Adventures in Photo-Realism

Without ever contemplating its importance, drawing has been a life-long consideration. It was always there, always used, yet never fully appreciated until I went to Art College.

At Camberwell I discovered a love of the purity and simplicity of applying graphite to paper. I undertook drawing from photographs because I wanted to hone my skills with a pencil, with the idea to eventually move on to drawing whatever I felt like, in a surrealist and non figurative manner.
Along the way I became so enamoured with the photograph as a medium, and what could be gleaned from it when undertaking a drawing that, instead of moving away from sourcing my drawings from photography they became utterly dependant on them.

The pieces ‘Destroy Something’ (2005) and ‘Industrial Revolutions’ (2006) show influences ranging from the early photo-montage work of John Heartfield and the Pop Art collages of Richard Heartfield.
Taking images from sources such as my own photography, flyers and magazine pages I created composite images in an effort to bring together scenes and circumstances that would appear hyper-realistic, yet highly improbable, whilst adding a dystopian tinge.

 Through imitating the black and white photographic image via graphite onto paper I am juxtaposing two methods of representation generally felt to have contradictory associations.
Photography, although subject to choices of viewpoint, angle and exposure still maintains its general cultural consideration as the most literal, reliable and enduring of imagery when compared to the figurative, subjective and transient methods of the more traditional methods of painting, printing and drawing.

Within my final year at Camberwell I hit a brick wall. My investigation of the photo-realistic drawing made me consider more closely the relationship between the two media; I realised my drawings, no matter how perfect, could never exactly replicate the photographic image.
However, therein lay the most important aspect of the work: What use is a drawing that is identical to a photograph? It has no purpose and thus has rendered itself defunct.
The imperfections that crop up through my scrutiny are what gives them something extra; these drawings are more than the sum of their parts – by mimicking photographs I am inadvertently adding and removing elements, humanising a mechanical process and validating the effort. This exploration continues to this day and can be seen in the recent short film and its drawings - Why Photorealism? (2011)

Examining the drawing/photograph relationship I experimented with darkroom techniques and had a true ‘Eureka’ moment from which I developed a process I termed the “Photolineam” process, (‘lineam’ arising from the latin word ‘lineamentum’ which means ‘to draw’). It involves a merging and folding of the two things: the photograph is used to inform the drawing and the drawing is then returned to a photograph; each stage witnesses both a degradation and enhancing of elements characteristic to each. Each drawing requires a painstaking process, taking some 6 weeks and facilitated by a large angle-poise magnifying glass.

The result is a tentative amalgamation of the two. My favourite example of this process is the last piece in my ‘Urban Life’ series, ‘Camberwell Grove (Private Property Residents Only)’ 2007. It most adequately displays my objective of linking the metaphors of the decaying photographic image (it’s ailing properties of ‘truth’) to the decay of society, epitomised by ‘60’s architecture. Along with all the complexities of the photographic image produced by the camera there is the added interpretation of my drawings, dragging the ‘truth’ further and further out of sight.


After finishing my degree I took some needed time off. Unable to wholly give up drawing I took to rendering portraits from photographs of famous actors and musicians. These drawings, although distinct from my degree work are no less time and effort dependant.
‘Depardieu’ 2008, was the first in my series of iconic men. My major work thus far is "David" (2010), an endeavour that took over 270 hours and can be now seen on the site, as well as a link to the short film Drawing David Bowie. The long duration of the experience caused an almost viceral element to its execution- my approach to the drawing held between a love of doing, a loathing of the task and the buzz of creation.

Within my body of work there appears a fissure - on one side I create works that examine bleak, desolate landscapes of urban spaces, whilst on the other side their remains are more optimist part of me that feels the urge to scrutinise and examine people, whether it be in graphite, or in oil, such as the recent work Eileen.

With this in mind I am more than willing to consider a commission, of either a celebrity or family member; please feel free to get in contact.

Gerard Depardieu
Gerard Depardieu (2008), graphite on paper

Grove Lane, South London
(Private Property Residents Only) (2007), graphite on paper

Destroy Something (2005), graphite on paper