What i've been up to lately
What I believe
I grew up like any typical Canadian kid, hiking, camping, skiing and exploring BC's many mountain ranges.
When I wasn't outside, art ruled my life. Drawing, sketching, observing, painting and exploring were daily actions. The only thing I loved more than being creative was learning. I was captivated by new facts, stories, ideas and conversations. Every week I would go to the library and come home with a stack of books taller than me. (Actually. Just ask my mom.) I learned about the world... and I learned how to imagine a better world.
When I thought about "what I wanted to be when I grew up," being an artist made sense. I already was one. Despite this easy affirmation, I didn't believe that art could change the world. My smart, curious, big-hearted brain just couldn't imagine an artist making significant and positive impacts for the environment. Perhaps my greatest failure of imagination to date.
Back then, my dream job was to be an environmental lawyer or a marine biologist. These were people making real, visible, measurable victories for wild places and animals. At 18, I accepted an au pair position in the Swiss Alps and moved to Switzerland with my life savings as a lifeguard - to chase snow, learn German and experience something other than the suburbs where I grew up. These months spent exploring unfamiliar cities and wild places with a backpack and sketchbook were huge gift to my introverted self. I came home feeling more like myself than ever and chose to take art and psychology at my top choice university.
In the next four years I studied how individuals and communities develop, adapt to change and thrive. I earned a degree in Psychology. I went to Burning Man, started teaching art full time and dreamed about a time when I could paint every day.
When I stopped dreaming and started doing, that's when this current journey began.
If the Marisa Pahl Institute was a real thing, it would be about:
1. Lifting up rad folks doing exceptional work in support of the environment (and writing them big league cheques)
2. Cultivating a community where informed optimism happens naturally and people freely share their own imperfect journey of treading lighter on the earth.
3. Painting as a way to participate in the conversation around wilderness, sustainability and environmental advocacy. Painting as a form of meditation, a process for seeking joy and a way to distill the knowledge I discover daily.
conversations I CAN Contribute to
I believe strongly in starting now, with one thing today. In 2016 I raised over $5000 for environmental non profits. Right now I'm focusing my energy on British Columbia's resistance to the Kinder Morgan Pipeline.
Zero Waste Living / circular economy
This is an ever evolving, imperfect journey and I am definitely not at the finish line yet! Zero is just an arbitrary number. For me, it's all about heading in a good direction and voting every day with my dollars for the world I want to live in.
As a 10th generation Canadian, I'm just beginning to understand my settler heritage, the effects of colonialism and how I can actively participate in reconciliation. In April I'm heading to the Banff Centre for a five day, indigenous led leadership program on this topic.
Cultivating informed optimism is not green washing, it's about studying small victories of the past in order to see where the greatest potential for positive change is. This is why I write my weekly dispatch, For the Wild.
Fashion is not something I have cared about in the past. Today, the garment industry creates almost as much waste as heavy industry. That's why local, second hand + handmade matter more than ever.
Marisa is an artist working at the intersection of environment, education and social practise.
With a BA in Psychology and love of the natural world, Marisa's creative energy is focused on exploring human relationships with wild places. Can these connections become a spark for more intentional living and treading lighter on the earth?
Marisa can be found painting in the backcountry for days or weeks at a time, working in an extremely small scale on multi day paddling or hiking trips. Back in the studio, the format shifts to interviewing wilderness advocates about the unique places they work to protect. Paintings become a response to these conversations and a way to process the knowledge gained. A painting becomes a vessel for each story, enabling it to reach more people. Each 37 x 37 mm watercolour landscape has an abstract, colour study pair where colours and geometry flow together. Often a series is anchored in a specific dialogue about wilderness, sustainability and individual action.
In 2014 Marisa had her first solo show. Since then she has continued to show her work regularly in gallery and installation settings. Highlights of 2017 include being selected as an exhibitor for Kate Duncan's regional design event, Address Assembly. In June, Marisa hosted a solo show at the Gam Gallery for her Future Oceans series. In October, a series of 36 paintings inspired by journeys to Haida Gwaii and Newfoundland were featured in a solo show called Coastlines at Kafka's.
Marisa's paintings reside in collections in Canada, The United States, Switzerland, England, Australia and New Zealand.
Scout Vancouver - Coastlines Exhibition Spotlight
Kate Duncan's ADDRESS ASSEMBLY - Artist Interview
The Vancouver Courier - 5 Reasons Vancouver is Awesome This Week
Uppercase Magazine - Creative Responsibility: Start Where You Are (print)
The Westender - Vancouver artist embarks on ‘Wild’ environmental fundraiser
CKNW News Talk Radio AM 980 - Artist Interview with Estefania Duran
The Daily Juicebox - Artist Interview with Mantar Bhandal
Pacific Wild Blog - The Wild Road to Pacific Wild
Vancouver is Awesome - Local Artist Pitches in to Raise Funds for Bella Bella
My Home (and away) Studio
In a city like Vancouver, space is precious. It is also highly unpredictable. I've rented studios in a few neighbourhoods in the city. Some didn't have heat. Some didn't have working electrical or decent wifi. Now my partner and I both have separate painting studios in our East Van home. Yes, she's an artist too! (And no, there's no sugar daddy here.) We are privileged as renters to have a spacious home with room for these workspaces. In a way it's a necessity that we have pretty much designed our life around. Who has time for renovictions? When you rent three separate spaces in rapidly gentrifying neighbourhoods, this can be a unfortunate reality.
My studio is where I paint.
It's also where I stage my artwork for photo shoots, where prints get processed, packaged and mailed, where paintings live when I'm preparing for a show. It's where my art supplies, packaging and stationary are stored. It's a work space, a sanctuary and a well of optimism. My studio is where I retreat daily for solitude, silence and the rituals that make this creative life function.
Some days (or weeks) my studio is beach, a trail, a mountain top or a forest. I take multi week wilderness sabbaticals a few times a year, often with my partner Rachael. I paint while hiking, paddling and camping in remote areas - and even on day trips from Vancouver.
My Creative Process
I approach art kind of like research.
For me, painting is a way to refine, distill and digest what I'm learning, listening to and seeing. When I plan a larger painting project with a storytelling or fundraising element, it's often an excuse to speak with people I deeply admire about the work they do in support of wild places. As an introvert, this human connection is explosive and transformative for my practise. Conversations become fuel for living, loving and learning. Stories become a vessel to take others with me. Painting is the easy part. It's what allows me to explore human relationships with wild places and how these connections can become a spark for more intentional living.
Sustainable creativity is not about inspiration raining down from the sky like lightening bolts. Good, solid, satisfying creative work comes directly from consistent practise, play, experiments, failing, showing up, observing, exploring, learning, listening, researching and doing the work. My best work happens when I am actively participating in communities and conversation. Moving my body. Exploring outside. Feeling all the feels. Learning all the things. Being present.
I'm a watercolour painter.
I paint wilderness landscapes, often in a miniature scale. I use single pigment watercolour paints made by Daniel Smith. The current, tiny square format I'm doing developed as a way for me to paint in the backcountry on multi day paddling and hiking trips. Right now, I'm mostly painting 37 x 37 mm watercolour landscapes. Each one has a colour study pair, my way of mapping colour and light on the go.
I've also been experimenting with large scale colour studies, painted on location.