Brent Estabrook stuffed animal paintings

How has no one thought of this before? Painting stuffed animals. What could be a cozier, more comforting image for a world teetering on collapse?

Thankfully, Brent Estabrook (b. 1985) came along and is doing it.

“I get an enormous rush of personal inspiration from the joy they elicit in my audience,” Estabrook said of his stuffed animal paintings. “To see pure delight on the viewer’s faces as they are transported back to their childhood… that is why I became an artist!”

What better reason to do something?

Estabrook started by painting portrait images of individual stuffed animals, a series he called “Single Stuffed Animals.”

“One of the goals I always had was to let each plushie’s personality shine though,” he said. “You can often see it in their eyes, mouths, and composition.”

Estabrook initially used reference photos of stuffed animals sourced from his niece and nephew and gifts he was given. As his practice matured, he began painting his “Stuffed Animal Pile” series, and within the last year, his “cRaZy stuFFed aniMALs Pile” artworks straight out of his imagination.

Pure Imagination was the first large scale ‘cRaZy stuFFed aniMALs Pile’ I did and it was so exciting and challenging for there to truly no longer be reality-based limitations on what I’m creating,” Estabrook said. “Even the single ‘cRaZy stuFFed aniMAL’ paintings I’ve been doing lately, both the subject and the background could only exist in the realm of my imagination.”

Taking a Bite out of Painting

Estabrook was born in Arizona and raised in Seattle. His Bachelor of Studio Arts comes from the University of Arizona, but interestingly – perhaps unique in all of art history – he also holds a Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of Louisville.

“The plan had always been to pursue a career in dentistry. It was the safe, responsible choice. Honestly, the only reason I got my degree in studio arts was because of a single question from a college advisor,” Estabrook explains. “I needed to decide which courses to take in order to get into dental school, but instead of telling me what I needed, she asked me what I enjoyed doing. When I told her I love art, she said, ‘Well, do that.’”

Estabrook majored in art while minoring in chemistry, pursuing his love for art at UA.

“It was there that I discovered my passion for oil painting, which ultimately steered me to my current career path as an artist known for my vividly colored oil paintings,” Estabrook added.

Vividly colored with a rich, heavy impasto.

“I’ve always been inspired by impressionists and the feelings that their paintings transmit when you see them in person,” he said. “I use thick impasto because it gives oil paintings an additional, physical dimension for me to play with as an artist and another layer for viewers to experience when they see my paintings in person.”

Estabrook never practiced dentistry. After finishing dental school, he had an epiphany and realized he didn’t like it. But he loved painting.

That’s not to say his pursuit of dentistry was a waste of time.

“Dental school gave me self-discipline. I have routines and practices that I might not otherwise have had that have been crucial in my success as a painter,” Estabrook explains. “Dentistry was an academically rigorous path and I learned how to put in the work. Also, sometimes the actual process of painting is real physical work, with many hours on my feet or in weird uncomfortable positions. Because of that well-honed sense of self-discipline, I’m able to focus and push past the discomfort and distractions to do my best work and to finish what my passion and creativity ignited in each piece.”

Estabrook’s artistic journey began by channeling the frustration over his student debt into paintings of enlarged currencies. Then came the stuffed animals. In 2018, inspired by walks in Central Park and visits to the great art museums around America and Europe, he added sculpture to his practice.

“I just loved those big bronze sculptures and I knew it was something I wanted to do,” he said. “Right around that time I got some oil clay and started playing with it, one thing turned into another and I turned those into large-scale bronze sculptures and never looked back!”

Brent Estabrook at his "Creature Comforts" exhibition at the Long Beach Museum of Art.
Brent Estabrook at his “Creature Comforts” exhibition at the Long Beach Museum of Art. Photo by Jonathan Jovel

The results have been positive with a dedicated collector base and a solo exhibition at the Long Beach Museum of Art, “Creature Comforts,” in 2022.

Estabrook lives and works in Los Angeles. He’ll have a launch for his new “Smiles” series July 11-14 at a pop-up in Westfield Century City.

Follow Estabrook on Instagram and TikTok @brentestabrook.

No Comments Yet.