The strangely compelling, super realistic and famous Instagram designs of artist Brie Hayden

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Until the pandemic, Arlington artist Brie Hayden had a cool but unusual job: painting wax statues of famous people at the DC branch of Madame Tussauds. But when the museum temporarily closed its doors last spring, she decided to focus on selling her eye-catching pencil drawings, which were previously a minor side activity.

Today, Hayden has a full-fledged business that produces hyperrealistic drawings that resemble black and white photographs, extraordinarily detailed renderings of everyday items such as sneakers, liquor bottles, and animals. “People tell me they double take when they stumble upon my pieces and find out they’re designs,” she says.

Hayden sells the work on his website – the originals are “four-figure,” while the prints are all under $ 100 – but most of his business is done via Instagram (@briehaydenart). Sales have been so fast that she is now earning more than she was at Madame Tussauds.

Part of Hayden’s success is due to a big push from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who ordered two designs and shared a video of her making one with her 205 million Instagram followers. But above all, fans gravitate to his striking images. “People are drawn to the beauty of art,” she says, “and realism often gives people an immediate connection because they understand art right away. Each piece captures light and shadow in a way that makes you feel like you can touch it.

Web Producer / Writer

Rosa joined the Washingtonian in 2016 after graduating from Mount Holyoke College. She covers arts and culture for the magazine. She has written about anti-racism efforts at the Woolly Mammoth Theater, the dinosaurs in the renovated Fossil Room at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, and the horrors of digital drug rehab. Whenever she can, she performs with her family-based Puerto Rican folk music ensemble based in Jersey City. She lives in Adams Morgan.


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