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Paul Cadden

An artist of repute

The Wise Owl talks to Paul Cadden, an artist settled on the Isle of Lewis Glasgow. His portraits are brilliantly executed in watercolour or charcoal or pen and pencil and bring alive the subject on his canvas. By faithfully capturing reality's essence, his aim is to bestow upon the observer a renewed emotional outlook, one that enables appreciation for the mundane instances we encounter, recognizing that individuals extend beyond their mere appearance.


The Interview : Paul Cadden

(Rachna Singh, Editor, The Wise Owl talks to Paul Cadden)

The Wise Owl talks to Paul Cadden, an artist settled on the Isle of Lewis Glasgow. His portraits are brilliantly executed in watercolour or charcoal or pen and pencil and bring alive the subject on his canvas. By faithfully capturing reality's essence, his aim is to bestow upon the observer a renewed emotional outlook, one that enables appreciation for the mundane instances we encounter, recognizing that individuals extend beyond their mere appearance.


Although Paul’s creations derive inspiration from photographs, videos, and still images, his intent surpasses mere replication. Each meticulously detailed object and scene within his artwork weaves an illusory tapestry, birthing a reality not seen in its original form. The Hyperrealist style thrives on its meticulous attention to detail and the portrayal of subjects. Paul has taken part in several prestigious exhibitions in Glasgow and London over the last several years.


Thank you Paul for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to The Wise Owl.


RS: For the benefit of the readers tell us how you gravitated towards art. What were the creative influences in your life that inspired and encouraged you to tread this creative path?


PC: My path into art is quite ordinary, really. It's not some grandiose tale but a slow, steady drift towards expressing life as I see it. I didn't have any lofty aspirations from the start; it all began with a simple fascination for the world around me.

Growing up, I found myself drawn to the beauty of everyday things. The way light hit objects, the textures of common items – these details caught my eye. I didn't have any artistic heroes initially; I just enjoyed capturing the familiar in my own way.

Influences crept in subtly. I started noticing the work of artists  and that inspired me to pick up a pencil. There was no grand plan or a defining moment; it was more about trying to recreate what I saw in a way that felt authentic.



RS: The portraits done by you are so realistic and life-like that it seems like they will walk out of the canvas and begin to talk. Tell us a little about the creative process that goes into the creation of such stunning portraits.


PC:Observation is Key: At the heart of my creative process lies a deep commitment to observation. Before the pencil even touches the paper, I spend considerable time studying the subject. I scrutinize every contour, every nuance of expression, and every play of light that defines the unique character of the individual.

The Initial Sketch: I begin with a preliminary sketch, mapping out the basic features and proportions. This stage is crucial for laying the foundation and ensuring that the composition aligns with the essence I aim to capture. It's a skeletal framework upon which the intricacies will later be draped.

Layering Details: Building the portrait involves layering details with a level of patience akin to assembling a puzzle. Each stroke of the pencil is deliberate, mapping out the subtle variations in tone and texture. This layering process is where the portrait begins to breathe, capturing the nuances that make the subject distinctly human.



RS: A lot of budding artists read our magazine. I’m sure they would be curious to know what techniques you use to create your realistic artwork.


PC: Certainly, I'd be happy to share some insights into the techniques I employ to create realistic artwork. Keep in mind that every artist develops their own unique approach over time, and experimentation is key to finding what works best for you.


Observation and Study:

Before putting pencil to paper, I invest time in closely observing my subject. Understanding facial anatomy, the play of light and shadow, and the textures of skin and hair is fundamental.


Grid Method:

To ensure accurate proportions, I often use the grid method. This involves dividing the reference image and the drawing surface into a grid, allowing for a systematic transfer of details. It's a helpful tool for maintaining accuracy, especially in larger or more complex compositions.


Layering and Building Tone:

My technique involves layering graphite gradually to build up tones. Starting with a light sketch, I progressively add layers to capture the full range of values. This layering process allows for a smooth transition between light and shadow, contributing to the overall realism of the artwork.


