Cheslyn Brandt's love for painting is finally paying off. Photo: Supplied
Cheslyn Brandt's love for painting is finally paying off. Photo: Supplied

Cape Town painter draws on heartache of losing his partner and gets re-inspired

By Robin-Lee Francke Time of article published Mar 12, 2021

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Cape Town - A Cape Town man is pouring all his emotions and heartache into his art and is causing a stir on social media.

Cheslyn Brandt, 42, who is originally from Ocean View but lives in Kraaifontein, never thought his art would have such an impact when he picked up a paint brush again a few years ago, after his dream had stalled for decades.

The self-taught artist had painted throughout his childhood and even won a First National Bank competition for the launch of its automated teller machines.

Progressing to high school, he flourished at woodwork and looked forward to taking up graphic design, before a lack of finances put a spanner in the works, forcing him to get a job instead at retailer Pick n Pay.

This did not keep Brandt away from art though, and he started decorating bus stops and his bedroom as well as doing paintings for friends.

Some of the work done by Cheslyn Brandt. Photo: supplied

Even though he could not formally study art, his dream never faded, Brandt told African News Agency (ANA).

“Years later I went working on cruise ships as a sales assistant, eventually working my way up to become an ambassador for Chanel. It was amazing to see the world, but painting was always there,” he said.

“On my bad days I would go to my cabin and paint. My partner always encouraged me to paint.”

Cheslyn Brandt's partner, Carlo, inspired and encouraged him to pursue his dream. Photo: supplied

Brandt eventually resigned in 2017 and his plan was to settle with his partner, but while serving out his 30-day notice, he discovered Carlo was sick. And so began a long, panic-filled trip back home from the other side of the world.

“I found out he had TB and he had a stroke. I spoke to him on the phone and he told me to start painting again. After three days of flying from Alaska I went straight from the airport to the hospital,” Brandt said.

“He couldn’t speak and seemed to be in pain. While sleeping next to him in the hospital he pulled my sleeve, looked up at me and cried. He closed his eyes and died in my arms.”

Three months later, a heartbroken Brandt was looking through his old instant messages with Carlo, and found a voice note with a Vanessa Williams song, whose lyrics include ’can you paint with all the colours of the wind?’ playing in the background.

This last message from his partner was typical of how Carlo had always encouraged Brandt to pursue his art. And so, even as he mourned, he kept himself busy by painting.

The 'Son of God' painting which gave Cheslyn Brandt the affirmation he needed. Photo: Supplied

“One day my twin brother, who is a photographer, called me and asked me to rush to Cape Town to a gallery,” says Brandt.

“When I got there, a painting was hanging on the wall of a man in the woods and the face of this man was that of my partner. I managed to track down the artist and he said he just painted it. The painting was titled: Son of God.”

“The artist painted this months after my partner’s passing and did not know him at all. This to me was affirmation that he (Carlo) was telling me to pursue my painting,” Brandt told ANA.

And so, he started painting in earnest, even setting up social media accounts showcasing his work.

Then, he was invited to exhibit the pieces at a gallery in Scarborough which aims to boost local artists, and managed to sell two paintings.

“I never believed in myself and here I had sold two paintings,” said Brandt, adding that even during last year’s tough Covid-19 restrictions he managed to sell eight landscapes and portraits.

Many of his paintings feature tear drops, because Brandt draws heavily on his emotions in his work.

His portraits of local South African celebrities have attracted a lot of commentary on social media, and since January Brandt has already sold five paintings.

African News Agency (ANA)

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