Cath Riley

Cath Riley is an artist and illustrator from the UK. She creates highly detailed and hyper-realistic large-scale drawings of natural forms and people. Riley’s monochromatic, hand-drawn artworks show subjects created in pencil with a wide range of tones to make her work look realistic.

Cath Riley eye drawing artwork
Cath riley face drawing artwork

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Cath Riley is an artist and illustrator from Keighley in the UK, she was born in 1952. Riley is known for her attention to detail; drawing hyper-realistic artworks in pencil. Cath Riley’s artworks are often on a large scale and she is inspired to draw different subjects, from famous people to still life objects and food.

What words could you use to describe her portrait drawings? Try to think of 5 different words.

Cath Riley artist analysis - hands drawings

Cath Riley’s hand-drawn artworks have a depth and clarity that makes them look realistic. Riley is often inspired by natural or organic forms such as food and people, however she also chooses to draw still life objects like shoes, jewellery and household items. Riley focuses on small sections of the subjects she draws, making her work instantly recognisable.

Top facts about the artist Cath Riley:

  • Riley was born in 1952 and is from England.
  • She is an artist and illustrator.
  • Riley has a degree in Embroidery and a Masters Degree in Fine Art from Manchester Polytechnic.
  • Her artwork is described as ‘hyper-realist’.
  • Cath Riley’s artwork has been sold to different places including the Arts Council Collection, Granada Television, North West Arts, and Calderdale Museums & Galleries.
  • Her drawings have also been sold to companies such as Nike and Adidas.
  • Riley has won awards from The Society of Dimensional Illustrators’, Yorkshire Arts, and from the Crafts Council.
  • She is known for her drawings and illustrations but she has also made 3D sculptures which have sold around the world.
Cath Riley Hand and hip artwork closeup
Cath Riley – Hand and Hip (24x15cm)

Look at the artwork above – which materials do you think Cath Riley has used to make her work? Why do you think she has focused on the hand next to the smooth skin?

Cath Riley’s artworks have a realistic finish, but also a sense of fluidity through her use of smooth, gradual, soft shading and blending. All of the tiny features of the subjects she draws are shown with clarity across the tonal range, from the darkest tiny details to the lightest flecks. Riley makes use of monochromatic colour schemes and simple backgrounds in her work, drawing in the viewer to look closely at every detail.

Cath Riley’s Still Life Drawings:

Cath Riley shoe drawing realistic
Cath Riley Boots Drawings
Cath Riley - Leather shoe drawing
Cath Riley Glass Perfume Bottle Drawing

Cath Riley’s Food Drawings:

Cath Riley Bakewell Tart Drawng
Cath Riley Cherry drawing
Cath Riley Gooseberry Drawing
Cath Riley Cake Drawing

Riley often works with a monochromatic colour scheme, using just blacks, whites and greys in her work. However, on a number of her food drawings Riley makes use of colour in a very simple but effective way. By adding a very small pop of colour to her pieces, Riley instantly draws the viewer’s eye and adds a light-hearted touch to her works. By using a birds-eye view of her subject, and cropping them in a particular way, Riley is able to add balance and symmetry to her drawings. She also makes use of the Rule of Odds, having an odd number of subjects evenly spaced in her pieces. These are compositional tools often used in photography, which is perhaps why Cath Riley’s work has been successfully used in advertising campaigns.

I have shared a list of other artists inspired by food here – enjoy!

How to draw like Cath Riley:

Start with good materials and practise… a lot! Here are the materials I recommend for you to make artwork like Cath Riley. I generally suggest paying for quality products which will last longer and give you a better finish. Good quality pencils will be smoother to work with and having a range of blending tools will help you achieve a smooth finish in your work.

What do you think of Cath Riley’s artwork? How could you describe it? Which is your favourite work of hers and why?

DOWNLOAD this page below, for free, as an Artist Research handout to use in your lesson. It includes all of the facts and images, and has questions for students to answer.


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