Realistic Drawings by Karen Hull

Cute Squirrel Drawing by Karen Hull

 The quirky realistic drawings of Karen Hull depict cute scenes of whimsy and charm. Her delightful art often features fanciful scenes such as squirrels blowing bubbles and chimps playing chess. Created with a deft hand, Karen's whimsical drawings appear seamlessly real, even though they sprouted from her imagination.

Karen also excels in drawing lifelike portraits of people and pets in a range of media, such as colored pencils, pastels, graphite, charcoal and digital media. It seems like there's nothing that Karen can't capture accurately. What's even more inspirational is that award winning artist Karen Hull is entirely self-taught, and she willingly shares her art knowledge with others.

Check out this fascinating interview with Karen to learn more about her quirky realistic drawings, as well as her art-making process!

Colored Pencil Portrait on Wood
Realistic Colored Pencil Portrait Art

 Where are you from?

I was born in Melbourne Australia, and thoughout my life have lived in Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland and most recently have lived in Sydney, NSW for the last 15 years with my husband and four wonderful sons.

How long have you been an artist? Did you always know you were an artist?

I first picked up pencils earlier than I can remember and because my Mum has always been artistic I loved nothing more than to watch her draw and to try to imitate what she did. I spent my childhood drawing constantly and my favourite gift at Christmas and Birthdays was a new pack of pencils. However, upon leaving school I took up nursing (at that stage, I never considered doing art on a full-time basis), got married, had four kids and for the next 22 years, I rarely picked up a brush or pencil, although I was always creative, enjoying crafts such as needlework in my spare time.

Colored Pencil Portrait Art by Karen Hull

Five years ago we went on a family holiday to Tasmania, where we visited numerous galleries which motivated me to pick up my paint brushes and pencils and to really explore art again. Over the next couple of years I spent every spare moment researching, reading art books, browsing on-line and experimenting with mediums and subject matter.

Initially, I focused entirely on doing miniature art as this art form fascinated me, but over time I found this highly detailed and concentrated style was hard on the eyes, and so whilst I still work in smaller format art, I have moved away from the tiny pieces. The demand for commissions and my art took off more than I had predicted which allowed me to make the decision two years ago to leave nursing and pursue art on a full-time basis.

Whimsical Squirrel Drawing

Do you have an art education or are you self-taught?

Apart from watching my Mum, who had a natural gift for art, from a very early age, I am entirely self-taught.

How long does it take you to create an 8x10 inch colored pencil drawing, such as Goddess of Autumn, pictured below?

'Goddess of Autumn' probably took about 2 days to complete (approx 16 hours). Because I still have four boys at home (ranging in age from 7 to 20 years of age), I have to work my art around family commitments, so I tend to work in staggered shifts, grabbing a couple of hours here or there and working right through to late at night.

Whimsical Portrait Drawings

How long does it take you to create a 29cm x 29cm coloring pencil drawing on wood, such as What About Me? pictured below?

'What about Me?' took around 3-4 days to complete. (approx 24 hours)

Quirky Realistic Art by Karen Hull

How long does it take you to create a 2.5 x 3.5 inch colored pencil drawing, such as Bette Davis Eyes pictured below?

Most of my 2.5x3.5 inch artworks (drawings) took around 8 hours to complete.

Cute Whimsical Drawings

What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas for your art?

I am inspired by other artists, books, the internet, the world around me and more often than not I wake up with an idea in my head (sometimes in the middle of the night) and I have no idea where it has come from but I know that I just have to draw it.

Who are some artists you admire?

There are so many artists and styles of art that I admire - I love the old world illustrations of Beatrix Potter, the lighting and scenery of Thomas Kinkade, the 70's style portraits of Sara Moon, the miniature wildlife art of the Siegrists. There are just so many amazing artists that are a constant source of inspiration and there really are too many to mention.

Easter Bunny Egg Drawing by Karen Hull

What is your favorite medium (if any) and why?

My all-time favourite medium is coloured pencils - they are so versatile, clean, immediate, portable, the list goes on and on.

What are some challenges of working with coloured pencils?

Achieving a smooth look with coloured pencils is something I am constantly striving for, and is probably the biggest challenge for any coloured pencil artist. Some coloured pencil artists like to allow the texture of the surface show through, but I like to aim for a seamless look and wherever possible, I like to leave people wondering if my artwork really has been done with coloured pencils. I feel coloured pencils are such an undervalued medium, and I hope through my art to give people a greater appreciation of what can be achieved.

Realistic Drawings by Karen Hull

Let's take an inside peek into how Karen creates her realistic drawings! In the images below you can see the steps Karen used to create a realistic cat drawing using colored pencils on mat board.

If you want to learn Karen's techniques for creating her whimsical realistic drawings, check out her downloadable art tutorials!

She starts with an outline of her subject.

She starts with an outline of her subject.

The eyes are colored in first...

The eyes are colored in first...

...and then she begins work on the fur.

...and then she begins work on the fur.

She progresses around the face, layering the colored pencils...

She progresses around the face, layering the colored pencils...

Do you use a fixative on your drawings?

I do prefer to fix all my drawings - it gives me piece of mind that they won't smudge and hopefully won't produce any wax bloom. A lot of my works on wood are sprayed with three coats of fixative, followed by 3-4 coats of varnish and are then left unframed.

Do you have any tips for people who would like to create realistic drawings in a quirky style?

I love to have fun with art and I find my most popular artworks are those where I relaxed, and just drew what I wanted to, without thought for what would sell, or might win awards. So much art today is so very serious, or political, or tries to say something important. The greatest compliment anyone can give me is that my artwork brought a smile to their face, so my greatest piece of advice is to have fun and to draw what makes you happy.

Cute Cat Drawing by Karen Hull

Many thanks to Karen for such an awesome interview, and for sharing her quirky realistic drawings with us!

You can see much more of Karen's art at her website,

Cute Santa Cat Shirt

Karen's artwork can be purchased at her Etsy shop.

If you're interested in learning Karen's techniques, check out her helpful tutorials which you can download for a small fee. You can also follow along with Karen's progress on her blog.

Karen accepts commissions from private individuals as well as organizations and businesses, so if you'd like Karen to create a custom work of art just for you, click here to find out more about it!

Realistic Portrait Drawing by Karen Hull

The drawings above and below are just two examples of the types of realistic drawings that Karen can create for you.

Realistic Dog Drawing by Karen Hull