The bear’s ski goggles reflect Black Tusk, one of the most distinctive landmarks in the Sea to Sky Corridor. His orange toque sits jauntily between his furry ears, and he looks like he’s about to drop a sick line in the pow. This is the work of local artist Vanessa Stark, whose characterful artwork can be found staring at you from this season’s Arts Scene magazine.
We took some time to catch up with Vanessa to find out what stokes her creativity, and how the artist/life balance is going…
Give us the 60-second elevator pitch on your creative work:
It’s a reflection of living a mountain lifestyle and the vibrancy of the Sea to Sky. I love nature, being outside, and enjoying life and I think my art embodies this in a fun, bold, and youthful way.
What does your workspace look like?
I have a dedicated room in my house that’s half office, half studio. It has a big window that means a lot of natural light. I’d love to have a studio space that’s separate from my home one day – that’s the dream. It would be great to have a reason to get out of my PJ’s!
What does your creative process look like?
I’ve realized it’s a balance. I get my inspiration from spending time having fun outdoors, but sometimes I get focused on working and making deadlines so I have to remind myself that it’s just as important. I like to paint at night, but I can’t pull an all-nighter as I get up when my son does, which is early. The other balance is commissioned work and my own projects. When I do my own thing it often evolves into something I wasn’t planning – it has a life of its own. These can be some of the most interesting and rewarding pieces I’ve created.
How has your art evolved?
I’m a natural person – not a planner. I go with the flow and that’s how my whole life has happened. It’s never been intentional. My art has changed as I have.
When was the first time that you recognized that you were an artist and when did you realize you could follow that path?
It’s something I’ve always known since I was in school. Art was simply part of who I was. I didn’t start making a living from it until I had my son, Drake. I decided to not go back to work after maternity leave, but to work as a full-time artist. The Sea to Sky is an art-friendly place, people seem to really want to support artists here. Again, I feel it’s about the balance between paying the bills, family, running your own business, and being an artist. You have to be careful not to take on too much, burn out, and feel overwhelmed. It’s all part of the process trying to figure it out.
Who, or what has impacted your life most?
Snowboarding – it led to my whole life setup. I fell in love with the sport when I was young, then I fell in love with the mountains and moved my life to Whistler. It’s literally shaped everything. It’s been a huge influence on my art as it’s what gives me inspiration. It’s crazy when I see people wearing jackets and riding boards that have my artwork on them.
What do you want people to think, or feel when they look at your work?
I want them to feel good. More recently it’s about our connection to nature, how important it is to preserve and protect this incredible place we live in.
What’s it like to be an artist today?
For me it’s awesome. I’ve done a lot of different things and like that variety. I work really hard and sometimes the admin-side of being a full-time artist drags me down but it’s worth it so I can do more art.
What advice do you have for other artists who might be struggling to either find a voice, niche or make it work financially?
It depends on the route you want to take, but I like doing markets. I love getting direct feedback and connecting with people about my art. I’ve done live-painting with Arts Whistler and that’s always fun – keeps me on my toes. It’s also a good way to connect with other artists and gets you out there.
What keeps you motivated to create?
You do need to keep the balance and not get overwhelmed by projects and deadlines. You need to take a break, go outside, ride your bike – it can make all the difference in the world. It’s easy to get focused on the work, but it’s not healthy for it to be everything.
What’s next for you? What are you working towards?
I’m working towards finding a happy medium with snowboarding, family time, finances, and my own art projects. To get there I’m trying to focus on fewer things, to give myself a bit of space and time.
If you could recommend some other artists’ Instagram feeds that you feel are important to follow who would it be?
How does it feel to have your art on the front cover of the Art Scene?
I’m stoked. It’s really cool.
Post by Dee Raffo
Originally from the U.K., Dee followed her love of the snow to the mountains and never left. She’s been honing her writing craft online, in print, and on TV for the past 12 years and her byline can be found in both local and national publications. She loves to ski, bike, hike, and then binge on Netflix.