May 20, 2022

Charlie Doodle

Unique Art & Entertainment

Artist of the Week: Brittnee Sylvester

9 min read

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it’s also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at [email protected] And if you’re wondering just what constitutes art, that’s the beauty of it; it’s up to you! See all of our past Artists of the Week in our dedicated section.

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating? What mediums do you work with?

Brittnee Sylvester: I have been drawing and creating for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I would draw from a source I found around the house and practice until I got it to near perfection in my little eyes. I really started to explore a lot of different mediums throughout high school. Everything from painting and drawing to crocheting and ceramics. Really anything I could get my hands on to just create something out of nothing. In 2019, I started to take my art seriously and really try to get it out in the world for others. I now mainly create in drawing and painting, using mixed media (collage, pens, markers, charcoal, acrylic paints, spray paint, etc.) and I finish every painting in oil. Oil is definitely a medium I cannot live without when I’m painting!

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?

Sure! I start every painting super loose and free. Mark making, washes, just putting anything down that I feel. I keep all my materials visible and accessible for inspiration as I go, regardless if it is a nonobjective abstract or realism, I start to slowly refine and work out what needs to be covered and pushed back, and likewise what needs to be pulled forward and stay. I add in my acrylic under layers, really refining the image and the painting, getting a solid base for what is on my canvas and make sure my composition is where it needs to be and well balanced. I finally finish my paintings in oil to really pop my colors and push and pull using the natural pigments from the earth through the oil paints to make the painting feel alive and add my finishing touches and highlights.

In the first layers- I view them as sort of my past traumas and scars from when I was growing up — letting them come out in a healthy way. I let some of these original marks show through to the final layer so you can see the depth of the painting and where it started. Which, to me, represents all the hurt in our lives that could have stopped us from moving forward but didn’t. They only built us to be a stronger and more beautiful person regardless of our past. The same applies to the paintings. When I originally put all my marks on in those first layers, I sometimes think, ‘man, how am I going to fix this? It’s a mess,’ but it always pulls through and turns out beautiful in the end in its own unique way. So to me, each layer really has a meaning and purpose that you get to see.

Tell us about where your inspiration for art comes from.

When I paint, I paint from my heart. Every painting I do is inspired by emotions. When I was young, I had a lot of trauma happen, and unfortunately, that trauma has continued into adulthood, like it’s following me around, waiting to finally keep me down. I was never taught how to process emotions and always struggled to maintain the pressure from being expected to be perfect and presentable- be someone I’m not. I would often lock myself in a room and paint. I started to really use my creativity to escape it all and found from a young age that art and being creative to me is an outlet from the bad or overwhelming emotions in my life. I tend to be high emotion, no matter the emotion, I feel it in abundance, and it’s sometimes hard to let those emotions out in a healthy way. Art is my healthy outlet for each emotion I am feeling, and it inspires me to paint and create something beautiful that positively affects not only me but those around me as well. Aside from my emotions, I DO find inspiration in almost everything I see and do-I try to keep my eyes open to everything around me, soaking in everything I can. I pull either something aesthetic from those encounters or some emotion I was feeling.

Do you have a specific “beat” you like best-nature, food, profiles, etc.?

My portfolio is split into mainly nonobjective abstracts, as well as combining abstract and realism together. I really love the freedom abstracts give you, but also the discipline and focus on creating imagery such as a profile, animals, or any other imagery mixed in. When they collide and come together, it creates something really magical and beautiful.

But a lot of my commissions are specific to the collector, and I really do love making other people’s visions come alive with paint with my artist voice shining, though. So overall, I feel like I have my own “beat” for pieces I create on my own, but I also love when I get pushed outside of that and into what someone else is looking for.

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you or is extremely special to you?

Hmmm this is a great but tough question. I feel like every piece of art I create comes from my heart and will always have a small piece of me living through it, and they all mean something of significance to me. But I do have a few pieces that are extremely special to me.

