Personae with Psychology and Baggage: The Charming Brush Portraits of Alexandra Dillon

Most artists paint with brushes, but Alexandra Dillon paints on them. She transforms old and worn artists’ brushes into charming portraits of imaginary people. When you look at these pieces, you feel as though you are being drawn into the mysterious humanity of their former owners. Conversely, the artworks may seem to imply that any and every human being holds within them a vast resource of creative energy.

For Alexandra, the collection is much more than just a clever use of discarded objects. When these little figures are paired or grouped, curious relationships and mental connections are formed.

Alexandra Dillon

The artist doesn’t start with a set idea. “I never quite know who will show up,” she says. Rather, she lets the “soul” of the object speak for itself.  The characters range from bejewelled ladies to roguish men.

Alexandra – whose major influences are Roman-Egyptian mummy portraits, silent film stars, folk art and Francisco Goya – writes on the value of her process: ​”Painting soft faces on the hard tools, like axes and cleavers, underscores our humanity. The intended purpose of each tool, juxtaposed with the portrait, alludes to inner motivations and social roles, The ‘old souls’ on shovels, remind us of mortality and resurrection. ​Each of my personae has a set of dreams, disappointments, psychology and baggage. In other words, they are us.”


The Collection


After obtaining a BA in Motion Picture and Television from UCLA in 1984, Alexandra attended Studio Cecil Graves in Florence, Italy and the New Orleans Academy of Fine Art in the early 1990s. Most recently, she has exhibited her work in Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Venice, California. The group show in Venice – titled “Palimpsest”- opened in October 2016 in a burned-out space. Alexandra contributed thirteen small portraits made on burnt brushes. The event was curated by artist/gallerist Flavio Bisciotti, whose studio had been consumed by fire in early 2016.

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Images used with permission.


Four Ladies


Joseph and Elizabeth


Penelope and Hiro




Thea and Xavier


Three Ancient Ladies


Three Ladies