Great art often comes from strong emotion. For Cheslyn Brandt, painting was a childhood favourite but it wasn’t until he lost his real-life love that his passion was once again reignited.
Cheslyn always loved painting and excelled at it as a child growing up in Ocean View, winning competitions and the admiration of teachers. However, his parents wanted him to focus on his schoolwork, leaving him no time to paint.
As an adult, Cheslyn had largely left painting behind and started a new life working on a cruise ship as a sales assistant. He had also fallen in love and his partner Carlo always wanted him to start painting again.
“My partner always believed in me. He had a tough life with making bad decisions and it was difficult to trust people or be trusted due to his past. I believed in him since day one because I fell in love with him right away,” Cheslyn explains to Cape Town ETC.
In 2017, Cheslyn resigned and planned to begin a new life with his partner but then disaster struck as he was serving out his last month’s notice. They discovered that Carlo was sick. Sadly, Carlo died soon after Cheslyn returned home.
“After his passing, it was difficult to move on but you learn the hard way. I went back to work overseas and I came across an old song Carlo sent me and said “babe listen to the words and follow your dreams.” It was a song by Vanessa Williams – ‘Colours of the Wind’. It was like something grew inside me saying you can do this.”
As if this was not enough of a sign, a month after Carlo died, Cheslyn’s twin brother Ashley called him to urgently come to see a painting at Orms Studios in Cape Town. The painting looked just like Carlo.
“When I saw the painting I cried like a baby. This painting was made by an artist from the Middle East and was a sign to me from Carlo saying, “Look, I am ok, move on with your life but please start painting Cheslyn”.”
Cheslyn resigned from the cruise ship again in 2019, finally deciding to put himself first. It was a decision that might have saved his life, as the cruise ship he was based on was one of the first to go into quarantine when COVID-19 struck.
He threw himself into his painting, taking inspiration from fellow local artists. Cheslyn is still finding himself as an artist but loves creating portraits and abstract work, playing with mixing colours and newspapers,
“I started this new project called” IF YOU CAN DO IT SO CAN I” where I selected some Local celebrities from South Africa and made portraits of them like Craig Lucas, Kim Engelbrecht, Marc Lottering and Lady Zamar. These are people who know the struggles are real,” says Cheslyn.
“We come from poverty facing many challenges like surviving gangsterism, drug abuse, homophobia, and racism but through it all they made it! They are inspiring me as a local artist struggling to get out here and become something and a great example to others not just in my community but everyone on the planet.”
Cheslyn’s favorite piece he has ever made is a portrait of his grandmother. After returning from his overseas work, Cheslyn had a strained relationship with his family because he could not provide financially like he once did and had to learn to say no. However, showing his father this piece of art was a truly meaningful moment for the pair.
“When my daddy saw the painting of my granny he burst into tears…he said, “Cheslyn oh my God, this is Mama, I miss her so much!” My dad hugged me and said, “I’m so proud of you right now, don’t stop painting my son.” This is a moment I will never forget as this was the first time my dad ever told me this.”
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Cheslyn started a Facebook page for his work, which blew many of his friends and family away as they didn’t even realise he could paint so well.
If you would like to support Cheslyn, please follow his Facebook page and engage with his work by liking and sharing his posts. If you are interested in purchasing a painting, you can contact him though social media.
Picture/s: Cheslyn Brandt