Detailing with Various Pencils:

I work with a range of graphite pencils, from hard (H) to soft (B) leads. Hard pencils are useful for fine lines and initial sketches, while soft pencils contribute to darker tones and shading. Switching between pencils enables me to achieve a nuanced interplay of light and shadow.


Blending Tools:

Blending is a crucial step in achieving a seamless, realistic look. I use blending stumps, tortillons, or even tissue paper to softly blend and smooth the graphite. This helps eliminate harsh lines and creates a more natural transition between different areas of the drawing.


Erasing for Highlights:

Erasers are as essential as pencils in my toolkit. By selectively erasing areas, I create highlights and textures, enhancing the three-dimensional quality of the subject. This process adds a dynamic interplay of light, crucial for achieving realism.


Texture Techniques:

Capturing the texture of skin, hair, or clothing requires different approaches. Cross-hatching, stippling, or using varied pencil strokes helps simulate these textures realistically. Experimenting with different techniques allows me to convey the tactile qualities of the subject.


Attention to Detail, Especially in Eyes:

The eyes are the focal point of many portraits. I dedicate extra care to detailing the eyes, using a combination of shading, highlights, and reflections to convey depth and emotion. Getting the eyes right often elevates the entire piece.


RS: Are there any artists (traditional or contemporary) who have inspired you and your artwork?



Austin Osman Spare:

Austin Osman Spare, with his esoteric and mystical approach to art, has profoundly impacted my perspective. His fusion of art and occultism, particularly the concept of sigilization, has inspired me to explore the symbolic and transformative aspects of artistic expression. Spare's emphasis on the subconscious and the mystical resonates with my own interest in infusing layers of meaning into my work.


Andrew Wyeth:

The masterful use of color and the evocative realism in Andrew Wyeth's works, particularly "Christina's World," has resonated with me. His ability to convey emotion and atmosphere through a restrained palette is something I aspire to in my own way.



The dramatic use of light and shadow in Caravaggio's Baroque paintings has been a timeless inspiration. The chiaroscuro technique, with its stark contrasts, has influenced my approach to creating depth and mood in my drawings.


Chuck Close:

Chuck Close's grid method and his approach to large-scale portraits have been influential. His ability to break down an image into intricate details while maintaining an overall coherence is a lesson in precision.


Zaria Forman:

Zaria Forman's hyperrealistic pastel drawings of landscapes, especially those featuring glaciers and icebergs, showcase a delicate touch and an exquisite command of color. Her dedication to raising awareness about climate change through art is both impactful and inspiring.



Kim Jung Gi:

Kim Jung Gi's astonishing skill in creating intricate, detailed drawings without the use of preliminary sketches is both humbling and inspiring. His live drawing demonstrations, showcasing an almost photographic memory, challenge me to push the boundaries of my own technique.



RS: Looking at the work on your website I notice that you use mostly watercolours, charcoal, pencil, graphite wash etc to create your portraits. Our viewers and readers would be keen to know why these mediums attract you.



Watercolors, with their translucent and fluid nature, allow me to create expressive effects. The unpredictability of watercolor adds an element of spontaneity to the process. It's a medium that encourages me to embrace the beauty of imperfections and harness the flow of pigments to convey emotion and atmosphere.



Charcoal, with its bold and velvety strokes, is a medium that enables me to capture the rich contrast and deep shadows inherent in realistic portraiture. It provides a tactile connection between the artist and the drawing surface, allowing for a direct and dynamic expression of form.



The simplicity of a pencil is deceptive; it's a versatile tool that allows me to create intricate details and subtle gradations. Pencil work, particularly in hyperrealistic drawings, enables me to explore the nuances of texture and form. It's a medium that invites precision and patience.


Graphite Wash:

Graphite wash, a diluted form of graphite applied with a brush, adds a layer of subtlety to my drawings. It allows for a smoother transition between light and shadow, enhancing the realism of the portrait. The wash technique provides a delicate touch while maintaining the expressive power of graphite.


RS: Looking at your gallery of Artwork, I realised that you do mostly portraits and they are certainly brilliant. But some of your work like The Wind that Rocks the Sea, Cold Wave and  The Dream of War are also beautiful. Our viewers/readers would be curious to know why you do mostly portraits, considering that your landscapes and other works like Dream of War are also wonderful.


