So Canadian eh? : Zoe Pawlak

Canadian bloggers and designers tend to get more attention than Canadian artists. It truly can be a struggle - so I love to feature any talented artist that comes under my radar. My guest this week is a local gal but whose work has been featured worldwide, her art just blows my mind! 

Please welcome......

She is..

I first came across Zoe's work when my friend Karla from Kerrisdale Design featured Zoe and her work on her blog. Since then I have come across her work on the web, magazines and she even donated her work to our Blend event last fall. Grace Bonney has Zoe's art over her stove and even Martha Stewart had her art featured in her magazine! Not only is she a talented artist but a business woman as well, as she is co-owner of the Loaded Bow, a frequent speaker at universities, a curator and active in the design community.

I adore her art - the colours, the fluidity and movement that she encapsulates in her pieces is simply breathtaking. She has some serious talent, I am a tad jealous as my art looks pathetic compared to hers. Her paintings leave me speechless. How lovely it would be to own a Zoe original - fingers crossed that one day I can...

Here are some of my favourites.

Tell us a bit about yourself; what is your background, your education? Have you always been into in art?

I have been painting for a long time and attended a Fine Arts High school from grade 10 to 12. I received my BFA from NSCAD University and studied painting at Montreal’s Concordia University and the Universidad de Las Americas in Cholula, Mexico. I am a contemporary artist who works with a broad client base to create ambitious, site-specific commissions, I exhibit my paintings in solo and group shows internationally. I also curate, do speak at universities on art and business and run Loaded Bow, a group for Vancouver female entrepreneurs. I am as much into business as I am into painting because I love my clients  and I love Vancouver!  

Where do you get inspiration for your artwork?

I look at a lot of Hockney, Egon Schiele, and Betty Goodwin. I look at contemporaries like Jennifer LeFort, Valérie Blass and Janet Werner. I listen to a lot of female Canadien songstresses and some Drake and MIA. I am really excited about internet master-mind Hennessy Youngman right now as well.  I get excited about people who don’t think there are any limits and those who are using new media to reach a broader base of people and cross over fashion and art and music.

You are such a talented artist, how did you get your “break” so to speak. What got your art noticed?

I submitted my work to everyone I could find online in about 2007 including a submission to Design*Sponge. Grace wrote back to say she was going to post my work on her blog. I had to look up what a ‘blog’ was and then when she posted my work, I sold about 20 paintings in 3 days. They were much lower priced at that time, but it was great for confidence and exposure. It led to a commission in San Fransisco and then that project was photographed by Martha Stewart Living. Everything leads to something. I work hard to ensure that a good number of things come through in a years time.

My 16 year old loves drawing, painting and creating. She even started an etsy shop to sell her paintings. What tips do you have for aspiring artists to get their work noticed and to hone their skills?

You have to get it to the right viewer, the right market and the right kind of person who will love your work. You have to be unattached to the work and be prolific. Much better chance to sell one of 100 than 1 of 3. You must be good at drawing. I spent a million hours learning to draw and see and this needs to be refreshed are revisited.

What is your favourite medium to work with?

Oil painting has been my medium for the past 5 or 6 years, but I am loving drawing and exploring acrylics right now. It is a much faster process and I am always in a rush, so sometimes Acrylics better suit my pace. But oils are so glorious and timeless...

Give us a quick glimpse into what your day is like? You are a mother, how do you fit your art and all the other things you are involved in, into your life?

I am in the studio Monday to Friday 9 to 4 or 5 and some evenings I teach and meet with clients. I run Loaded Bow with Gen Ennis of Hume Atelier and we do one event about once every 6 weeks. I travel with purpose, either to speak at a university or go to an Art Fair or whatever is most pressing and can be fit into our schedule and budget. When the money is good, I can always take off with the family for a few days and we just got an RV for the summer, so we are pretty happy with the balance of flexibility and  introducing a new bit of routine to our lives which was previously non-existent.

What goals/aspirations do you have for yourself, what is next for Zoe Pawlak?

I would like to do a really large scale project either through a local developer or international client. I would like to continue to lecture this year which will lead to come great travel, such as Manila.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Paint? I like to pretend I jog too. Oh, and wine! that a hobby?

Tell us one thing that would surprise us!

I once bought 4 therapy sessions at a high-end silent auction for $60 and then told my peers I was ‘giving them to someone as a gift’. You gotta do what you gotta do.

What are your views on the role of Canadian art on the world stage? Do you think Canadians have a presence in the art scene or are we just on the edges ready to get noticed?

Canada is a young country (in the arts) and we don’t give enough value to the arts, so therefore our artists must carve out every inch of visibility for themselves. Most artists have to have other jobs and this includes ‘established’ artists. You cannot get as far ahead if you cannot support yourself soley through your practice and this is detrimental to our culture or how we are perceived as a culture internationally. The Canadian Arts Council has been integral to the careers of many of my peers and Canadian galleries are doing a great job of getting talent noticed and getting to more international Art Fairs. We are far more talented than we are known for.

So honoured to have you here Zoe. I am over the moon that you had time for some questions, love that "wine" is your hobby AND wish some of your talent could rub off onto me!

XO Barbara


  1. what a terrific piece and her work is stunning!

  2. More amazing art for me to pin! Zoe's work is stunning. Love those pink pieces above.

  3. Zoe is a huge talent,and I've been a fan of hers for some time now. I hope to own one of her pieces this year! It's long past due. ;) I love that she bought therapy sessions at an auction for "a friend". I like her style! Great interview Barb.

  4. Another great Canadian talent! Zoe's work is beautiful!

  5. What a great feature. I would love to own one of her pieces!

  6. I love Zoe's work, so I was thrilled to win one of her prints at the "Blend 2011" event last fall. Saving up to have it framed soon! :)

  7. So much talent!! I love her Over Oceans, it's been on the inspiration board for quite some time...owning something like this is a goal for the next year :)


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