“Drawing is still basically the same as it has been since prehistoric times. It brings together man and the world. It lives through magic.”
– Keith Haring
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Art is expression, and drawing is one of the oldest (if not the oldest) for of expression and communication that mankind has. Cave paintings are tens of thousands of years old, and evidence from 2011 suggests that it is because of drawing that we eventually came up with written language.
Drawing also played a huge role in scientific discovery, most notably the Renaissance, when great persons like Galileo Galilei and Leonardo da Vinci used the medium to document their findings and experiments. The Renaissance also saw drawing grow in popularity, as paper was beginning to be more widely available.
With the advent of photography, the medium started loosing its appeal as a method of accurately representing the visual world, so drawings became more abstract in nature, encouraged by the modernist movement.
However, there are still a few artists out there that prefer drawing, and today we will be looking at one of them.
Her name is Monica Lee, and her hyperrealistic drawings are proof that the medium is in no way inferior to photography.
Born in Malaysia, she spent 12 years as a digital artist, before turning her attention to illustration. Her father is one of her major influences, and she credits him for her love of hyperrealism, as her father was a photographer.
Her works are often inspired from photographic portraits, taking between 3 to 4 weeks to transition them to paper, but the end results are definitely worth it, as you are about to see.
We start off our list with this marvelous illustration of Fili, Thorin’s nephew from The Hobbit. The thing that gets us here, as it does in most illustration, is how much attention is paid in making the hair, and there is lots of it in this image. You have the intricately designed braids (both in the beard and on the head), as well as the fur on the clothes. An absolutely titanic job, executed perfectly.
Birds of prey on t-shirts are pretty darn kitsch, let’s face it. In fact, birds of prey on pretty much anything is not really the best fashion decision you could make, whether you are a designer or a follower. Monica’s illustration, however, we are comfortable with saying that we would proudly wear on whatever we could get it on. Making the feather had to be painstaking work, but what really gets us is how alive the eyes seem to be.
This piece took Monica 6 weeks to finish, and it is plain to see why. It is called Shanghai, and it depicts two elderly woman and a wee child in a mundane scene in what appears to be a market. You can visit her Instagram profile by clicking the image’s source link, and see a few details and WIPs of this drawing, as the image’s size here really does not do it justice. The background is absolutely breathtaking in how detailed it is, and we love how natural the subjects’ postures are.
4. Inspired by Erwin Olaf I
Inspired by a photo done by Erwin Olaf, Monica used a graphite and white pastel pencil on gray paper to create this piece. The hair does not seem to be quite as well made as it is in the drawing of Fili, but she more than makes up for it with the rest of the drawing. We especially like the little tear in the coat, through which you can see the shirt underneath, keeping the same texture.
5. Inspired by Erwin Olaf II
Basically the same thing as the previous drawing, only with different elements. There’s something post-apocalyptic and steampunk about this image, so we would have adored it by default, no matter how good it actually was. Thankfully, it is an absolutely marvelous piece.
Named Sebastian, this is a portrait of Sebastian Da Capo, health enthusiast, photographer, biology student, and somewhat of a Instagram celebrity. We will not beat around the bush, and go ahead and say that the man’s beard is simply majestic. Monica does a terrific job of capturing both Sebastian’s awesome facial hair, and his intense stare.
7. Inspired by Marteline Nystad
Made after a photo done by Marteline Nystad, we think that this piece feels even more real than the photograph that inspired it. Putting the two side by side, what you essentially get is the very definition of hyperrealism, and that is why we consider this her absolute best work to date.
8. Work in progress
This drawing is still a work in progress, but it already is a completely stunning piece. The eyes, eyelashes and eyebrows are really well executed, and the subject’s facial expression is so very life-like. As a matter a fact, leaving it like this be a pretty interesting artistic decision.
9. The Great Hornbill
The Great Hornbill is one of only a few drawings that Monica has done with color, and we definitely want to see more (the next item on our list is another brightly colored piece). It reminds us of natural history illustration done in the past by illustrators like Joris Hoefnagel or Joseph Wolf, and it would definitely not be out of place in an encyclopedia.
Like we said, we want to see more of these. Forever!
Back to the world of monochrome, and to the world of The Hobbit. This time we have an illustration of Bifur, one Thorin’s most loyal (and hairy) followers.
We wrap up our list with a final illustration inspired by The Hobbit, namely an illustration of Óin.
That concludes our article on Monica Lee. As you have seen, she is an absolutely amazing artist, and we will definitely be keeping an eye on her. If you want to do the same, go ahead and check out her Instagram and Facebook profiles, and see lots more of her awesome works.
We would love to hear your thoughts on our article, and find out which of the drawings we presented are your favorites, so don’t forget to tell us in the comment section below.