PK 030: Kevin Kramer – Why 4 Pencils And a Napkin Are All You Need For Super Realistic Pencil Portraits

PK 030: Kevin Kramer – Why 4 Pencils And a Napkin Are All You Need For Super Realistic Pencil Portraits 2 030 podcast kevin kramer 01

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A hyperrealistic pencil portrait by Kevin Kramer

“My approach to drawing has always been to just keep it simple!”

Have you ever looked at those amazing realistic pencil portraits and wondered how the artists achieved such incredible effects? It seems pretty complicated, right? But what if we told you that four pencils were all you needed to get awesome results? And that a simple napkin or piece of tissue paper can actually give you better blends than any expensive art tools?

In this podcast interview, we talk to Kevin Kramer, an artist from Austin, Texas. He’s already helped artists all over the world develop their pencil drawing skills and get the results they’ve always wanted. The hyperrealism of his own pencil portraits is the result of many hours of work, and one piece can sometimes take months to complete. However, it’s the art materials he uses that may surprise you, because there’s nothing more complicated going on here than four grades of pencil and a paper napkin.

So what are these grades of pencil he’s using? Are they some super-rare blend of the finest graphite, extracted from rocks in the furthermost corners of the world? Nope. They’re the same regular pencils you can buy in any stationery or art store. So go there today and put these in your basket:

2H, 2B, 6B and anything between an 8 or 9B.

You won’t have to learn any top-secret Ninja knife skills when sharpening your pencils, either. Just a regular metal pencil sharpener like you see in anyone’s pencil case will do the trick.

And the final part of your essential realistic pencil portraits toolkit? A spare piece paper and a napkin. Just draw a circle, fill it in using one of your softer pencils, and pick up the graphite on the page using your tissue paper. Using this, you’ll be able to achieve some awesome smooth blends for skintones and tonal variations.

Kevin is a huge fan of keeping things simple. When starting one of his hyperrealistic pencil drawings, he likes to simplify the forms first and uses the good ol’ fashioned squinting technique to help him work out where the areas of contrast should be. He takes his lead from the famous Andrew Loomis quote: “Always make your darks darker than you think and make your lights lighter than you think.” Try it yourself and you won’t go far wrong! And, talking of trying things out, Kevin urges everyone to experiment and have fun with their art, saying: “Don’t be afraid of making mistakes! Just enjoy trying new techniques out and see which one works for you.”

His site, Drawing and Coloring Blog, features a range of resources which are a nice add-on to any of the video courses on Pencil Kings. Alternatively, take a look at his Shading Masters course to pick up even more tips. Once you’ve got your hands on those all-important four pencils, why not try out some realistic pencil portraits today and share your work on our community site or our new #teampk Facebook page?

Listen to this week’s show and learn:

  • Why just 4 pencils are all you need to get going
  • How to simplify your drawings for epic results
  • Why the best tools are often not the most expensive

People on this Episode:


Mentioned in the episode:

Kevin’s Website
Kevin on TwitterKevin on Youtube
Kevin on Pinterest
Kevin’s Shading Masters Course

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