This rising NYC art star will paint you for free

Artist Adam Dressner works most days in his east side apartment, creating intricate oil paintings, many of which fetch well over $10,000.

Another pulls his self-made art cart into Washington Square Park. In the middle of the chaos, he sets up a pop-up studio with a cloth, a striped umbrella and a sign that offers painting to park visitors in five languages.

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“There is no price associated with the activity,” Dressner, 42, told The Post of his park portraits. “I think it would change the whole feel. When people ask, I say it can be anything, even free.”

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Using colorful acrylics on a 9×12 panel, Dressner, wearing his trademark blue cap, paints a willing subject while peppering them with questions about themselves.

When people hand in the finished product, they usually offer a donation of their own discretion. Dressner declined to provide monetary figures, but noted his yield ranges. “You can make it,” he said.

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Dressner painting by NYU student Anjali June, 19.
Dressner painting by NYU student Anjali June, 19.
Stephen Yang for the NYPost

But the cash transaction is not important.

Dressner, a lawyer turned artist, initially started outdoor sessions in 2018 to sharpen his life drawing skills.

“Some people pay money to take a life drawing class where they hire a model,” said the native New Yorker. “But I can go out to the park and people come up to me. And they often pay me something for it and tell me how much they like it. It’s about connection.”

These chance interactions forged friendships and led to commissions.

Dressner adds the finishing touch to his portrait of NYU student Anjali June.
Dressner adds the finishing touch to his portrait of NYU student Anjali June.
Stephen Yang for the NYPost

Last year, he caught the eye of “Chinatown Phil,” a popular Instagram creator known for highlighting the unique denizens of the Big Apple, who made a video of Dressner’s impressive process.

And when marijuana enthusiasts packed downtown Greenwich Village for “420 Day” on April 20, Dressner met jewelry designer Greg Yun, whose clients include Pete Davidson, Drake and Rihanna.

“He’s amazing,” Yuna told The Post. “I just watched him paint three or four people, maybe 30 minutes each. I asked him to paint my friend David Ross.”

Yuna was so impressed that he later visited Dressner’s studio.

Adam Dressner works on an oil painting in his studio.
Adam Dressner works on an oil painting in his studio.
Stephen Yang for the NYPost

“I don’t know much about art, but I do know that I’m supposed to feel something. Everything he painted spoke to me,” said Yuna, who commissioned a 40×30 inch oil painting of his friend to hang prominently in his office. Now the couple is planning a future collaboration.

Dressner was also recently tapped by Kyle Martino to create art for his soccer speaker, including a stunning depiction of Diego Maradona. Later this month, he will participate in an auction held by his alma mater, Friends Seminary (an East Village K-12 Quaker day school), at the prestigious David Zwirner Gallery. Expected to reach thousands, his work will be placed alongside top artists such as Alex Katz and Stanley Whitney.

Not bad for a guy who learned his trade from the book “Oil Painting for Dummies”.

In 2009, Dressner, a graduate of Yale Law School, was working at a white shoe company when he caught a Francis Bacon retrospective at the Met.

“I didn’t know all the art history references, but I was moved by what I saw,” said Dressner, then an aspiring writer.

But he always had a flair for drawing.

He illustrated student newspapers while an undergraduate at Princeton, as well as his grandfather Howard Roy Dressner’s 1998 book, “Essays in Bewilderment.”

After leaving the museum, he immediately bought a Dummies guide, which whetted his appetite for creation.

Adam Dressner in his studio.
Adam Dressner in his studio.
Stephen Yang for the NYPost

“I really enjoyed it and found an outlet for self-expression,” he said.

He painted self-portraits, then turned to his beloved grandmother, Sonia Segoda Dressner, who became his muse.

“She lived to be 99 and was a child actress, first on the radio. She was a violinist and had the most mischievous, charming personality.’

In 2018, after nearly a decade as a lawyer, he quit his full-time job to focus on painting – and continued to photograph his family matriarch until her death in 2020.

He is currently working on his “Transportation” series, where he paints New Yorkers and transports them to another environment. “Man on the Beach,” a 72×48 oil on canvas, captures a gentleman usually sitting in a lounge chair on the beach breaking out books in Union Square. But Dressner painted it near the coast.

Dressner's tool.
Dressner’s tool.
Stephen Yang for the NYPost

This constant theme is an exercise in self-reflection for the expressionist painter.

“I myself was unsure of my place as a lawyer and wanted to transfer myself to a different situation,” he said.

So far, he has painted himself into a sweet spot.


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