I don’t consider myself artistic in any way, shape, or form, so when offered the chance to review Mark Crilley‘s new book The Realism Challenge: Drawing and Painting Secrets from a Modern Master of Hyperrealism, I jumped at it.

Deep down, don’t most of us wish we could at least draw and have our work look like what it’s suppose to, rather than a two-year old’s scribbling? It’s something I’ve always wanted, and I’ve bought book after book after book in search of “the secret” that will help me unleash some hidden talent. Ok, that might be a bit dramatic, but I have bought the books, and I still want to learn to draw.

Most books I’ve found are a bit too technical in my opinion, so I had my doubts about this book before even cracking it open. I’m happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of Crilley‘s approach. The book is broken down into an Introduction and six sections as follows:

  1. Simulating Shadows
  2. Adding Color
  3. Advanced Surfaces
  4. Transparent Objects
  5. Metallic Surfaces
  6. Manufactured Objects

The Introduction is only five pages long and after giving a brief description of the book, it basically gives you a shopping list. Fortunately, I possess many of the materials it calls for, so no shopping for me!! Chapters 1 & 2 are key to succeeding at the Realism Challenge. So let’s look at how the book is laid out. Chapter 1 contains five objects, beginning with something simple and progressing in difficulty. There is a brief explanation and then Crilley gives you step by step instruction on creating your own drawing of the image. For this first chapter, the focus is on getting the shadows right.

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As you can see in the images above. The explanations are on the left and numbered and those correspond to the images on the right page that are likewise numbered. After all of the steps, Crilley shows you his results. The item is on the left and his drawing of that image is on the right.

Chapter 2 is laid out the exact same way but focuses on adding color to images via watercolors or colored pencils. Again, it begins with something simple, in this case a piece of cardboard, and then progresses to more difficult challenges, the last being toast with jam.

Once you’ve completed the challenges for chapters 1 & 2,  chapter 3 combines both shadows and color with surfaces that are more difficult to draw. The chapter begins with a piece of porcelain plate and ends with strawberries, as seen below.

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After these three chapters the book focuses on different types of materials and the unique challenges they present. These chapters keep the same simplistic layout, making it easy to follow.

What I really love about this book, if you haven’t guessed, is it’s simplicity. I never felt like I had to learn the history of realism and know and understand all of the technical terms for drawing in this manner. The book doesn’t bore you before getting you started in the actual drawing process. It offers you the ability to jump right in and get started. Read the first chapter, go shopping, and then dive right in to the realism challenge. I intend on doing this very thing. Give me a week or two and I’ll let you know how it goes for me. Let’s draw together!

Realism Challenge can be purchased at Amazon, or your local book store.

Overall Score
95 %

This "how to" book doesn't bore you with terms and history. What it DOES do is jumps right into the drawing with simple step-by-step instructions. I can't wait to try it.

Layout 100%
Simplicity 100%
Variety of Objects to Draw 80%

About The Author

My name is Dianna, and I hail from the land of the lakes, aka Michigan. My full time job has me running a writing center, teaching writing classes (hopefully soon teaching a comics course), and doing all sorts of techy things, since that’s what I did in a previous life.

At this point in my life, comics are both my passion and my research. I am lucky in that I get to combine my passion into my everyday work. But here at Destroy the Cyborg I get to have fun and chat about what I'm reading. Feel free to chime in on my post, even if it's to tell my how dead wrong I got something.

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