Most days, artist Adam Dressner toils in his East Side apartment, creating intricate oil paintings, many of which fetch well over $10,000.
Others, he lugs his art cart, which he built himself, to Washington Square Park. Amid the chaos, he sets up a pop-up studio complete with a drop cloth, a striped umbrella and a sign offering, in five languages, to paint parkgoers.
“There’s no price attached to the activity,” Dressner, 42, told The Post of his park portraits. “I think it would change the whole feeling of it. When people ask, I say it can be anything, including free.”
Using colorful acrylics on a 9×12 board, Dressner, in his trademark blue cap, paints the willing subject while peppering them with questions about themselves.
Once handed the finished product, people usually offer a donation at their discretion. Dressner declined to give monetary figures, but noted his yield ranges. “You can do quite well,” he said.
But a cash transaction is besides the point.
Dressner, an attorney turned artist, initially started his al fresco sessions in 2018 to sharpen his life drawing skills.
“Some people pay money to go to a life drawing class, where they hire a model,” said the native New Yorker. “Or I could go out to the park and people come to me. And often pay me something for it and tell me how much they like it. It’s about the connection.”
These chance interactions have forged friendships and led to commissions.
Last year, he caught the eye of “Chinatown Phil,” a popular Instagram creator known for spotlighting unique Big Apple denizens, who made a video of Dressner’s impressive process.
And as marijuana enthusiasts filled the Greenwich Village hub on April 20 for “420 Day,” Dressner met jewelry designer Greg Yuna, whose clients include Pete Davidson, Drake and Rihanna.
“He’s incredible,” Yuna told The Post. “I was just watching him paint three or four people, maybe 30 minutes each. I asked him to paint my friend David Rosa.”
Yuna was so impressed, he later visited Dressner’s studio.
“I don’t know much about art, but I know it’s supposed to make you feel something. Everything he painted spoke to me,” said Yuna, who commissioned a 40×30-inch oil painting of his pal that hangs prominently in his office. Now, the pair are hatching a future collaboration.
Dressner was also recently tapped by Kyle Martino to create art for his soccer speakeasy, including a showstopping depiction of Diego Maradona. And later this month, he’ll be participating in a benefit auction put on by his alma mater, Friends Seminary (an East Village K-12 Quaker day school), at the prestigious David Zwirner gallery. His work, which is expected to fetch thousands, will be up alongside that of top artists such as Alex Katz and Stanley Whitney.
Not bad for a guy who learned his craft using an “Oil Painting for Dummies” book.
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In 2009, Dressner, who graduated from Yale Law School, was working at a white-shoe firm when he caught a Francis Bacon retrospective at the Met.
“I didn’t know all of the art-history references, but I was moved by what I saw,” said Dressner, who at the time was an aspiring writer.
But he always had a knack for drawing.
He illustrated campus newspapers while attending Princeton as an undergrad, as well as his grandfather Howard Roy Dressner’s 1998 book, “Essays in Bewilderment.”
After he left the museum, he immediately purchased the Dummies guide, which whet his appetite to create.
“I enjoyed it so much, and I found an outlet for self-expression,” he said.
He painted self-portraits and then turned his eye 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 of practicing law, he quit his full-time job to concentrate on painting — and continued capturing his family matriarch until her death in 2020.
He’s currently working on his “Transport” series, where he paints New Yorkers and relocates them to a different environment. “Man on Beach,” a 72×48 oil on canvas, captures a gentleman who usually sits in a beach chair and hawks books in Union Square. But Dressner painted him near the shore.
This ongoing theme is an exercise in self-reflection for the expressionist painter.
“I myself was unsure of my place as a lawyer and wanted to transport myself into another situation,” he said.
So far, he’s painted himself into a sweet spot.
This article was originally posted by The New York Post.