Blogging for Books Review: The Realism Challenge by Mark Crilley

A month or two ago, I heard from a friend about Blogging for Books, a website that will send you a free book in exchange for an honest review. "Free books??" I thought, "Sign me up!"

I chose The Realism Challenge: Drawing and Painting Secrets from a Modern Master of Hyperrealism by Mark Crilley as my first book. In it, Crilley teaches you to take an object and reproduce it exactly using pencil and water color, with 30 projects that increase in difficulty. 

For those of you who don't know, for the last year or two I've been dabbling in teaching myself to draw, with moderate success. Prior to reading this book I had decided that I perhaps had some artistic talent, but I had a long way to go before I had much to show for it.

Crilley starts out the book with a handy introduction on the materials you'll want to use, which I really appreciated. As an untrained amateur artist, I wouldn't have known where to start otherwise!

Among his recommendations were: A pencil, smooth surface Bristol paper, a set of watercolors, good colored pencils, one tiny and one medium paintbrush, and white gouache (an opaque white paint used to add highlights to objects).

The best thing about this book is that Crilley starts out incredibly slowly: the first two projects are torn paper and folded paper, wherein you focus only on reproducing the exact size and dimensions of the object (he recommends tracing!) and the shadows. He works through each project in 6 steps, showing you how to reproduce your version of the item.

My attempt at folded paper:

After familiarizing yourself with black and white objects, Crilley has the reader move on to simple objects with just a touch of color, while still focusing primarily on recreating the size and shadow. 

My popcorn:

From there, he moves you slowly into objects that have more color and complexity.

A view of my work in progress:

You wouldn't think a scrap of cardboard would be at all interesting or difficult to reproduce, but the longer you look at it, the more you realize the interesting variations in color and texture. The entire process becomes quite meditative, as you carefully examine every minute aspect of the object, in an attempt to honestly and accurately render it on paper.

I've only made it through 6 projects in the book (so far!), but I've really appreciated how carefully Crilley selects projects that build upon skills the reader has acquired. When I began, I looked at later projects and thought, "I'll never be able to do that!" But as I've spent time working through projects, my skill and ability to see and reproduce details have increased.

Some seashells:

(Not going to lie, I'm really proud of those up there!!!)

I think this book would be great for anyone with minimal drawing experience, as Crilley carefully and unobtrusively guides the reader in learning to see and reproduce details. 

Overall, this has been an excellent opportunity to practice my artistic skills, and I greatly look forward to doing more exercises (next up: a cookie!). 

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.


melissa said…
good for you, catherine! you're quite good.
ivrcti said…
You've presented a well expressed review of what sounds like a great beginner's book. Thanks!
Whoah! Your drawings are amazing - sehr impressiv!

I am slogging through my B4B selection...I chose poorly...

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