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By SCOTT GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Jun 07, 2021 5:00 am

What if there was an online marketplace where struggling artists during the COVID lockdown could meet up with those seeking original, affordable artworks for their home or office? Enter Drybrush.com.

Started in 2020 by couple Jojo and Joweeh Liao, an IT business owner and finance professional respectively, the website took their combined passion for art collecting and turned it into a showcase for hand-curated local artworks — everything from Filipiniana themes to Cubism and abstraction — which can be ordered online, matched to one’s environment, and delivered to the home.

The couple had been building their own art collection for decades. Then COVID struck, and they noticed a ‘barrage’ of local artists scrambling to sell their work to make ends meet.

Basically, it’s an internet art gallery that fills a very current niche: the crisis of COVID has led to artists having much free time on their hands, but seeking an outlet for their creations; at the same time, many people trapped at home are shifting their spending habits, dabbling in art collection instead of foreign travels and luxury items. Drybrush Gallery caters to both ends of the market.

Drybrush features a diverse roster including long-time painters and sculptors to teachers or farmers who have become self-taught artists.

“The Painter” by Jovan Benito and Glenmore Lawig

“COVID-19 has put a hold on almost everything and artists were not spared,” says Jojo. “Drybrush aims to provide a lifeline to artists for them to continue to pursue their passion during this difficult period. We wanted to provide a platform allowing everybody to be an art collector. We believe in sharing happiness through art.”

The couple had been building their own art collection for decades. Then COVID struck, and they noticed a “barrage” of local artists scrambling to sell their work to make ends meet. Being trapped at home, however, made it more difficult for artists.

Fortunately, Jojo and Joweeh also run CoreProc Inc., an IT company that focuses on developing websites and mobile apps. “Since art and supporting artists have been our lifelong passion, it was the perfect time to create Drybrush,” says Jojo.

" Thirsty" by Nelson Ricahuerta

An art match made in heaven? Presenting all these artists in an online gallery space required someone with a background in art history.

Enter the third part of this art triptych: Mariel Yulo, curator and digital gallery assistant for Drybrush. An Ateneo European Studies/International Relations graduate, she interned with Artinformal and Silverlens galleries before applying to Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London, where she gained intensive experience in cataloguing and marketing artworks. Returning to the Philippines, she joined Drybrush as it was starting up.

Checking out the online gallery, you can search by artist, genre or style, size requirements — just like any online shopping space, but for art. There are special categories (Return to Nature, Exploring Figurative Art, Collaborative Works, Sculpture, Curator Favorites) to get you situated and help you explore. And there are affordable gems out there. Jojo and Joweeh’s commitment was to make art collecting accessible to everyone.

“We offer works from P2,500 and above as well as a wide variety of styles for our customers to choose from,” explains Mariel. “The goal was to challenge the notion of art being exclusive, which is why we take pride in helping new enthusiasts start their collections and introducing private collectors to new and emerging artists.”

“Discipline” by Resty P. Cagayat

Jojo says they’ve already sold the works of over 60 artists in our first five months of operation. Some of their curated pieces are displayed at the Makati Medical Wellness Center, with a portion of the proceeds from purchases donated to their foundation.

Operating on a consignment basis (artists get 65 percent of sales), Mariel’s job is often pairing budding collectors with just the right artist. “We have very diverse customers — those aiming to start their art collections, new home buyers, private collectors looking for specific pieces and casual browsers who see a piece that captures their attention.” Another service Drybrush provides: pairing a collector with a requested artist to commission an original work.

Jojo points out that this lockdown moment is a perfect convergence between both ends of the market: “Since customers are in their homes, shopping for art online becomes easier because they can actually visualize how a piece they are looking at will fit in their empty spaces.”

Joweeh and Jojo Liao and Mariel Yulo (left)

One big satisfaction is helping new or emerging artists make a sale. “Notifying those artists that their work has been sold is something we look forward to,” Mariel says. “Seeing their happiness and increased confidence is one of the core reasons why Drybrush was created.”

Right now, their most popular genres or styles are rural landscapes, portraits of Filipino figures, traditional Filipino mother and child scenes wearing barong Tagalog and baro’t saya and the like. Not surprising, considering we are in the Quincentennial year.

Drybrush even has a mission statement, of sorts: “We tell the story of the Philippines and its culture and the everyday story encapsulated in every piece. We immortalize the Filipino spirit, its triumphs, aspirations, and struggles.” But Jojo emphasizes that every type of art and artist is welcome — even political pieces — and believes there is a buyer out there for every style. “We are open to all kinds of art as we are aware each style has its own audience.”

At the end of the day, art tells each artist’s story. And the job of Drybrush might be to connect that narrative with the right audience. “We believe that behind every artwork, there is a story. Drybrush is artist focused — we value the story and message of the artist and do our best in sharing that with our customers.”

Visit the Drybrush Gallery for more information.