If you’re a UFC fan—and even if you’re not—you likely know who Brittney Palmer is. A former Playboy model, she’s one of the sport’s most beloved and beautiful Octagon Girls. But did you know she’s also an incredibly skilled artist? Complex recently spoke with Brittney about her exploits outside of the Octagon.
You’ve obviously got a lot of fans from your work with UFC, but you’re also a very skilled painter. When did you start painting?
I’ve been painting my whole life. In high school, I took art classes, and I was the one who kind of “got it” a bit more and enjoyed it a bit more. I’m from Vegas, and not many people who come from there think becoming an artist is in the cards for them. I stopped painting for a while when I became a professional dancer and was working at the Flamingo, but then, when I was 21 years old, I was in a bad car accident, and fractured my pelvis, so I couldn’t dance (or walk) for a long while. Instead of sitting around all day watching TV, I started getting back into painting. I would post my paints on social media and I started getting great responses. Then, four or five months later, when I could walk again, I went back to those jobs, but by that time people had started actually commissioning me to paint things. So, I made the decision to leave those jobs and move to LA and go to art school. I was working with UFC on a part-time basis by that point, and it paid for school, which was great.
That’s quite a story.
Yes it is.
What do you love about painting? I’m sure you’re asked that all the time.
I’ve actually never been asked that question.
Yeah. In the world I’m in, I’d get asked about my painting as often as I get asked about, I don’t know, my mother. (Laughs) For me, I love [with painting] that you can put something out there and it’s everlasting. So, if it’s a portrait, it’s your perception of a person, and you can put it on a piece of paper or a canvas and it’ll stay forever. It’s your stamp on this long life. With great artists, people enjoy their work long after they’re gone, which is amazing.
Where do you find inspiration for your artwork?
I’ve always gotten inspiration from music. I was listening to Led Zeppelin and The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix since I was six. The first portraits I drew were Jim and Janis Joplin and Pink Floyd.
Does music play a big role in your life as well as in your art?
I have two guitars. Can I play them? Kind of. (Laughs) But do I love and appreciate music? Yes. I’ve been working as a paid artist since I was 22, but a lot of the work I get is commissioned, so people come to me with their visions. (She was recently commissioned to paint Sammy Hagar.) So a lot of the work that you see is what people want me to paint, not always what I would choose to paint.
Is there something specific you would want to paint?
Yes. When I did the cover of Playboy, that’s when my commissions just took off, and I had to put “my” work on hold for the work I was being hired to do. The first expensive thing I bough with my commission money was this limited-edition series of books called The Woodstock Experience. One of the books is filled with all this original photography from Woodstock, and these photos are so sick. I mean, it’s these hippies bathing in a lake, these naked women running around. That’s what I would love to paint.
Is it difficult balancing your artwork with your UFC career? Or do you find them to be complementary?
It’s not difficult balancing art and UFC. My UFC schedule is only a few days a week, I travel and come back, it’s fine. But I think it’s difficult balancing art and living in my studio. I live, with my husband, in the Hollywood Hills, and it’s about 15 to 20 minutes up. And I paint out of my house. So, having my husband there, my dog there, it’s harder to work when I want to just sit and hang with them and watch TV. But my husband’s pretty good at getting me to finish my work.
You’ll actually be showcasing your art at the upcoming UFC Fan Expo in Las Vegas, right?
The UFC has requested me to throw out a few pieces at “The Art of Fighting” show. I have two done, but I have to do three, so I better get started! This is the first time they’ve ever done this, and they’re showcasing my work. It’s a great opportunity, and I’m grateful.
Can you tell us anything about the pieces you’ll be showcasing?
Well, they gave me a list of options of figures to choose from. My first two paintings are of Bruce Lee and Chuck Liddell, and I think my third is going to be Mike Tyson. The Bruce Lee is really cool, it’s a very ’70s version of Bruce Lee. It’s really cool. It’s such a big showcase. Everyone will be happy, I think.
What are your hopes for your artwork as you continue it?
I think my hopes are really to just continue growing as an artist, and not just fall in a certain style or a certain genre. Since I get all these commissions, I think people put me in the category that I paint those in, which is Pop Art. But I want to expand my styles. I like to compare it to MMA fighting: you keep training and you’ll get better. And, as I said, I’d really like it to be the way I leave my stamp on the world.