While making faith and art her own, Brittany Weistling realizes she is God’s masterpiece.
Stillness enshrouds a dimly lit room, where a mug of tea sits in need of reheating. It’s 1 a.m., and the only sound is the murmur of music escaping from earbuds and the occasional creak of an easel. Brittany Weistling has been sitting here for hours with a gray palette and canvas smattered with oil paint. A creative vision is becoming reality with each skillful stroke of her brush.
Coming from a family of artists, at 24 Brittany is already considered a world-class painter. Her grandpa was an artist. Her father, Morgan, is recognized as one of the finest contemporary painters in the United States, while her mother, JoAnn, is a nationally recognized, award-winning painter herself. Even her younger sister, Sienna (13), is excelling in drawing, painting and other creative pursuits.
“I’ve been brought up in the world of art,” Brittany says. “It can be midnight or later and the whole family is up painting in their different spaces.”
Brittany’s works are a staple at highly esteemed art shows and galleries. She sold her first painting when she was only 16. At 17, she became the youngest exhibitor ever at the Masters of the American West Art Show and Sale. And by 18, she was considered an “artist to watch” by a major trade publication.
Pursuing her passions
Brittany has modeled for her parents’ paintings “probably 50 or more times through the years.” But she really flourished when it was her turn to create.
“I’ve been painting, drawing or doing sculptures since as far back as I can remember,” Brittany says.
Throughout school, she applied herself academically, but the arts came naturally.
Brittany eventually branched out, taking drama for four years. She jumped into theater production and thought about being an actress, at the same time she continued to play the piano—something she had done since she was 6. Even history rose to the surface in her studies.
Narrowing her pursuits
“I had so many passions. I thought by applying history, I could become a curator in a museum,” Brittany says. “I’d rather have a love for so many things than be apathetic.”
Despite all her pursuits, Brittany continued to paint—and her parents took notice.
“They saw that I had a gift and helped me cultivate my skills,” she says. “I was being trained by two artists.”
Much of that training came through discussions—and osmosis, as she simply observed two masters do their work day after day.
“My parents’ work is amazing,” Brittany says. “As they taught me, I just wanted to get better and keep growing.”
Brittany began showing her work to collectors and “people who are serious in the art world” when she was 16. That’s when she knew she would have to make a decision.
“If I wanted to get serious about art, I couldn’t go [in so] many directions,” she explains. “I had to master one thing, so I chose oil painting. I really loved the idea of creating something three dimensional in a two-dimensional medium.”
But she also had to ask herself a hard question.
“I had friends looking at colleges and figuring out their majors and I began to wonder, Am I just painting because of my parents, or am I passionate about it?” Brittany admits.
Deep down she knew the answer and continued to master her craft.
After high school, Brittany enrolled in a community college to study subjects that would enhance her career, including history, literature, film, theater, photography, art history and figure drawing. She also attended workshops led by her favorite artists.
“I like that there are so many ways to learn new art skills whether it’s in a class, apprenticeship, online videos or books,” Brittany says.
Honing her skills
Brittany defines her style as representational realism (painting that includes easily recognizable objects), but she says she is always evolving.
“I like to take a bit from the old masters who inspire me (Rembrandt, Vermeer, John Singer Sargent and Alphonse Mucha), then blend all my favorite types of art and make it my own,” she explains.
Brittany is drawn to old-world life, including the Renaissance and Victorian eras. And that interest in history has paid off.
“I love being able to step into a different time. It’s like you’re looking into a window when you look at the canvas,” she says. “Plus, the fashion and architecture had such art and detail in it.”
Brittany finds inspiration for new paintings from just about anywhere: a movie, book, song or a personal experience. Even a color or style of lighting can create an epiphany.
Once Brittany has an idea, the hard part begins. She physically creates her scene using sets, lighting, costumes, decor and models, who can be from a cache of friends, acquaintances or someone she’s just met.
