The lowly pencil is not an elite or showy artistic medium. It doesn't have oil paint's gravitas, or plaster's endearing gauche. Instead, the pencil is accessible, plebeian and utilitarian. If put in the right hands, it can also produce incredible works of art.
Pencils are often relegated to sketching and drafting. But the work of a new crop of artists is elevating the medium beyond its traditional arenas.
There are a two primary benefits of using pencils: They're inexpensive and require no training. However, like charcoal, they are messy. Drawing precisely in pencil requires intense control. Without it, you might create a silvery graphite puddle on your page. That's part of why the following drawings are so impressive: They showcase the artists' meticulous attention to detail and skill.
1. "Coleman" by Shania McDonagh
Many of the artists on this list are masters of photorealism and photorealistic portraiture. Sixteen-year-old Irish artist Shania McDonagh is one of them. She recently won the Texaco Children's Art Competition, as she has every year since she was 12, for this phenomenal portrait.
2. "In the Past" by Christopher Winter
Christopher Winter, a British artist living in Berlin, is known for his fantastical, densely detailed drawings. The best part about "In the Past," a perfect example of his work and style, is that the more you look, the more you see. Winter's drawings feature repeated motifs, often dealing with sexuality, spirituality and balance; look closely and you'll see it all.
3. "I Can't Sleep on My Back" by Alexander Dolter
Alexander Dolter's Tumblr doesn't offer much information about the artist, but it does provide a wealth of incredible pencil drawings. Most of them are drawings of humans or humanoids, all done with that appealing disproportionality so prevalent in graffiti and the so-called outsider art of the '90s. This drawing is a beautiful example of his more realistic drawing skills.
4. "Phare du Petit Minou" by Andreas
Andreas is an accomplished artist and illustrator. Most of his drawings feature race cars, because professionally, he works for automobile tuning companies around the world. However, his portfolio also includes simple, beautiful drawings, like this one, of architectural elements, landscapes and cityscapes.
5. "Pencil vs. Camera - 59" by Ben Heine
Ben Heine is a Belgian artist who specializes in photography, drawing and multimedia artwork. His images have a graphic, geometric, eye-catching quality that make them perfectly suited for the web. This one is part of his "Pencil vs. Camera" series, which are beautiful 3-D pencil drawings that challenge the eye and the mind. Check out his website to see more of his intricate, playful work.
6. "Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock" by Cassie Tyler
Cassie Tyler is a 24-year-old American artist whose artwork has a beautiful, illustrative quality. Her style is vaguely reminiscent of graphic novels and fairy tales. Many of her pieces feature themes and characters from science fiction and fantasy. This portrait of Benedict Cumberbatch is one example. The spatial awareness in this drawing is intriguing.
7. "Alisa" by Monica Lee
Monica Lee is a Malaysian artist whose stunning photorealistic portraits are some of the best examples of this style of pencil drawings. Most of her work features close-up head shots. Her subjects seem to jump off the page, almost alive. For even more of her beautiful work, check out her follow-worthy Instagram.
8. "Heading South" by Marissa Textor
Marissa Textor is a Californian artist whose artwork has an almost Ansel Adams-esque focus on contrast and framing. Like Monica Lee, Textor creates amazing photorealistic pencil drawings. Unlike Monica Lee, she focuses her efforts on rugged landscapes and natural elements rather than portraiture.
9. "The Seahorse" by Alex Konahin
Alex Konahin is a Latvian artist and illustrator who works primarily in pen, but has also worked in pencil. He creates intricately detailed drawings that are part twisted fairytale, part steampunk and all astonishing. "The Seahorse," above, is one of his only pieces that is entirely pencil. The piece below, "Little Wings," is more indicative of his current style.