Realistic Drawings from Photos

I've been creating realistic drawings from photos since 2012. My (Amy Watts) drawings are created in a highly realistic style using charcoal on acid-free 100% cotton paper. (See specifics). The drawings usually take from 8-20 hours to complete. Because the subjects are usually living things that don't want to sit still for that amount of time, I use reference photos taken personally when possible, supplied by the client, or purchased from stock photo sites.

The realistic drawing process is a blend of craftsmanship and artistry. My goal is to make the drawing even more beautiful than the photo. Knowing inaccuracies can distract from the art and the subject, I take great care to make sure the finished drawing resembles the subject as closely as possible. I understand clients not only want a beautifully-drawn portrait, they want to see their beloved pet or person.

A short film of the realistic drawing process.

Art Materials

Although there are many great brands of art supplies, these are the ones I've found work for me:

  • Generals & Primo charcoal pencils in HB, 2B, 4B, 6B, Elite #5000
  • Strathmore 500 Bristol paper, plate finish in 11" x 14" for smaller, 1-subject drawings and 14" x 17" for larger animals or multiple subjects. I use the the plate finish because it's smoother than the vellum for fine detail. The cotton surface stands up to multiple layers of blending and erasing without damaging the surface.
  • Generals Factis Mechanical Eraser for highlights, light fur, and hair.
  • Various paint brushes. Actually, makeup brushes are an effective, economical blending tool.
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