Brie Hayden is a self-proclaimed “left brained artist,” reveling in the control she gets from drawing with a pencil — it’s preciseness and neatness, and the ability to bring an object’s shadows to life. She is attracted to objects with an interesting shape, like liquor bottles, that can capture and play alongside the light that bounces off them.
She admits, “I am in love with details and addicted to the satisfaction I get by recreating them in a way that highlights the object’s complexity.”
All that focus on the most minute features has led to admiration far beyond the D.C. metro area, including commissions from a number of celebrities.
A Northern Virginia native, Hayden began selling her art when she moved to Melbourne, Australia, “the street art capital of the world,” she said, after graduating from James Madison University in 2016 with a major in environmental biology (and a minor in art).
Inspired by artists “street busking” (painting in public and selling their art in the streets), she started selling prints of animals she drew. A year later, she returned to the United States and worked as an artist at Madame Tussauds Wax museum until she was laid off in January 2020. Like many other artists, the pandemic pushed her to pursue art full time.
While her drawing has gotten a lot of appreciation, she didn’t start out with a pencil.
“I was always into art as a hobby, trying different mediums as I grew into an adult. For the longest time I only worked in acrylic paints. I only first started drawing (as opposed to painting or pen and ink stippling) at the end of 2018,” she said. She said she sold her first “big” commission to a person she is not allowed to name.
In the past year, especially, Hayden said, the power of social media has brought her to new heights. When Hayden started promoting her art on Instagram three years ago, she had less than 1,000 followers. Then, brands started promoting her free hand, liquor bottle drawings, leading to a flood of commission work from high profile clients like Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson and thousands of new followers.
Since then, Hayden has been working on commissioned pieces through social media and word of mouth, selling 8×10 pet portraits for around $200 and liquor bottle commissions starting around $1,000. She is drawn to vintage objects, like prohibition bottles, often riddled with “unnoticed and unappreciated detail” — scratches, tarnishes, rust.
“I draw throughout the day, but have always been a night owl,” she said. “I love when I get really into a piece and don’t even realize I’m still working on it late into the night.”
For the drawings, she uses Mars Lumograph pencils, “although I don’t think pencils make as much of a difference as the paper — I only ever use Arches hot press paper,” she said.
Hayden wants to explore different avenues of art like stippling and oil painting to “see where my art leads me to,” she said. For now, she enjoys the process of drawing.
With having shown her work at local galleries like The Torpedo Factory, Palette 22 and the Glaven Kocen Gallery, she hopes to expand her already-wide reach internationally, while still living in the moment of the process.