I've always had a fascination with photo-realistic painting because it blurs the line between painting and photography. Although I think there is much more to art than being able to reproduce a photo, I feel that the skills needed to be able to paint like this are incredibly beneficial to any artist. As an art student I started looking at the early work of Chuck Close and began practicing painting large realistic looking portraits on canvas. I then discovered digital painting which gave me that ability to work to produce portraits with a much higher level of detail.
One of the exercises that I used to do to practice realistic painting was to find a really sharp well light photograph of a well known face and try to reproduce it from scratch as a painting. One day I found a really nice photograph of Rihanna that had a lot of great detail that I felt would be perfect to learn about painting realistic looking hair and skin texture. I started the painting by blocking in the basic colors and shapes of Rihanna's face and then gradually overlaid detail until the portrait began to emerge. I spent most of my time painting the texture of the skin and hair using a very small brush. The finished painting took around 8 hours to complete over 2 days using Adobe Photoshop and a Wacom Tablet.