Detailed Urban Landscape Images Are Actually Ultra-Realistic Paintings

Nathan Walsh is an English realist painter who specializes in urban landscapes. He pays tribute to some of the world’s most beautiful cities, like New York, Chicago or London, through photo-realistic paintings of various urban locations.

Nathan is definitely not the only artist in the world who can create amazingly-realistic images using simple tools like a pencil and paintbrush, but the painstaking process he employs to reach his goal is very different from the way other hyper-realist masters work. Painters who use photographic sources for their artworks use a variety of techniques, including loose sketching of their subjects or transforming the canvas into a grid and painting box by box, but Nathan Walsh takes things to a whole new level by relying on elaborate drawings that look a lot like architectural blueprints to achieve the awe-inspiring level of realism visible in the images below. Before picking up the paintbrush, he draws up to 100 different sketches of a single urban scene, a time-consuming process that can take up to three or four months.

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In fact, Nathan Walsh told Colossal the photos he takes are not his primary source materials. Instead he uses pencil sketches drawn on location, which then allow him to easily alter the position and size of any particular element, which basically means building a new world from scratch. “The work aims to create credible and convincing space which whilst making reference to our world displays it’s own distinct logic,” Walsh writes on his website. “This space is created through drawing, which I see as fundamental in establishing a world the viewer can engage with. Drawing allows me to make human pictorial decisions instead of relying on the mechanical eye of a camera or software package. This process is open ended and changes from one painting to the next. Whilst I employ a variety of perspectival strategies, these methods are not fixed or rigid in their application. Working with a box of pencils and an eraser I will start by establishing an horizon line on which I will place vanishing points to construct simple linear shapes which become subdivided into more complex arrangements.”

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The gifted artist says duplicating “the flatness of a photograph”is of no interest to him. The camera lens has a fixed focal length and a software package that obeys a set of algorithms  so the simple reproduction of these mechanical processes in paint would negate “the human experience of responding to the world”. By introducing spatial recession to elements captured in the photograph, Nathan Walsh aims to present a world the viewer can enter into and move around.

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Photos © Nathan Walsh


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