Dry Brush Portrait Painting


imageThe reason for this rather strange title is that when I look at a dry brush piece I always think about how the medium became so popular. No, it doesn’t have a long history such as oil paintings and charcoal sketches. In fact, it only really struck the attention of artists in the 1980’s. More specifically, street painters that gathered at a specific pedestrian area. But I also find myself thinking how beautiful the effects of the strokes are. It’s so soft that it’s hard to focus on just a small area. The viewer is pleasantly forced to see the “bigger picture” in order to really appreciate a dry brush portrait painting.

The Origins of Dry Brush Painting

As mentioned before, the street painters that made this medium and technique so popular were those that resided in Moscow and the well-known pedestrian area is known as Arbat Street. Initially they would sit there and draw portraits of people passing by using pencils, charcoal and pastel. Needless to say, these mediums all have their unique qualities, especially for pieces that need to be done fairly quickly. But they weren’t fast enough for the artists that were drawing subjects that were literally on the move. However, the dry brush technique fixed this problem, because it’s very quick and gives quality results.

What is a Dry Brush Portrait Painting

Just to get some clarity, even though dry brush painting became synonymous with speed doesn’t mean it’s always used in that manner. It can be used to create some of the most detailed and life-like portraits possible. As the name suggests, the brush is relatively dry when used. The paint, which can be water or oil based, is only slightly diluted and when the brush and paint is combined onto a dry service you get the “dry brush” technique.

Most people think they are looking at a pencil sketch when they see a dry brush piece, but upon further investigation it becomes obvious that it’s not. In some cases the artist might use pencil for structure, but if you look at the traditional way it was used then pencil isn’t really needed. What makes a dry brush painting so great is that the surface isn’t greasy to the touch so it can be rolled up and carried around without ruining the picture. They look particularly great within a nice frame and by keeping it secure it will definitely add to all the years it can last.

Why Dry Brush Portraits are Perfect Gifts

If you really want to show somebody that they are special and important, then what better way to celebrate their uniqueness than by giving them a dry brush portrait? They might see great aspects about themselves they never noticed before, simply because they see themselves differently through an art piece. It’s also a gift that is greatly appreciated, because it wasn’t just bought at a gift-shop around the corner. It was given with thought and consideration. In addition to being the perfect gift, it can last for centuries thanks to the paint compounds that are used.

Why Consider a Dry Brush Portrait

For starters, it’s a very quick process that is quite affordable compared to traditional oil paintings. I personally use a singular color oil paint, namely brown, when painting the photos of clients. I find that it’s a nice variation from typical charcoal and pencil mediums. It’s not an authority color, which really helps to bring out the delicate touches. Just like the street painters in Moscow, my fundamental aim when painting a photo is to capture the soul first, or if you prefer, the characteristics that make the person unique. From there I had softer detail.


The truth of the matter is that there are many reasons why you should get a dry brush painted portrait, and very few reasons not to. As a great alternative to the typical family photo or as an intimate gift to somebody special, the dry brush technique never fails to astonish viewers. The quick strokes of clarity that come together so perfectly can trigger a hypnotic effect, leaving the viewer engulfed in a picture so beautiful it’s hard to look away. The speed and price are just extra elements to get excited about, so don’t hesitate any longer before getting your own dry brush portrait.