Damian May: Photo-realistic Pencil Portraits

By Cassie Rief in Featured Artists > Pencil Drawings

Self-taught pencil artist Damian May has an amazing talent. So fantastically does he capture the likeness of his subjects, that things like texture and third-dimensionality become very real attributes within each drawing, pen and ink, or pastel creation.

But just saying these things about his artwork can’t do it justice—so take a look for yourself!

In this first untitled drawing, the startled, crazed expression of a man wearing his emotions on his sleeve is heightened by the pitch-black background that almost seems to propel him forward.


Besides the raw emotion present in the drawing, Damian uses foreshortening to create the illusion of the hand stretching out of the drawing, and is also somehow able to create a sheen on the man’s shirt, making it appear silky and slick to the touch.

The complete image is unnerving in its intensity. Whatever just happened is more than this man can bear.

This second drawing, entitled Sorrow, has many winning points of interest, including bold contrast and a dramatic composition.


I can’t help but to be drawn to this woman, so numbed by grief and pain that the life in her eyes has been replaced with a haunting, vacant stare.

We don’t know much about her, but her face shows that she has a few years of wisdom mixed with an array of freckles from her youth. I can only hope that she soldiers through, and somehow finds happiness again.

Lastly, I am also very taken with the textures exhibited in James Joyce, seen below. As an Irish novelist and poet, James is dressed warmly in garments typical of the early 20th century. A pageboy hat sits slightly lopsided atop James’ head, disappearing into a white background like a distant whisper.

james joyce

What really wows me is the approach that Damian took in texturizing James’ wool coat. Its fuzzy thickness is realistically portrayed, so much so that I’m entranced by the detailed, distinctive patch of wool on the left lapel.

Topping it all off are a satiny, slightly scrunched tie and perfectly circular glasses which enlarge James’ doe-eyed gaze, making him appear soft-spoken, approachable and sweet, especially when combined with the hint of a smile playing across his lips.

In addition to his incredible “everyday folk” portraits, Damian has a special section on his website dedicated to celebrities—and they are all remarkably realistic! Be sure to stop by his site and take a look.


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