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Illustrations with Surrealism

"Dali Being Devious" by Hannah Rothstein
“Dali Being Devious” by Hannah Rothstein

What better way to celebrate April Fool’s Day than with an image of Salvadore Dali caught in the act of pulling a prank??!

Surrealism is a cultural, artistic, and literary movement which began in the early 1920’s. Founded by French writer and poet Andre Breton as a ‘revolutionary movement’, Surrealism is probably best known as a style of art featuring photorealistic images of impossible or illogical scenes. The element of surprise, unexpected combinations of images, and dreamlike settings are trademarks of Surrealistic art. 

Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, and Max Ernst are just a few artists from this time period who were famous for their Surrealist paintings. Artists today still use techniques of Surrealism in order to attract attention and make viewers think!

In the spirit of Surrealism, San Francisco artist Hannah Rothstein finds “clever, humorous ways to look at ordinary objects and ideas.” With her permission, I’m sharing some of her illustrated photographs here to inspire you with what’s possible!

"Even the Famous Facebook Stalk" by Hannah Rothstein
“Even the Famous Facebook Stalk” by Hannah Rothstein
"Why Did the Beatles Cross the Road?" by Hannah Rothstein
“Why Did the Beatles Cross the Road?” by Hannah Rothstein

You can see more of Hannah’s illustrations here (you’ll need to scroll about halfway down the page til you get to “Context is Key: Beyond the Frames of Famous Photos”. Drag your mouse across each illustration there to see where the real photo ends and the Surrealism begins!

Hannah used graphite, watercolor, and her computer to make these illustrations, but you can also create your own Illustrations with Surrealism using watercolor pencils. Here’s how….

You’ll need:


1. In choosing a photo to use, try to imagine about what else could be going on in the scene…. something that’s not being shown. Let your imagination run wild – the crazier the better!

2. Crop your photo and glue it onto your watercolor paper, leaving room for you to ‘complete the picture’ in your own way!

3. Using your watercolor pencils, fill in the space around your photo with a scene that looks realistic but combines elements and ideas in a surprising way.

4. Use a very small amount of clean water to carefully blend areas of color. Only paint over areas that you want blended together. You may want to skip around, letting damp sections dry before you paint up close to them. It’s fine to leave some of your details dry.

5. Choose a fun name for your illustration!

I also asked artist Hannah Rothstein to share her thoughts on her creative process…..

TKA: “What medium(s) do you use for your illustrations?”

HR: “These works are done in graphite with touches of watercolor. After completing each image, I digitally blended it with the original photo to make the transition seamless. The full color Abbey Road and Phelps images (see full collection here) were additionally colorized on the computer.

I tried out a few different mediums for these works, and liked how graphite worked with the images best. Since I work with many different art supplies, I often tinker around with materials to see what feels right before settling on a medium to use for a series.”

TKA: “What was your inspiration for these illustrations?”

HR: My work often focuses on finding clever and humorous ways to look at ordinary objects and ideas. When Udemy asked me to do a project related to photography, I sat down to think about what people know and love best about photography and how I could turn that on its head.

I was also interested in exploring the following thoughts:

We see photographs as truth, as proof of reality…. yet in our increasingly visual culture, where images carry more power than ever, we need to remember that seeing can no longer be believing. Though I presented that notion here in a humorous light, it’s an important thing to keep in mind no matter the media we consume.”

TKA: “What suggestions do you have for a successful project?”

HR: “Oh, there’s so much that goes into making a successful project! In my experience, successful projects begin with setting time aside to think. No perusing the internet, no distractions. Just pure thinking time with a notebook and pencil. Once you’ve gotten your idea, give yourself the freedom to experiment, the time to tinker, and the courage to start over if necessary.”

Special thanks to artist Hannah Rothstein and Udemy.com!

Affiliate links were used in this post.

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