills to master for any aspiring realism artist.

Draftsmanship or the ability to draw shapes and proportions accurately is usually the first skill an artist attempts to master. However, the importance of values — or how to render light and dark features correctly in relation to each other — is often overlooked or improperly executed by beginners (not to mention many professionals!).

The human eye, as advanced as it is, evolved from what was originally just a few light-sensitive cells. For a long time, all one could perceive was shades of grey blobs. And for this reason, the perception of value is still the most deeply associated quality we equate with visual reality.

So, how do we master value painting? More on that in the next post.

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