The pen is mightier: Artist’s ink drawings resemble photographsWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
To see his art is to not believe it.
At first glance, your mind just sees them as photographs. A tiger. A cat. A woman with red hair. They are lush, beautiful photos, to be sure. Then you look closer, and you realize you’re looking at a drawing. You take a moment to marvel at the skill of the artist involved. Then you find out his medium — pen. BIC ballpoint pen, to be precise. And everyone has the same reaction — No, this isn’t possible.
Samuel Silva is his name, and the artist from Portugal has begun making a name for himself worldwide through postings of his work on DeviantArt (VianaArts.DeviantArt.com) and Facebook. His art has been featured on HuffingtonPost.com, MSN.com, Mental Floss and more. He has had offers to exhibit his work at galleries around the planet. All this for a man who still considers his art nothing more than a hobby.
“I got interested in art as soon as I held a pencil for the very first time in my life, when I was 2 years old, soon after my grandfather died,” Silva said in an email interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “My mother gave me a pencil and a piece of paper hoping I would make some random lines, but instead I instinctively drew a perfectly recognizable butterfly hovering over a recognizable flower.
“She wasn’t looking at me, it wasn’t until [later] when my father found the drawing in my hands and ran to show it to my mother. She thought he was kidding and that it had been him who drew it, but she was shocked when he told her it had been me. It was then when they realized I was different somehow.”
Silva didn’t begin working with his signature implement until he was 13, when, like most bored kids in class, he began to doodle with his pen. Now, as a grown man practicing law in Portugal, Silva’s work provides a different kind of distraction — a much longer, more painstaking outlet for his creative side.
“I like to look and draw the traditional old-school way. Since I was a kid I always heard that tracing or drawing over projections or transparencies was cheating, so I never used those methods and I still don’t. I don’t need them and never did anyway,” Silva said.
Not that his works are completely unguided. Each piece is an emulation of an original photograph. His famous portrait named “Redhead Girl” is drawn from a photo of a Russian model, for example.
“I use a grid on the original reference photo (not that I need one at this point but it saves time) and then can control the size of the final drawing very accurately,” Silva said.
“I mainly use shading and cross-hatching techniques. It is very time consuming especially with this medium, drawings can take from 20 to 500 hours depending on the size. It is painstaking patience work.”
Silva uses only eight colors of ink for his work, creating the illusion of colors he doesn’t have by layering the pen strokes on top of each other. Sometimes he doesn’t even need all eight — Silva noted on his DeviantArt page that “Redhead Girl” only required six BIC colors.
It’s easy to see why Silva’s work has garnered a great deal of attention, but the artist still claims he was surprised when his DeviantArt page began to go viral.
“I was very surprised when art students from high schools and universities around the world started asking questions for their exams and papers about me. They were studying my work as they study other great masters, all of them dead, and I’m still alive and young, so, big surprise there,” he said. “Also university art teachers inviting me to come to their class to give a lecture about my style.
“The main goal I had when I stated exhibiting my work on the Internet was to share what I have with other artists and appreciate what other artists have to share, that way we can mutually benefit from each other’s art.
“Like everyone else I’m always learning and evolving, I help others and others help me, that’s what the art community is all about, sharing, helping and learning.”
In the meantime, Silva insisted he has no plans to give up his day job.
“I still do this as a hobby. I will let it take [its] natural course. Only time will tell what else can I achieve and where this will take me.”