by Joni Astrup
Brittany Chester was watching an episode of “Alaskan Bush People” that featured them making Christmas gifts for one another when an idea took hold.
The gifts they made were better than anything you could buy, Chester said, and it inspired her to do the same for her family.
So she dusted off some dormant artistic skills and painted a picture of sunflowers for her grandparents, Sharon and Albert Quick, of Brooklyn Center.
Chester had been drawing, sketching and doodling all her life, but that was her first painting. When she gave it to them last Christmas, they loved it.
The experience reignited Chester’s passion for art and, since then, she has been painting or drawing every day. Her stepmother, Michelle Hall, encouraged Chester to debut her work this fall at the Elk Pride Craft Bazaar, in Elk River. She also sold her pieces at a holiday shopping event in Anoka earlier this month.
Chester, whose maiden name is Hall, graduated from Elk River High School in 2008, where she was captain of the varsity football and basketball cheerleaders. She also danced for 23 years.
Now she and her husband, Daniel, and three children live in Big Lake.
Chester said she’s always loved art, especially comic book art. One of her mentors growing up was Bert Beirne, an artist and family friend. Beirne once told Chester she had an eye for depth and textures.
Chester took a couple of art classes in high school, but never thought art would lead to a career, so she took physics as her electives instead.
Now, she’s honing her artistic skills and seeing where it leads.
One of the things Chester enjoys most about painting is the rich, vibrant color of the paint.
She paints in acrylics on canvas panels or stretch canvas, but plans to do more work in oils and charcoal.
Chester has painted a variety of subjects, from flowers to Heath Ledger’s “Joker” to an image from the “Aliens” science fiction movie.
Chester said she paints best when her mind is occupied by something else, so she often paints while listening to a movie or a documentary.
She said she has to occupy the analytical side of her brain to let her creativity go.
“That’s the one thing I like most about painting is I can shut my mind off and I just let my body do the rest of it,” she said.
She would one day love to have her artwork in a gallery and to create more custom pieces for people. She also is interested in being a tattoo artist.
“I hope it (art) takes me where I want to go and that’s a very simple place — to be doing what I love,” Chester said.
She also sees art as a way of leaving a lasting legacy.
She draws inspiration from her Grandpa Quick, who died in February. Chester said he was always supportive and encouraging while challenging her to accomplish what she said she would do.
When she looks at her completed pieces of art now, she said she thinks of him and says: “There you go, Grandpa.”
For more information about Chester’s art, go to her Facebook page, Custom Art by Brittany Chester.