Brent Estabrook: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became An Artist

Yitzi Weiner
Authority Magazine
Published in
8 min readNov 17, 2022

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“Do what you love and you won’t have to work a day in your life.” This is something I heard in passing countless times as a kid, but it never quite resonated with me until I decided to become a full-time artist. Looking back now, I realize how unhappy I would have been had I gone down the path that was expected of me, and I am endlessly grateful that I chose to take the risk and go after what I love.

As a part of our series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist” I had the pleasure of interviewing Brent Estabrook.

Brent Estabrook is a Los Angeles-based artist best known for his large-scale oil paintings of stuffed animal piles. “Creature Comforts” is his inaugural solo museum exhibition show, currently open at the Long Beach Museum of Art.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Growing up I was always the “art kid”, and I was very lucky that my parents recognized and supported my creativity. In addition to the art classes I took, I was also a huge LEGO fan. My family lived in Puyallup, Washington and every year our local State Fair hosted a LEGO competition in which I won a couple of blue ribbons! Having that freedom and support to explore my creative passions as a kid was integral to my future artistic career as an adult.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Many people do not know this, but I actually went to school to become a dentist before I pivoted to a full-time art career! Throughout dental school I was always painting in my free time, and when I was in my second year I was invited to participate in the biannual charity auction at the Long Beach Museum of Art. It was an invigorating experience that pushed me to ask myself “do I want to spend my life doing what is expected of me or do I want to spend my life doing what I truly love?” When I finished dental school two years later, I decided right then and there that I was going to pursue a life as an artist… and I never looked back!

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I have been very lucky to have many amazing experiences, one of my most treasured memories is having tea with my collector Nobu-San Matsuhisa. We had a fascinating conversation about art, work, life, and everything in-between. I remember him telling me that the key to success is doing everything with heart. It is a motto that resonates with me deeply and one that I carry through all aspects of my life.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

“Creature Comforts” is my inaugural solo exhibition show, currently open at the Long Beach Museum of Art in Southern California. I am also very excited to begin a mural next month in the Wynwood district of Miami. The paint will reflect my signature color palette. Imagine a 23 foot x 73 foot wall, completely covered with a pile of colorful stuffed animals! I cannot wait to unveil the finished project!

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Aside from the painting process itself, my favorite aspect of my art career is the people I meet and conversations I get to have every day. It is remarkable how we can find common ground with people from all walks of life simply by speaking earnestly about our passions. Last year I spent two weeks on the Aegean sea with one of my collectors. I’ve also stayed with another one of my collectors at his estate on Cape Cod. I am incredibly lucky to have such amazing and generous collectors, and I am even more grateful for the insight and wisdom they share with me.

Where do you draw inspiration from? Can you share a story about that?

I have found that inspiration can come from virtually anywhere, so long as you keep your mental doors always open and welcome it into your life. Paying attention to every moment of existence has been the greatest source of creativity for me, whether it is traveling to foreign places and discovering a new culture, or simply walking through my own studio and gaining new appreciation for my paintings. For me, inspiration lies in all the details of life. Art, architecture, food, everyday objects — I believe all of it has something to teach and someone to inspire.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

One of my inner mantras that I love is “Desire to Inspire.” Ultimately that is what I seek to do when I share my art with the world. I want to open up people’s minds to the possibilities in life, and, especially for young kids, I hope to be a source of creative inspiration and positivity. There is always a different path to take than what our society dictates as the norm.

Everyone’s road to their true passion — whether it is art, music, sports, or anything else that gives you an internal spark — deserves to be explored and pursued. It brings me so much joy to know that my story and my work can help kids and adults activate their creative minds and figure out what makes them truly happy.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

“Do what you love and you won’t have to work a day in your life.” This is something I heard in passing countless times as a kid, but it never quite resonated with me until I decided to become a full-time artist. Looking back now, I realize how unhappy I would have been had I gone down the path that was expected of me, and I am endlessly grateful that I chose to take the risk and go after what I love.

“Focus on building relationships.” My fiancée Tara is incredible at nurturing interpersonal connections. Pursuing things you love to do and finding people you love to be around are the two key ingredients for a fulfilling life and career. Everyone is ultimately seeking happiness, and though we may go about it in different ways, it is our greatest point of connection with others.

“Practice daily mental exercise.” As a society, we place a lot of value in physical exercise; I believe that pursuing mindfulness is just as important for our well-being and success. It is not easy to form the habit of daily meditation or daily breath work, as it takes patience and training just like building up a muscle. But looking back I can see just how much strength and peace this practice has given me and the enormous benefit it has brought to my art practice. No matter how old you are or what goals you have, exercising your mind is a free and worthwhile investment in yourself.

“Embrace discomfort.” Fear of change is something to be met head-on, not avoided. It is easy to stick with what we know and we are good at, especially for artists. You find success in one style or one series and it can be terrifying to try something new — what if it ends in failure? But you have to listen to the voice behind the fear, that is where your true happiness lies and you can only get there once you push past the safety of what is comfortable. That is the only way you will evolve and grow, as an artist and as a human.

“Live as authentically as possible.” When you are just starting out as an artist, it is tempting to get all your influences from other artists you admire and look up to. But at some point you have to shut out outside voices and tune in to your inner creative self. Make that the driving force behind your art practice, and it will make everything you do easier because it is the one thing no one can take away from you. Let your authenticity be the target you follow even when discomfort and doubt try to dissuade you, that is when you will make your best work.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

If I could snap my fingers and make it happen, I would want everybody to start taking one hour a week to focus solely on pursuing their passion through presence. No phones, no emails, no distractions. Just spend an hour with yourself, listen to your internal voice, figure out what you yearn for and what makes you happy. Make it a habit that you never skip and I promise you the results will be worth it!

We have been blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this.

I want to get everyone — especially young kids — excited about art. Whether it is museum trips or art classes, I think the creativity and motivation that art resources foster can truly change people’s lives. I would love to speak with someone who shares my mindset on this and who wants to help bring that inspiration to our younger generation.

Noah Horowitz is such a great and invigorating presence in today’s art world, it would be a pleasure to have a conversation over lunch with him.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

You can find me on instagram and TikTok under @brentestabrook

The absolute best way to follow my current projects and get exclusive inside looks at my studio is to sign up for my Friends List newsletter on my website brentestabrook.com

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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Yitzi Weiner
Authority Magazine

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator