This Artist's Hyper-Realistic Side-by-Side Drawings Are Taking Over Instagram

Artist Howard Lee's hyper-realistic drawings have been getting a lot of attention on Instagram—particularly because of his creative method for revealing what's real and what's art.

He showcases many of his drawings in video form, placing the real-life reference object next to his drawing before using a mallet or knife to destroy the real thing, leaving his beautiful drawing intact. If you don't quite get it yet, here's an example:

A video posted by Howard Lee (@howard__lee) on

What's the story behind Howard's art? We spoke with him to find out firsthand and learn about his biggest inspirations, plus his advice for everyone who dreams of being an artist.


Sweety High: Can you tell me a little bit about your history with art? 

Howard Lee: I've been creating artwork for years and have always been interested in realism, ever since I went to school. In the last two years I've concentrated on realism that can be communicated through videos, mostly on social media. The style comes from and is created for the community of artists online, particularly on Instagram. There's something magical about the direct interaction with people all over the world, instantaneously. I like that it can be enjoyed by anyone—it's a style that's not elitist in any way.

A video posted by Howard Lee (@howard__lee) on

SH: Where do you usually find inspiration?

HL: Anywhere! In the supermarket. Walking down the street. An idea or a whole bunch of them just sort of spring into your mind. If I need to generate ideas for a collaboration I'll just wait a few days until creativity strikes. I'm very inspired by artists I follow online, some of whom have very little following but I find to be incredibly talented.


SH: What gave you idea to do side-by-side pieces with your drawings next to the real thing?

HL: I saw people were putting things they'd drawn in a shot so that you could compare or see their reference. I just thought, "What if it was the same size as well?" It wasn't much of leap, really. The real ideas I needed were practical, like how to set up my lighting.

A video posted by Howard Lee (@howard__lee) on


SH: How has Instagram helped you share your art? 

HL: Instagram has [done so much for] my work. It's where I first developed a following and where I was encouraged by others online to keep going. To see the work in so many places is surreal. You can't take it too seriously though—social media attention can drop just as quickly as it rose.


SH: Is there a single piece you're most proud of?

HL: I love the chocolate Santa that gets chopped in half. The cartoon violence of it is just entertaining!

A video posted by Howard Lee (@howard__lee) on

SH: What are the must-have tools for the art you create?

HL: Prismacolor pencils, pastel pencils, some good fine pens in black, a white gel pen, acrylic paints—and if you can afford them—some Copic Markers. Oh—and at least one lamp that you can angle low down so that the light doesn't reflect off your work.

A video posted by Howard Lee (@howard__lee) on

SH: Any advice for aspiring artists who want to learn how to draw super realistically like you?

HL: Take all the time you spend watching TV and draw. You can still keep half an eye on your shows but if you're ever going to achieve the right level it takes hours and hours, every day, probably for years. So get started!


Do you love to doodle in the margins of your homework and school notes? Click HERE to find out what your doodles say about you.