Today’s critique comes from artist Kamila Malek. You can check out more of her work at She has drawn this portrait using a fountain pen and ink. I’m always so impressed by the work that can be done in this medium. You’ve got such a great grasp of your contrast and getting depth with just the paper and ink. This is not an easy medium to work in because it isn’t forgiving, but you’ve done a superb job!!

Looking at a few things we can adjust on this one. First, when going for realism as you’ve said in your submission, we want to make sure that the drawing is as accurate as possible. Because of the angle and the fact that he’s wearing glasses you can actually get away with it not being totally accurate yet it still looks quite realistic. When I dropped this into photoshop and layered the reference photo over the drawing you can see where things aren’t quite right. Here it’s not a big deal, but those little differences will matter when you’re doing a portrait where you see the full face and eyes, so take a bit of time before you start to make sure your drawing is exact. You can draw with graphite if you draw it very lightly. Once you get your initial outlines perfect and your first lines of ink in, erase the graphite lines.

In your submission, you stated that your goal is to get the most realistic look possible but that you felt a bit limited by the medium. One of the biggest tips I can give you, or anyone really looking to improve their work in any given medium is to find artists who have mastered that medium. Look at what they can achieve with it. Sometimes it’s easy to think “this is as realistic as this medium will get”. If you do a google search for “hyperrealistic pen drawing” you will be amazed at what comes up! Now some of those are actually other mediums, but you will see so many drawings done in ink. You really aren’t limited by this medium at all! The possibilities are endless. I hear the same thing quite often about watercolor. People assume watercolor can’t achieve photorealism, but in fact, they can if that is what the artists goals are.


I do have to say, though, even given how much more realistic you can go with ink, I absolutely love this sketchy style. It’s not something I’ve ever been terribly good at and I have so much respect for artists who do it as well as you have!! You’ve done beautiful work and I’m so impressed by the contrast and shading that you’ve done with this medium!!