Q&A: UT alumna Brittany Bernstrom discusses works in Art for the People gallery

Kaylee Benavides

Alongside Frida Kahlo and David Bowie sit a Boston Terrier and a tortoiseshell cat.

Including paintings of famous people and pets, the “Celebrities” exhibition at the Art for the People features two paintings by artist and UT alumna Brittany Bernstrom — “Boston Terrier” and “Two-Tone Cat.”

Bernstrom spoke with The Daily Texan about being one of 31 artists featured in the “Celebrities” exhibition and discussed skills she learned through the UT art program and continues to use today. 

Daily Texan: What does the Art for the People application process look like? 

Brittany Bernstrom: I’d actually been there before. I happened to see that they had an open call for celebrity and pet portraits. I’ve been teaching how to do pet portraits the last few years, so I’ve done a lot myself and it just felt like a really good fit specifically to apply to that show. 

DT: Why did you choose a tortoiseshell cat and Boston Terrier for your piece? 

BB: I thought combination-wise it’d be nice to have a cat and dog. I thought the Boston Terrier would be fun because it’s black and white, so I thought I’d do that and have this bright pop of pink in the background. The two-tone cat was kind of an experiment for me. There was this famous internet cat, Venus, that had that split face, but (I wondered), ‘How do you make a background that works with essentially two different cats in one?’ So I was doing that and decided to go with that green (background) and pull from the eye color to make the background pop, but still fit in with the colors of the pet.

DT: How long did each piece take you to make? 

BB: On and off maybe about six hours for each piece. I made the frames as well and that was like a full one- or two-day process because it’s been a while since I’ve actually made a frame by hand. Actually, not since college.

DT: What made you want to build your own frames again? 

BB: I like working with my hands and thought this was a good excuse to make a flute frame, which I hadn’t done before. If I’m gonna be applying more things, I want to pull in all those old skills I learned back at UT and start doing that again.

DT: Do you have any advice for current UT students pursuing art? 

BB: Yeah, I’d say don’t be afraid to try different things. If there’s a class that sort of interests you and you’re not sure about it, take it. Take more than just art as well. For me, I found it really useful to take different science classes because that influences your art. I took French as well, and that encouraged me to study abroad. (It) influenced (my art) in a way that just studying art wouldn’t have done because you get too caught up in a loop of just seeing other art and there’s so much more out there as well. Take the things you’re a little bit scared of taking. It makes your brain think differently, I guess.