Tik Tok gets 12-year-old Kiwi artist her first commissioned work – and 6.8m likes

A 12-year-old Kiwi artist with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media for her hyper-realistic drawings has skills few adults can master.

Bored during the Covid level 4 lockdown, Auckland school-girl Isabella Brazhnikova started posting her art on Tik Tok and Instagram and gained instant recognition.

Now she has more than 380,000 followers from all around the world, has completed more than 15 commissioned works, and has her sights set on a gallery show.

Her Instagram and Tik Tok feeds are filled with photo-like drawings of everything from wild and domestic animals, celebrities, fried eggs, candy wrappers, and melting ice cubes.

“At first people didn’t think it was my art and said they didn’t believe I was 12 so I posted a video of me drawing to prove it was me,” Isabella said.

“Then people were amazed and said they loved my work and that I had helped them to start drawing.”

Timelapse videos of her drawing have more than 6.8m likes and requests for her commissioned work is coming in thick and fast.

Most of her commissioned work has been from followers on social media but her most recent for a local school teacher.

The realistic portrait of a horse earned the recently turned 12-year-old $500.

Isabella is the daughter of artist Elena Esina, the head tutor at Realisticus Art Academy.

Her father Roman Brazhnikov gave her the nickname Isabella Clever for the creative things she would do growing up.

The nickname stuck and now she posts under the handle @isabellaclever

Both Brazhnikov and Esina came to New Zealand from Russia as children and have never left.

Isabella is New Zealand born and a “proud Kiwi” and speaks both Russian and English at home.

Esina noticed her daughter had talent at age 3 when she would sit for hours and draw animals and creatures from under the sea.

“Her talent was like nothing I had seen before and it far exceeded what I thought was possible from a child,” Esina said.

“She has mastered techniques that even an adult struggles with.”

When she was 10 Isabella started using her mother’s professional drawing pencils and came up with her own techniques in the hyperrealist style she loves.

“When I tried mum’s professional colour pencils it made my drawings look very 3D andI loved them. I think that’s when I reached the new level,” Isabella said.

“I found a way to work in layers, starting from adding base colours and then adding more layers and details until my artwork feels alive.”

Isabella shares her techniques on social media and videos of her creations have 6.8m likes.

The modest but determined artist has short, medium, and long term goals for her work.

In the short-term, she would love to show her work at an Auckland art gallery.

“That is something I would just love, I really want to do that soon,” she said.

In the medium term, she wants to keep improving and take her art to the next level so it is indistinguishable from the real thing.

Long-term she wants to make enough money so she can make a difference to the lives of animals depicted in her drawings.

“I am a big supporter of WWF and I love all animals. I want to be able to donate money to the organisations that help the animals so no more become extinct.”

“When I first started drawing it was all cats and wild animals so I want to do something to help them.”

And of course, she needs to buy more pencils.

“I go through a packet of pencils pretty quickly at the moment!”

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