Updated: Thursday, 5th December 2019 @ 2:39pm

You won't believe it's not photography! Meet Market Street's hyperrealism artist

You won't believe it's not photography! Meet Market Street's hyperrealism artist

| By Samar Maguire – MM exclusive

A year and a half ago, hyperrealistic portrait artist Rebekah Williamson dropped out of university and had nothing to fall back on.

“I was skint!” she laughed, recounting the circumstances she found herself in before taking the plunge. “I went to university and did fashion for a year. I always thought I’d be a fashion designer, but when I got there I thought – ‘sod that’!

"So I dropped out and couldn't get a job," she admitted. "I didn't want a normal job though, so I wanted to try and do something else and thought, 'right, I'll draw'."


NIGHT AND DAY: Coffee with Rebekah in the Northern Quarter

Rebekah has been a pencil artist for over a year now, fixating her efforts on hyperrealism – a genre in which painting and sculpture resemble high-resolution photographs.

Since focussing energy on hyperrealism, the 21-year-old has attracted more than 2,000 likes on her Facebook page. She will travel to New York to showcase her work to potential clients in March.

We reminisced about her childhood. "I did GCSE art but I never went to school, I always used to skive off," she said, letting out a laugh before quickly adding, "Don't put that in!" – while laughing some more.

She enjoyed to laugh, Rebekah. It is one of her distinct, yet endearing characteristics. As we sat in the Night and Day café in the Northern Quarter, she could not help but move around restlessly as she spoke about her life – a playful character, to say the least.

"So, I never really had any proper lessons," she said. "I used to draw a little, but I was rubbish."


CREATIVE PROCESS: Rebekah starting another hyperrealism

"I was good at school, I was nice, I got on with most of my teachers – apart from my art teachers though, I hated them," she added jokingly after revealing she got a B at GCSE level. "But to be fair, I wasn't very good and never did any of my work so I can't blame them."

Rebekah has drawn public figures such as Paul McCartney, Jesse Pinkman, and Beyonce but admitted that she has a weakness for people that are 'a bit weird' and 'imperfect'.

I asked her why she liked to draw people, and how she chooses a person to draw. She paused for a moment and then said: "I draw images that have got that depth to it, ones where you can see the soul in someone. I got really obsessed with the sort of emotion you can see in people."


PAUL MCCARTNEY: Rebekah's drawing of the former Beatles man

"People come up to me in town and say, 'Oh I can really see what they’ve been through in life in your pictures’, so I got obsessed with that notion and thought, 'how can I make it deeper and more my style'? That’s what I’m veering onto with darker stuff.

"And I love people." She emphasised the word love. "I love meeting new people and old people  people with imperfections. I’m sick of everyone trying to be bloody perfect. I love really sort of really worn in leathered skin and the wrinkles and the messy hair, I love all that." 

In some cases you can sense that 'love' is used as hyperbolic language, but I felt sincerity in her tone. I wanted to tell her to calm down.

"I don’t understand why people nowadays are so obsessed with youth, everyone has to look young. You look cool with loads of wrinkles – that’s why I guess I draw loads of old men." And she wasn't lying either.


WALTER WHITE: Rebekah's first official drawing

When asked about how long it takes to draw a single portrait, she looked up in thought and responded: "It varies. Some of the little ones I do which are just off low quality images will take like 5-10 hours. 

"But the more hyperrealistic ones take about 30 hours, 20 to 30 hours but maybe a bit longer – like the one of Paul."

And on the street? I wondered. "I do them on the street as well, it's just whatever I'm doing at the time 
– obviously I don't sit there for 40 hours. I'll take it home and work on it for weeks to perfect it.

"It's scary taking them out on the street sometimes because you don't know if someone's going to shake the brolly on you and get it all wet!" she added.


RUSSELL BRAND: The face of the Trews

With Rebekah growing as a full-time artist, being gifted with opportunities to flaunt her work – such as a cinematic documentary and an appearance in one of The Marivaux's music videos – I was curious about her goals, as the trip to New York looms large. 

"So, I’m just going to take all my stuff, force it on people and say ‘please put my art work up’ – but I don’t want anything from it. I don’t want any money. I just want to be able to know my artwork is living in New York, hopefully get passed around different bars and stuff.

"But long term I want to keep going on the track I’m going on at the moment," she said with a smile. "Make more stuff that’s more my style.

When asked what that might be, she replied: "It’s a series of people in a bath [laughs] and like a Birdseye view with a sinister feel to them.

"I don’t know, I always think that when people are in the bath, you know when you’re just thinking to yourself? I want to do something with dark images with different people, someone having a fag or someone having a glass of wine, someone contemplating life and death.

"But a series of different people of different ages, different sizes, weights, colours, whatever. And yeah, I want to do an exhibition this year on that. That’s my aim."

I jokingly told her she was dark. She looked at the floor and said: "I’ve always been a bit on the dark side" – letting out a huge laugh.

"My childhood crush was Alice Cooper, which probably explains a lot!" 

Perhaps it did.

For more information on Rebekah, including commissions and other artwork, please visit her Facebook page here.

Images courtesy of Rebekah Williamson, with thanks.