Is this 'lifelike' image a drawing or photograph?

A self-taught artist's works are so realistic, they've gone viral. However, some in the social media community are skeptical of their authenticity.

The late scientist and skeptic Carl Sagan once said that "extraordinary claims required extraordinary evidence." Apparently, the standard applies not only to alien encounters, but even some of the random things that go viral on internet.

For instance, take a look at the image shown above. It isn't a photograph, as much as your eyes keep telling you otherwise. It's actually a drawing that was uploaded onto the website deviantArt by Samuel Silva, a 29-year-old Portuguese attorney who claimed to have created the artwork using nothing more than seven colored ball point pens purchased at an office supply store and as many as 50 hours of painstaking attention to detail. The works have received over 8,000 comments on the site, many of which praising the self-taught artist's exceptional and unique talent.

On his deviantArt profile, Silva explains how he produces such stunning and uncanny realism. According to a report by Australia's News Limited:

Silva employed seven Bic ballpoint pens of the kind found in any good office supply store to make the artwork, six colours plus black. The colours are not mixed nor blended.

"Ballpoint pen ink dries instantly and can not be erased," said Silva. "I just cross hatch the different colors in layers to create the illusion of blending and the illusion of colors I don't actually have."

Of course, there are many who aren't so convinced that such masterpieces can be merely the handiwork of a master doodler with a lot of free time on his hands. Recently, after one of the drawings was posted on the content sharing site Reddit, many readers began challenging the artist to prove the authenticity of his work, with one user going so far as calling for him to produce a video that shows the entire drawing process -- from start to finish.

While such doubts may come off like pent-up jealousy, Redditors (as they're sometimes refered to), along with the rest of us, have every reason to be skeptical being that Internet hoaxes are becoming about as common as malware scares. Some of you might remember that fake video that appeared to show an inventor using bird-like wings to fly. Also, who can forget the staged shot of Bigfoot's dead body.

Luckily, the web, with its immense crowd-sourcing reach, also functions similarly to peer review, often with experts, bloggers and those who just happen to be keen observers chiming in to dispel many forms of deception before it starts getting legs.

Silva has yet to respond to his critics. And although offering up some form of proof would go a long way to dispel the naysayers, I wouldn't want to be the one to watch 50 hours of ink drying.

But what do you think? Skillful hand-drawn illusion or clever digital manipulation?

Silva's “Redhead Girl” drawing (left) is based on a photograph (right) by Russian photographer Kristina Taraina

Photos: Samuel Silva/deviantArt

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