Artist Transforms Discarded Paintbrushes Into Exquisite Character Portraits

Paintbrush Portraits by Rebecca Szeto

Old paintbrushes are given a renewed purpose in the art of Rebecca Szeto. The San Francisco-based artist transforms the used tools into model figurines inspired by history, contemporary society, and the untapped potential of discarded materials. Entitled Paintbrush Portraits, these miniature works of art reimagine the form of the brush into delicately handpainted women wearing ornate, old-fashioned dresses that follow the body of the bristled utensil.

“The Paintbrush Portraits series has always been a vehicle for delivering wry social commentary through historical reference and ecologically-conscious craftsmanship,” Szeto explains to My Modern Met. “[It] continues to be a personal exploration into the enduring modesty and subtle dignity of the human condition. I find myself circling this notion of grace, as the innate virtues and values we possess as humans.” The expressive portraits of the different painted characters appear to match the age of the bristles; together, they create an image of a long-lost precious object.

Reusing unconventional materials is a key part of Szeto's creative practice. “I re-purpose humble, mass produced materials, and largely found rubbish to investigate the possibilities in re-forming beauty and value,” she says. “In doing so, I set aside preconceived notions about the materials so I can freely explore their inherent qualities and investigate meaning beneath the surface.”

Pairing discarded paintbrushes with themes and ideas that are often overlooked—especially doing so in a tender, thoughtful way—brings both of these elements into the limelight. “My interest lies in how we transcend challenging times, linguistic labels and offer up teaching moments for serious play and energetic renewal.”

To keep up to date with Szeto's latest projects, you can follow her on Instagram.

San Francisco-based artist Rebecca Szeto transforms old paintbrushes into works of art in her series Paintbrush Portraits.

Paintbrush Portraits by Rebecca Szeto

Paintbrush Portraits by Rebecca Szeto

These unconventional sculptures explore “the enduring modesty and subtle dignity of the human condition.”

Paintbrush Portraits by Rebecca Szeto

Paintbrush Portraits by Rebecca Szeto

Rebecca Szeto: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Rebecca Szeto.

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
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