“I don’t make things out of my head. I need a reference. So I’ll use whatever I have—rearranging rooms or setting up an area outside,” Brittany explains.
Once models arrive, they’re dressed in appropriate period clothing, directed on how to pose and then placed in a room with a backdrop. Brittany may take pictures or do sketches. Eventually, she does a loose charcoal drawing, then begins painting—and brewing another cup of tea.
The darkest value paints come first, and then lighter shades and finishing details. A final work of art can take anywhere from several weeks to several months to complete, depending on the canvas size, level of complexity and whether it’s taking shape.
“Sometimes it’s worth it to completely start over or move onto something new,” Brittany says. “And sometimes I won’t like the way a painting is looking, but I’ll keep the faith and press on. You just have to get over the hump.”
And then there are “those days.” Working day after day on the same project for hours can feel like an uphill journey.
“Sometimes I can go on all day, but there are times I’ll try to recollect myself and rest to avoid burnout,” she says. “Or sometimes I just need a simple break. I’ll pray, read, exercise, go through Scriptures or listen to music—then get back to it.”
When deadlines loom and breaks aren’t an option, Brittany relies on music (She loves different styles, but movie soundtracks are her favorite.) or online sermons that she has saved.
“I’ll find something that has inspired me in the past and it will help me paint quicker,” she says. “I can’t sit in silence and paint.”
Brittany has also had to be intentional about her social life. Painting isn’t exactly a community activity.
“I feel very paradoxical. I need to work in isolation, but I can’t stay in isolation,” she explains. “I’m an introvert, but I need people. I tend to be so driven that I neglect other areas of my life if I’m not careful.”
Strengthening her faith
That drive and perseverance also led Brittany to realize another area of need—her faith. She grew up attending church and being involved in Christian activities, plus attended a Christian high school. But something was missing.
“I had a lot of head knowledge about the Bible and always knew who Jesus was. I knew the historical aspects of my faith and all of the key elements, but the relationship part was a question mark,” Brittany says.
When Brittany saw her friends going through challenges, that only led to more questions.
“I had doubts that I never realized and wondered if a Christian should have doubts and uncertainty,” she admits. Afraid to look foolish in front of friends and teachers, Brittany kept silent—her faith shaken.
Anxiety and insecurity
During her senior year she was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and then suffered a breakup with her boyfriend. And discontent grew.
“I ended up having issues with food and exercise, trying to find stability and something I could control,” Brittany says. “It was a pretty dark time.”
But Brittany’s perseverance kicked in. Instead of giving up on God, she felt led to join a young adult group at church.
“I was scared, and it took a few times to make connections, but I knew I had to press through it,” she says. “I wanted to find people to help me and find someone who knew more about God than I did.”
Brittany found a connection she never expected—a girl struggling with severe depression. Feeling ill-equipped to help, Brittany began doing her own research in the Bible, hoping to find something she could pass along.
“By trying to help her, I was helping myself. My questions were being answered,” she explains. “I had all these puzzle pieces in my life, and they were finally fitting together.”
Control issues, her eating disorder and other insecurities began to disappear. God was painting a brand-new picture in Brittany’s life.
Knowing she is God’s masterpiece, her outlook has changed. And that’s helped her when it comes to creating her own works of art. She has her eye on upcoming art shows and competitions. She’s busy preparing for a big exhibition in February and aspires to lead workshops and classes.
“I’m actually really excited right now. I’ve set a yearly goal and even new daily goals,” she says. “And I have a lot of ideas I really want to get down on canvas.”
That means more hours spent in isolation, perpetual late nights and more neglected tea. But for Brittany, that paints a perfect picture.
“In my heart I feel like God gave me this gift, and whenever I’m doing art, I feel like I’m in the right place,” Brittany says. “I feel like I have this responsibility to keep painting.”
Listen to a broadcast with her father, Morgan Weistling.
© 2019 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. This article first appeared in the December 2019 issue of Brio magazine.