The birth of a Hyperrealist Painting

By now, you have learned something about Gottfried Helnwein. So, you probably already see this work somewhere, maybe in our Facebook Page:


“Disasters of War”, G. Helnwein (2007) Oil and acrylic on canvas, 201 x 272 cm.

But I want to talk about the creation of this work, not about the artist, not today.

If you are in this blog, maybe it’s because you are attracted or intrigued by Hyperrealism. Well, how many of you have often doubt of a perfect work? We have to admit it, sometimes it’s very difficult to understand if that photo on our desktop is a painting or not. And I know that also Helnwein is one of the subjects of your suspicions.

Well, now I will show you how can born an Hyperrealist work!

I should like to begin with the first disputation about canvas: somebody uses classical cotton canvas, in purity or with priming plaster, somebody else uses linen canvas, that have densest plots, ideal for detailing more.  I know for experience (I see his works live) that Helnwein uses classical cotton canvas, not very fine-grained.

About materials, you should choose what you prefer: acrylics, oils or both? Acrylics are soluble, they dry very quickly and they give a very brilliant colour; oils, instead, dilute with a lot of type of oils and they dry very slowly, maybe in some days (according to humidity). Somebody else uses a mix of both, included Helnwein and Christiane Vleugels, making first layer in acrylics and definitions in oils. 

Maybe you always have a doubt about very large works. How they replicate the drawing on the canvas? Many of you know the grid, but in that size it’s a very waste of time, the same apply if you want to do freehand drawing. Somebody uses the carbon paper, but for these large canvas it’s more recommended to use a projector. We could see it in the next photo.


This method is very simple: images are projected on the canvas and in the same time the artist traces contours with a graphite, in the most precise way.


 This is the result:

Then, we can go on with painting. Somebody starts with a simple background colour or with the grisaille, that is a basic monochrome. There’s nothing to explain now, the level of your painting depends only on your experience and your “eye”.



You just have to do layer, upon layer, upon layer… using always more colors and chiaroscuro. 

So, these are the few “secrets” of Hyperrealism. About honest artists, I mean…

Uh, I almost forgot. My name is Emily.

Source images: blog


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