HALL: Local artists in the spotlight at Destin Library: Cristi Chester starts with an idea

Laura Hall, Under the Radar
Cris Chester in her studio in Shalimar working on a new painting.

Move over Rembrandt there are ladies in the gallery.

Cristi Chester, painter and art teacher in Shalimar, is joined by her ladies painting group members in showing their work at the Destin Library. This art show helps celebrate the library’s 10th year at their current location. The painting group members include, Cristi Chester, Terry Long, show coordinator, Elizabeth Carnell and Barbara Morton, all of Destin.

The Destin Library show runs from now until April 26 and is filled with beautiful colors and an assortment of intriguing, original artwork.

Cristi, the teacher of the group, was born in Tokyo, Japan, to an Air Force family and spent much of her life living in such places as Goose Bay, Labrador, Naples, Italy and Stuttgart, Germany. She is married to Mike Chester and they have two beautiful daughters, Lauren in Orlando and Jennifer in Miami.

Cris confesses to a vivid imagination for creative projects from an early age. She holds degrees (but not in art) from Florida State University and the State University of New York.

Cris is a member of the Portrait Society of American and the Artist Guild. In 2010 and 2011, she was published in the prestigious Richeson International 75 Figure/Portrait Competition. Six hundred hopeful artists enter each year, but only 75 are chosen.  She has won many pastel competition awards and “Best of Show” for oils at the Festival of the Arts in Destin.

“I am a concept painter. I start with an idea or story that I want to tell you,” she said.

One of the paintings you will see at the library show is entitled, The Dragon and the Chrysanthemum. This represents the socio-economic relationship between China and Japan.

The dragon on the fabric represents China in the shadow watching the economy of Japan. The Chrysanthemum represents the Chrysanthemum Throne of Japan.

Another of Cris’ painting on display is The Ranch Cook. Cris tells me “The Ranch Cook is the portrait of a wonderful lady who cooked for a bunch of starving artists at the Fechin Ranch in New Mexico where I was attending a David Leffel art workshop.”

I decide to visit the Shalimar art studio to watch these artists at work. Cris says, “The painting group is easygoing, fun loving, all are chocolate fiends and the atmosphere is filled with good vibes.”

Perhaps it’s all that chocolate that does it!

Meanwhile, Barbara Morton is working on her painting, Beach Plums. These fruits grow naturally in Cape Cod where she resides for five months of each year.  Elizabeth Carnell is working on a painting that shows the feeling she had after she was baptized in the Jordan River when she visited Israel.

Cris says, “Art can take you wherever the artist goes. Great painting is the product of a mind that is seeing, tasting and exploring the entire fabric of life. The artist composes with color, value, form, light and shadow. The image appears in the viewers mind filled with dimension, beauty and life.”

Cristi’s primary work focuses on the interaction of light, dark and color (chiaroscuro).  She translates the ideas of the masters to fit contemporary figurative and still-life work.  A perfect example of this is the haunting rendition of Chiaroscuro that I saw in her Shalimar studio.  Cris says, “David Leffel taught me that light flows like water drifting into quiet shadows. The left portion of the painting is about light, which moves your eye through the painting. The skirt is moving and the model looks self-assured and self-confident. Moving to the right, the light breaks into the shadow. The colors become warmer; the figure is still, shaded by darkness and seems more insecure.”

One of the pictures I saw appealed to me is titled, Audience of One. Cris says, “The picture is self-explanatory. Shiloh, my neighbor’s miniature Australian Shepherd, was my model.”

From many years of dedicated work in the Shalimar art studio these four accomplished artists have brought their vibrant paintings to the walls of The Destin Library for your viewing pleasure.  The show is masterfully done, taking local art to a new level.

Laura Hall is a longtime gardener and Destin resident. She explores area gardens and other local topics with her cavalier spaniel Annie. If you would like to show off your garden or be profiled in a future column, contact Laura at

Want to learn more or join the painting group? Call Cristi Chester at 609-0990.