Artist Conversations: Kate Zessel and Stacey Bodnaruk

Artist Conversations: Kate Zessel and Stacey Bodnaruk

If you’ve picked up the latest edition of Arts Scene you’ve likely seen the awesome cover art featured on the front and back of the magazine by Kate Zessel and Stacey Bodnaruk. Kate and Stacey are both well established professional artists here in Whistler.

We sat down with them to find out the tips and tricks behind their success.

How do your outdoor adventures inspire your art?

Stacey: Just about everything that I do from skiing to surfing, and exploring Whistler and the west coast, greatly influences my artwork content and style. I live and breathe travel and outdoor adventure so this naturally becomes a core influence. I’m also fascinated by the textures offered by nature, whether it’s decaying wood, sparkling snowflakes, the grains of sand on a windswept beach, seem to all be pieces of art to begin with. I simply assemble the beauty of these elements together. I capture images from mountain vistas, Pacific Northwest wildlife, surf breaks, old growth forests and wild places around the world.

Kate: My outdoor adventures are why I can produce my art. It is my form of meditation. We are supposed to be outdoors, in nature, in its energy. After a day outside I can come home and put that energy into a piece and just get lost in it.

What piece are you most proud of?



“Crystal Magic” – Stacey Bodnaruk

S: If I had to choose only one, then it would be “Crystal Magic”. This is a very unique piece in how the photos are blended. I took a photo of black ice from Alta Lake, and the bubbles that come through the ice are what appears to be the snowy sky. It is printed on silver matte aluminum and wherever there are white areas it prints negative, showing through the silver aluminum, creating a “sparkle” effect. Something else special about this piece is that it represents a part of Whistler

Kate Zessel

“Wolfie” – Kate Zessel

history. The main photo is of the original three-seater Crystal chairlift, which no longer exists. As an artist, I usually get bored of a piece, but I never get tired of “Crystal Magic”.

K: I am proud of all my finished pieces. They are a reflection of who I am and how I choose to live my life. Some of my favorites are the Old Man Winter series and Wolf mural I did on my office wall.

How has Whistler’s art community helped you grow as an artist?

S: Arts Whistler and the Whistler art community at large have been a huge support in helping me grow as an artist. Without the events such as the State of the Art (WSSF), ArtWalk and venues like Nita Lake Lodge, Whistler Real Estate, Mongolie Grill, I would not have had the opportunity to get exposure. Whistler locals are very supportive of the arts scene. We live in such a positive environment that it’s an easy place for an artist to grow.

K: The Whistler arts community has been an integral part of my growth as an artist. They have provided countless opportunities for me to not only showcase my work but support all local artists in getting exposure.

How did you develop/come into your own style?

Kate Zessel

“Old Man Winter” – Kate Zessel

S: When I began doing artwork, my main goal was to create a personal piece that would offer a vibrant, meaningful and “dream-like” story all within one image. I had a vision to create a piece of art that combined my passion for the mountains, the ocean and the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. I was looking for a way to get an “ocean fix” while living in the mountains and longing for the call of the ocean waves. I felt that by simply printing one of my nice travel photos, it wasn’t “enough”, so I started exploring what could be done digitally to make it much more interesting and artistic. I’ve termed the approach ‘artography’, which layers and fuses multiple photos into a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork. I also love the versatility of choosing nontraditional mediums to print on, such as aluminum, wood, acrylic glass, and resin.

Style is something that comes over time. It is something that is
continuously growing and changing based on where you are in life. My style comes from where I live, the mountains I escape to, and the animals I run into to.

What other artists’ Instagram feeds are you into right now?

S: I’m mindful of the amount of external influence that I do get to ensure that my style remains unique and individual to my art. Artist and artwork related feeds that I follow are: #luxartinstitute #jeremykoreski #vanartrental #patriciagrayart #artswhistler #ratedmodernart #thelawofart

Other feeds that I’m currently into are:  #artcontainers #pacificnorthwest #designmilk #olsonkundig

K: I love following other artists on social media. I am loving and @mimikvinge right now because of their mountain inspired pieces and their beautiful use of colour!

What advice do you have for artists looking to follow in your footsteps?

SB (1) feature

“Spirit Bear Ice” – Stacey Bodnaruk

S: To always follow your passion and look deeply in and around you for inspiration. To be your unique self and express it. In my opinion, the hard part is not being inspired, but it is creating something that is attractive that is based on those inspirations.

K: Go for it. Don’t be hesitant to put yourself out there and know that you have to hustle a bit. Ask questions, ask for opportunities and show your work to as many people as possible. The more people that see your work the better!

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

S: I’d tell myself to network, get out there, meet people, take risks and try new things…definitely travel, see places, and do something that scares you. Learn the basics of business, marketing, and numbers. Also, take some advice but NOT all advice from your parents!

K: I would tell myself to learn how to let things go and be a bit more organized. Not everyone is going to like what you do and when your starting out you may hear “no” a lot. The fear of hearing that can be enabling. I also live in a world of organized chaos. It definitely makes things interesting, but I would love to be a little more efficient.

What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?

S: I haven’t really had any weird jobs… but I’ve definitely had some weird clients!

K: I spent a summer driving around the Southern US off-loading trucks and putting together furniture for different high schools. It was how I logged in all my hours to get my full driver’s license and see places that I normally wouldn’t have chosen to go at the time.

Stacey Bodnaruk

“Spirit Wolf Blue Orange” – Stacey Bodnaruk

What’s next for you? What are you working towards?

S: I’d like to keep creating more collections and creating new styles, keep inspiring people with art and making them happy. My ongoing goal is to try to create something that hasn’t been seen before.  A friend of mine recently mentioned something to me when he was discussing my artwork – “The truest statement I could settle on is something like: “this art should exist”.  Maybe that means this art is a genuine gift, contribution, something like that.”  This really inspired me and I’d like to aim to keep “creating gifts”.

I’m currently working on custom projects for commercial clients in the tourism industry. I love working in the commercial sector so my hope is that I will continue to collaborate with interior designers, stagers and architects to create custom artwork solutions for all types of spaces.

K: I decided this October that I was going to be an artist full time. I am organizing my business, adventuring, producing art, and hopefully getting my puppy soon. I don’t ever plan too far in the future but I am just hoping to continue to make custom pieces for individuals and keep doing what I love.

What’s your favourite colour?

S: Teal, aqua colours…it represents the ocean.

K: I really don’t have one to be honest. I love black and white and then a mixture of two complementary colours!

Pick up a copy of Arts Scene at the Maury Young Arts Centre and Village Host kiosks or read it online. Kate and Stacey’s prints are available for purchase in The Gift Shop at Maury Young Arts Centre.

Kate Zessel

Website | Instagram | Facebook 

Stacey Bodnaruk

Website | Instagram | Facebook 



Author: Jillian van der Geest

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