While these gorgeous renderings may look like black and white photographs, they’re actually incredibly exhaustive pencil drawings. Done by emerging Nigerian artist Arinze Stanley, these hyper-realistic sketches take over 200 hours each to complete and the results are stunning in their nuance. Based on photographs taken by the artist, the drawings defy the possibilities of what can be achieved with a pencil and sheet of paper.
Born in the Imo State in Eastern Nigeria, Stanley grew up in Lagos. Although he remembers always being interested in drawing – an interest presumably partly sparked by growing up with a family who ran a paper mill – he has received zero formal training. Instead, the self-taught artist exercises a natural skill set of patience, endurance and observation to create the seemingly 3D portraits.
“Basically, it just flows through me into the paper,” he explained of his process in an interview with The Huffington Post. “Sometimes it’s almost like I’m not in control of my pencil, sort of like energy transfer. Most times I feel like I transfer my energy into a blank piece of paper through my pencils and it just becomes art.”
Stanley’s scrupulous use of varying shades of grey add to his portraits realistic appearance and his inclusion of even the most minute details – beads of perspiration run down his subject’s faces and knots of stray hair peek out from behind their heads – belies a discipline that is difficult to teach. Using coal or graphite pencil on paper, he effectively captures and explores the emotional life of the people he draws.
Keep up with Stanley’s work by following him on Instagram where he often posts images of the work-in-progress – sometimes more aesthetically striking than the finished products.