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28 Mar Artist Spotlight: Brian Hester

Brian Hester defines himself as an angling painter and sculptor with a developed passion and intellect for fly-fishing, which is the subject of his work featured this month at Coffey & Thompson Art Gallery’s “The 2nd Annual Art of Gentlemanly Pursuits”. Hester is an art teacher at Myers Park High School in Charlotte, NC and has decades of experience both teaching and creating visual art. He creates unconventional viewpoints in his art based on his experience as a spectator while fly-fishing. He communicates in his work the fight of the fish on the hook and what that energy exudes for him. His avant-garde work is brightly colored, sharply detailed and sensual. Please join us Saturday April 14 from 11am-3pm to view Hester’s sculptures & paintings ranging from the mysterious surreal to the scientifically real at Coffey & Thompson Art Gallery located in Historic SouthEnd at 1200 S. Graham Street.

When did you start your career in art? How long have you known you wanted to be an artist?

I’ve always known that I would have some career that was Visually Arts based. Why? Not sure. Drawing, painting, mark making, proportions, color theory, since I can remember was always just there in my brain and at my finger tips. Like a puzzle that needs to be put together, some of my (Artistic) puzzle pieces were already in place and they fit nicely. Now the education component was a bit of a stretch. I avoided it, I gave it the Heisman and tried everything to be somewhere else doing something else. Eventually I gave in to the calling. My mother was a teacher, my aunts on both sides of my family, my grandmothers on both sides of my family. I couldn’t escape it if I wanted to. I am a firm believer that you don’t go find education, education finds you and when education gives you the nod, you throw your hands up and say, “OK I’m gonna be poor forever, let’s go be a poor Art teacher.” As far as when my professional career in art started, it really is just getting jump started now. 30 years ago, I was just posing. I’ve been posing for a while now. I was raising and working to make a name for myself in the classroom. Don’t get me wrong, I was passionate about delivering the Art Word and have had numerous young gifted artists pass through my classroom and explode careers in the arts based solely on my pushing and prodding because I saw a little of me in them.


Sometimes art teachers lose their way because they don’t take time to create and simply do what got them into the role of being an Art teacher to begin with. It’s easy to fall in that trap. Education was paying the rent, my painting and sculptures were not. I wasn’t committed to getting better and my gut passion was somewhere else. Now I’m almost 49, I’m dialed in and I’m hungry, I’m trying to get better with every sculpture and every painting. Funny thing is, I’m always thinking about my next move and the next great piece and what can I do that is completely and totally OG.

Describe your aesthetic in 3 words…

Avant Garde, Believable, Intentional


Describe your artistic process and preparation?

The majority of my work is based on evolution. Each piece I create feeds on itself. One piece will be created and that will spawn more thought as to how I not only execute the next, but answer questions directed towards my research for “(believability-meaning, can I make you believe what is on the canvas is truly happening),” blending of color, color application, stretching the effect of those colors, light source, shadows, perspective I use, materials I build with and the assemblage of those materials in a sequence.
What no one realizes is I have spent my early life/career immersing myself in understanding the anatomical structure of fish, characteristics, proportion, movement(s) to the point where I can create pretty much any look I need. I understand a limited amount of light and shadows, reflection and refraction enough to get me in trouble so I build each painting and sculpture solely out of my head. That way no one, I repeat, no one can say I copied work or borrowed this or that from someone else. Yeah, of course you get inspiration from other painters and sculptors but what is it that you the artist, (me the artist) is doing to separate yourself/myself from the pack?
“That’s what I want to be known for, being out of the box with believable, intentional innovation even though I make every bit of it up.”


Favorite piece you’ve created to date and why?

Most recently, it’s every new piece I create. I keep asking myself, “are you getting better?” So I go back and look at previous work from a year ago, or last week. I contrast and compare and ask for biased unbiased solicited feedback, (meaning people who are artists as well as Fly Fishermen and women). So, basically it comes down to each last piece. Self-evaluation, is key and being humble about it.


Who inspires you personally and/or professionally?


Easy-Without Question, my wife. She is a Worker Bee and one of my hardest critics. She is a business woman, a staunch professional and very independent and way freakin’ smart. She can usually figure out just about anything, and if she can’t immediately, she’ll tinker with it til she gets it, I swear to it. I remember about 2 ½ years ago when I was building my sculptures like crazy and painting a bit more than I ever have, she turned to me a said, why are you painting fish and Flies.” Nobody really is interested in that stuff are they?” Bold move on her part. After being pissed off for about a week and feeling like my whole purpose theme of what I am passionate about and what I paint was something my wife didn’t dig at all, I let it go. It got me to thinking though, she is just ignorant and doesn’t understand. So I let it ride without too much bickering. I started selling a few pieces here and there and then it started rolling and I started pushing my work out there to see if there was some interest from some magazines to do a spot or a spread and basically a year to the day, Tom Bie, owner and CEO from The Drake magazine came calling about my work. My spot comes out at the end of March. Pretty Cool, I am blessed and humbled. It will be interesting to see if other people dig what I do and my take on the whole Fly Fishing scene.
I’m not trying to light the world on fire, I just want to maybe stake a little claim within the industry and or maybe be invited to stand around the outskirts of the table instead of having a seat.


Biggest accomplishments to date?

My 3 amazing children who are finding their way in this crazy world. My daughter Kaytlin (22), graduating from App State in December. My middle son Mason, (20) Sophomore at App State and youngest, Max who is heading to Boone, NC for his freshman year at Caldwell Community College and transferring to App in 2019. 2nd Biggest Accomplishment-finding and marrying the best thing to happen to me, my wife.


Favorite location to create/what is your studio like?

Oddly enough in my office at school. I start by answering emails and checking off the needs of the morning and then I paint before the kids arrive and sometimes during my planning period if I’m all caught up on unit class plans. It’s quiet, I can focus and I usually arrive about 5:30 in the morning to get the day started. I’m fresh in the mornings and can get a ton of work accomplished. Many teachers are cutting it close by arriving at like 7 and then like to stay later in the day to wrap up the day. By starting my day at 5:30, when 2:30 rolls around, I’m out or I paint til 4.

A random fact about you?

I swam in college. It doesn’t look like it now, but I used to be a semi decent Distance Freestyler, Backstroker and IMer. I am a sports nut. Moreover, I’m a lunatic for Appalachian State Football! I bleed Black and Gold!!!


One thing you couldn’t live without?

My sight.

Your all-time favorite artist and/or your favorite emerging artist?

Jacques-Louis David, Neoclassicist Painter- Neoclassicism was rooted in classical delivery of approaches and styles of painting and architecture. The movement evolved into a “pushing of limits carefully and subtly which was classified as enlightenment. David was known for pushing boundaries and he carefully and meticulously embedded symbolism within his work. I admire that approach and use that premise as a means for my paintings. Make the viewer think, invite them in and make them search for relationships.
Emerging Artist: AD Maddox. AD is at the apex of the “painting trout” pyramid where she broke in as the pioneer in the early 2000’s. I recently reached out to her asking for her cell–to quickly send text pics of work back and forth for healthy critical reviews, she obliged with her # so now I send her In-progress work all the time for input. I was really geeking out on that because she actually created the “food chain as we know it and she is at the top of it.” If you don’t know AD Maddox and you Fly-Fish, you’re living under a rock. You have probably seen her work and not known it was hers. She is the face of the industry.



Name one goal for your career you’d like to achieve in the next 5 years?

I would like to get good enough and work at my craft to the point where I could make a name for myself. I would also love to have a show with some of the biggest names in the game. That alone, I think would be a pretty ok gauge/ indicator as to where my abilities were in 5 years.

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