This artist transforms scribbles into hyperrealistic drawings using only coloured pencils

  • CJ Hendry creates hyperrealistic coloured-pencil drawings of paint splotches, luxury goods, and celebrities.
  • For her exhibits, she pairs those drawings with elaborate installations.
  • Through her captivating work and interactive concepts, she’s built a huge following.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

The following is a transcription of the video:

Narrator: This isn’t a blob of paint. In fact, it’s not even a photo of a blob of paint. It’s a coloured-pencil drawing.

CJ Hendry: I just kind of sit here and doodle around and just draw a little bit.

Narrator: That’s CJ Hendry. She spends up to 15 hours a day doing, well, as she puts it, doodling around. But her work isn’t as simple as she makes it sound. Creating hyperrealistic drawings like this takes a lot of hard work, and people are taking notice. She’s worked with household names like Christian Louboutin, hidden exclusive artwork all over New York City for her followers to find, and her hands-on solo exhibits draw huge crowds. And if you want one of her pieces, you’ll have to get in line. She only sells limited editions and commissioned pieces. And once you have an original piece, that’s it. She’ll never ever make a copy. CJ’s drawings revolve around a few specific things: luxury goods, celebrities, and paint splotches. A lot of paint splotches. But she doesn’t use a single drop of paint to make them. The entire thing is drawn in coloured pencil.

Hendry: Most artists paint. Like, when you think of an artist, you’re like, “Oh, what do you paint?” I don’t use paint at all. I hate the messiness that’s involved with paint I hate. Ooo, I can’t deal with it. So maybe it’s the fact that I don’t use it that I kind of want to reference it in some way.

Narrator: While she stays away from the mess, that doesn’t mean her work is easy. She spends weeks perfecting details that will trick your eye. So how does she make a two-dimensional drawing look so real?

Hendry: When I do these pieces, it doesn’t just come from my head. I work directly from a photograph. When I’m taking a photograph of the thing that I’m going to draw, I maybe take anywhere between 100 to 1,000 photos for the one thing. I’m sure if I was a better photographer I could just take, like, 10. But, like, I’m not good enough for that. So yeah, I just take heaps and hope for the best.

Narrator: From those hundreds of photos, she narrows it down to just one. And that’s the one that gets sketched out on paper. She chooses her colours as she goes by referencing the photo. And those colours are the trick to making everything look so real.

Hendry: And so I just kind of can see the colours that are needed, but I think I’m really good at, like, picking the colour. And, like, that looks pink to you, but it’s actually, like, a really dusty purple. So it’s just about looking and seeing what the photograph tells me.

Narrator: To realistically show one colour of paint, CJ has to use about 20 different shades. Luckily, she has hundreds of colours to choose from. And anything she doesn’t have, she makes.

Hendry: There’s only a certain amount of colours. I think I have 205 colours. But to make all the different colours in the rainbow, I’ve kind of got to mix them, mix them and go over them and kind of blend them a little bit.

Narrator: She calls her technique “scribbling.”

Hendry: So it’s, like, a whole bunch of millions and millions of scribbles really neatly put together to make a drawing.

Narrator: To make those scribbles precise, she sharpens her pencil about every 15 seconds. And people love to watch her scribble on Instagram. That following has given her the chance to do some really unique projects.

Hendry: The copyright-infringement project was one of the best, most exciting things I’ve ever done, but unintentionally. So I had drawn Andy Warhol Polaroids, I had redrawn them, then redrew them again and crumpled them, because I love a crumple, and then I went and put the, you know, the image on the front of a T-shirt.

Narrator: But right before she was about to sell them, she hit a major roadblock. Selling T-shirts with those images on them was copyright infringement. The only thing she could do was get rid of them.

Hendry: I just went around New York and kind of dropped the boxes off all around New York. And people came so quickly. Like, they were gone within, like, at least within 30 seconds to a minute. It was wild. So, so many people. It’s like an accidental scavenger hunt.

Narrator: And getting an audience involved has been a theme of her projects in recent years. In 2017, she partnered with Christian Louboutin for an art fair in Hong Kong, where viewers could pick up wax-crayon shoes and add their own art to the walls. CJ’s work has become more and more interactive. To get in to her most recent exhibit, you had to hop through a giant white bouncy castle first.

Hendry: My practice has kind of gone from just drawings to now, like, more install and, like, overall concepts. Like, the concepts are much more elaborate and more in-depth.

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