Firstly, and maybe a little bit of an unusual choice of mine would be a very imperfect acrylic painting I did in just 20 minutes, LIVE in front of people, for my first ArtBattle Seattle. (This is where 12 artists compete to complete a painting in just 20 minutes while there is a huge crowd walking around you the whole time, the audience votes on the best paintings creating a winner-all the pieces are auctioned off and get to be taken home that night). I was so nervous that night painting in front of so many people because I had never really put myself or my art out to the world in such a vulnerable way before. I was competing against some really amazing artists as well, which just added to the nerves. I expected to just have a good experience and enjoy the night, not expecting to win anything, but I ended up winning my round, and my painting sold for $520. I was so shocked and was just overwhelmed with the experience and the appreciation from the audience towards my art and myself. It really showed me my worth as an artist and kind of solidified that people really do love what I create. Even though I didn’t win the overall that night, I walked away with new friends and a lot of confidence within myself and my art. So that is a piece I will never forget.

My second is my newest paper series, “To Be You.” It is a paper series of quick mixed media oil painting studies. I created them with my young kids, and specifically my young daughter, in mind. I feel like there are so many pressures for us, especially women and young girls, to fit into this perfect box and be something we are not-to fit the mold of what society expects us to fit. I wanted to show my daughter through those paintings that she doesn’t need to conform to what the internet, movies, or really anyone else wants her to be. To be you is more than enough. They are paint studies for a reason, I only allowed myself so much time for each piece, and the imperfectness of them ties into the meaning behind the series. So that series is really special to me.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?

I didn’t have an ideal perfect life. It was really difficult, lonely, and pretty miserable. Not a lot of people know that because of the facade we were expected to present ourselves under. I don’t often let that part of me come out easily because it’s all doom and gloom, and I don’t particularly like to see the pity of other people for me, especially when other people have had harder lives than myself. I have had too many traumatic experiences in my life, and that has definitely been something that affects my art. Creating has always been my release, and I would usually paint my pain. I grew up without my mom in my life under a lie to conceal why. My siblings and I were expected to be perfect, perfect grades, perfect look, perfect extracurricular performances, everything had to be perfect. While at the same time not getting the support or really the love we needed. Not understanding the reasons behind why our lives were the way they were. Within the last few years, I have found the reasons and things sort of came crashing down for me. For a long time, I stopped creating to have a family and have this “perfect ideal life,” and that was really the push for me to start my art again because I was so overwhelmed with negative emotions that I needed a healthy outlet not only for myself but for my four small kids as well. I feel that within the last year, I have really started to accept it all and learn that the things I can’t control shouldn’t have such a negative impact on my life. In turn, I have been painting the other side of that pain and hurt- the growth and happiness under it all. I have been creating art that reflects how far I’ve come to defeat everything bad that has happened and painting a world in which the bad doesn’t exist- a portal into a beautiful world- even if it’s just a painting. I often try to not make my paintings “perfect” and leave them sort of a messy beautiful, and that is directly reflected from my childhood and past.

Art is such a powerful healing tool, and not just for artists. I believe that a collector, or anyone who enjoys looking at art, can heal through it. And above all, my biggest goal is to create something, that when someone else looks at it, gets their breath taken away. I hope that it touches them so deeply and makes their emotions stir, and helps them in their life in some way, even if it is for just a fleeting moment. Because let’s face it, we all have had some sort of trauma in our lives, and if I can help heal someone through my art, then my job as a creator is worth so much more than painting just a pretty picture.

If we want to see more of your work, where should we go to find it?

You can find me on my website at And on social media: Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.

I would love to connect with anyone who is inspired by this article or is touched by my art!

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?

I always have so many new projects and series popping up that I’m excited about- there are just too many to name. But, I will say that something I’m beyond excited about is that I’m currently working on some original painted lockets that I think is going to be really amazing and give functional art a whole new meaning!

This next year I’m also really trying to push myself more on the local scene and connect with people in person versus online! I’m going to try to maybe get into some galleries and some more local businesses supporting not only myself but also those businesses and communities directly.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? (We ask everyone!)

My go-to is a double shot of espresso with honey. But really, I love all coffee! I love coffee so much that I even did a series of mini abstracts titled “Coffee.”

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