How Olga Creates a Portrait

Dry brush portrait from a photograph

On my Home page I’ve uploaded a few speed videos showing how I create dry brush portraits from photographs so you can see the technique from start to finish, because a dry brush portrait from a photograph is tedious, difficult work, even though in the speed drawing video it seems simple.  Beautifully drawn portraits by a dry brush from a photograph differ from other techniques of drawing, it is much more gentle, you can even say photographic, but just think – this is hand painted by an artist who throughout the whole process was thinking about using the right brush, rubbing paint in various places from beginning to end of picture, strictly observing proportions to ensure the resemblance of a portrait and all of this to draw beautifully and tastefully, for example a female portrait.

Drawing Process Grace Kelly

Example of drawing process using Dry Brush Technique – Grace Kelly

Dry brush technique is a modern style of painting in which oil paint, bristle and synthetic brushes are used on watercolour paper or fabric and at first glance use very similar to pencil portraits, in fact pencil is actually used. Some artists depict the picture initially by drawing a pencil sketch and only then do they start using a brush with oil paint; while other artists do not use pencil at all and use dry brush technique from start to finish.  Drawing portraits by dry brush from photography was born in an environment of free artists over the past 20 years. This phenomenon has spread and become commonplace for almost any artist.

In modern art, dry brush is perceived as a non-traditional technique, it has mostly been used by free/street artists.  No art institutions teach this technique and you will find no information about the technique in bookstores either. Therefore, many skilled artists have trained independently.  A new painting technique simply can not be recognized in academic circles despite the fact that we live in the 21st century and portraits in this brilliant painting technique have gained much popularity.

Currently dry brush technique is considered to be one of the most advanced drawing techniques. It is the fastest way to draw a portrait from life, yet some artists from different countries do not know about dry brush at all and so they draw portraits using the old method of drawing with charcoal, pencil, sanguine, pastel, etc.

Drawing Process Alex

Example of drawing process using Dry Brush Technique – Alex

I am often asked how long it takes to create a portrait using dry brush.  Drawing from a photograph in the technique of dry brush is much harder than live drawing, it is much more time consuming and a different approach is quite often required. However unlike the live portrait technique, where you are often working to a time limit, the dry brush technique allows you to slowly bring the work to life.

Live portraits can take around 1½ -2 hours but a high-quality and painstakingly produced black and white 35 cm by 50 cm portrait, from a photograph, takes about 8-10 hours, sometimes more. A color portrait takes an average of 12 hours of hard work, so is often completed over several days.  Should you choose to order a dry brush portrait from a photograph, please allow on average 2 to 5 days for delivery, depending on complexity.

People often ask me how quickly you can learn to draw from a photograph.  The answer is that you cannot rush and in the beginning you need to draw a lot of live portraits. This practice is very important and creates the best foundation to build on.  You can of course draw from a photo in the early stages but I must say it is not desirable and may disappoint.  An artist with years of experience will tell you it is not realistic. In over 20 years of professional work with portraits, I’ve painted many live portraits as well as portraits from photographs but I did not rush to achieve the final goal, I took my time to get there and took onboard the advice I was given from more experienced artists.  I have always wondered, what is the basis for people to choose the artist who will create their portrait?  I believe that 99% always choose a portrait artist who is able to draw by dry brush. Dry brush is already a classic technique and is very well suited for a gift.