PC: Firstly, I appreciate your kind words about my artwork. The predominance of portraits in my portfolio is indeed a conscious choice, and it reflects a personal fascination with the human experience. However, the inclusion of other subjects like landscapes and conceptual pieces such as "The Wind that Rocks the Sea" and "The Dream of War" is a deliberate effort to explore a broader spectrum of artistic expression.


1. Human Connection and Emotion:

Portraiture, with its focus on the human form, allows me to delve into the intricacies of emotion, identity, and the human condition. The face, with its expressive capacity, becomes a powerful conduit for storytelling. Capturing the essence of a person and conveying their unique narrative is a deeply engaging process that resonates with me.


2. Exploration of Identity:

Portraits offer a captivating exploration of individual and collective identity. Each face tells a story, and the process of translating those stories onto canvas or paper is a source of continuous inspiration. It's a quest to understand and represent the depth of human experience through the subtle nuances of expression.


3. Technical and Expressive Challenge:

The challenges presented by portraiture, whether in graphite, charcoal, or watercolor, fuel my artistic growth. The intricate details, the play of light on skin, and the subtle variations in expression provide an ever-evolving canvas for technical refinement and expressive exploration.


4. Narrative Possibilities:

Portraits inherently carry a narrative potential. Each face suggests a story, and the viewer is invited to interpret the emotions, experiences, and mysteries encapsulated within the visage. This narrative quality adds layers of meaning to the artwork and fosters a dynamic connection with the audience.


RS: You have been exhibiting your work since 2010. Is there any advice you would like to give budding artists about how to hone their portraits and landscapes.


PC: Certainly! For budding artists looking to hone their skills in portraits and landscapes, here are some pieces of advice based on my own experiences:


1. Observe and Study:

Develop a keen observation of the world around you. Study faces, landscapes, and the interplay of light and shadow. Understanding the intricacies of your subjects is fundamental to creating authentic and compelling artwork.


2. Practice Regularly:

Like any skill, artistic proficiency comes with consistent practice. Set aside dedicated time to draw or paint regularly. Experiment with different techniques and subjects to discover your own unique style.


3. Experiment with Mediums:

Don't be afraid to explore various mediums. Try your hand at graphite, charcoal, watercolors, oils, or any other medium that intrigues you. Each medium has its own characteristics, and experimenting will help you find the one that resonates with your artistic voice.


4. Embrace Critique:

Seek constructive feedback on your work. Join art communities, share your pieces with fellow artists, and be open to critiques. Constructive criticism is a valuable tool for growth and can offer fresh perspectives on how to improve.


5. Learn Anatomy:

For portrait artists, understanding facial anatomy is crucial. Study the structure of the face, learn about proportions, and practice drawing different facial features. This knowledge will enhance your ability to capture realistic and expressive portraits.


6. Explore Composition:

Learn the principles of composition, especially for landscapes. Experiment with different compositions to create visually engaging and balanced artworks. Understand how to lead the viewer's eye through your piece.


7. Capture Light and Shadow:

Whether in portraits or landscapes, the play of light and shadow is vital. Learn to observe and replicate the way light interacts with your subjects. This skill adds depth and realism to your artwork.


8. Develop a Unique Style:

While learning from others is important, strive to develop your own unique style. Don't be afraid to let your personality and perspective shine through in your work. Your individual voice is what will set your art apart.


9. Attend Workshops and Classes:

Consider attending art workshops or classes to learn from experienced artists. Workshops provide hands-on experience, valuable insights, and the opportunity to connect with a creative community.


RS: If I was to ask you to describe yourself as an artist in 3 adjectives what would they be?


PC: Evolving, Detailed, Storytelling


Thank you Paul, for talking to The Wise Owl. We wish you the best in all your creative endeavours and hope you bring happiness to art lovers with more of your brilliant and life-like portraits.

Some Works of Michael Solovyev
That Can't Be Her!.jpg

That Can't be Her

paris sketch.jpg

Paris Sketch







damn very hot coffee.jpg

Damn very hot coffee

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