hi there - what can I help you with?


Email: studio@marisapahl.com

Phone: 604-619-9748

Questions? see our FAQ's page.

Vancouver, BC


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Familiar Peaks: Now Accepting Story + Photo Submissions

Marisa Pahl

Hello and Happy New Year!

This year I’ve been invited to be the featured artist at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival which means I’ll be attending all the shows at Centennial Theatre and doing some live painting beforehand. I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity to connect with people and share my work at an event I look forward to every year.

I’m taking this opportunity to start a new series that highlights our individual connections to mountains and reveals some of the common threads of how we play outside when mountains are involved.

Invitation + Submission Guidelines

Would you like to contribute a photo and story? Amazing. It’s pretty easy. I’m asking you to share a story of a relationship you have with a mountain and a photo of this place that you took.

The photo will become a reference for one of my tiny, 37 mm x 37 mm paintings.

I’ll be choosing a few of these mountain stories to paint during the month of February leading up to VIMFF. Likely around 10. During the festival I’ll be live painting before each show at Centennial Theatre.

I won’t be able to transform every story and photo into watercolour but I will repost some of your submissions on my Instagram leading up to and during the festival. If you like, I can also include a short bio and links to your website or Instagram in the post and introduce people to you over Instagram stories.

Everyone who submits a photo and story will be entered to win a package of carefully selected items, including some of my favourite mountain related things. (This is not sponsored. It’s valued at $100 and reflects some people and businesses whose work I really appreciate. Details will be posted on Instagram later this week.))

Email submissions to studio (at) marisapahl (dot) com

if you like you can also submit by posting on Instagram. Be sure to tag me in the post and comments so don’t miss it!

@marisapahl // #FamiliarPeaks

Thanks for reading, email me if you have any questions!


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Mapping Winter Light: Large Colour Studies at Seymour River

Marisa Pahl

There is a magic in the way light inhabits a place, today and over time. It can be familiar, comforting, dreamy, soft, bright, dark, haunting, all at once. When we come back to a place, we hold this knowledge of a place in our mind - of past colours + past light. In a way, it’s a map of what exists, what has been and what we know is possible. 

This experience and knowledge can shift entirely in a moment. That window of possibility is where the magic lies. In nature, new colours, new light, and new perspectives happen instantly, unexpectedly and without our input.

When the sun filters gently through a canopy of cedars, the world below changes in a moment. When the glow of dusk skips over white capped ocean waves, the rest of a landscape fades into darkness.

For me, these experiences are the opposite of boring.

If I'm not paying attention, I'm unaware of the magic unfolding all around me. This is especially true in remote wilderness locations. When I'm fully present, I feel tuned in to the subtle changes and dramatic shifts of the landscape. 

Maybe because I feel like I am part of it.

Painting outside gives me fresh eyes and an open mind. It's a pathway to new perspectives, a process worth playing with, an act where the product is secondary. Until I begin mapping colour with brushes and layers of paint and water, it’s unpredictable what colours might make their way onto the paper.

I think I know, but there are always surprises.

This colour inquiry is a pilgrimage that I come back to without hesitation. The process has become a spiritual practise. A way of being effortlessly present.

These abstract colour studies have no miniature landscape pair.  They are something all their own.

I hope you enjoy the palette of Seymour River in January. It's all bluesey, inky greys, bright greens and deep dark foliage.


Sexy + Environmentally Sound: Framing, Our Way

Marisa Pahl

I want to live in a world where people make every day choices with the future in mind. Paying a little bit more (or doing without) until there are enough resources to choose something functional, durable and non toxic that will last a lifetime or better yet, seven. 

It’s true that this is easier said than done. What gets less time in the limelight is the momentum that comes from starting with one thing, today. A tiny rush of good vibes from one thing can be the initial spark for a positive feedback loop that leads to a multitude of small daily actions. Eventually, this is how a lifestyle shift occurs (or begins… because, is a thoughtful person ever really finished improving, refining and designing their life?)

Some people call this greenwashing. Doing one thing = a joke. The conversation is all about guilt and the infinite number of things you’re not doing. The harm you are doing by simply existing in a system that values cheap, convenient consumerism becomes the icing on a giant layer cake of overwhelm.

For me, the desire to tread lighter on the earth is not driven by guilt. It is all about possibility, resilience and optimism. Optimism grounded in knowledge and action.

For example:

  • we know that ecological systems are capable of recovery
  • we know that less pollution, less plastic and less waste allow ecological systems to recover, grow and become resilient
  • we know that our current economic systems are growing exponentially at a rate that will destroy many individual ecosystems on our planet in less than 100 years
  • one way to change this trajectory is to individually create less waste, less plastic and less pollution

AKA it’s not all over. The environmental apocalypse is not (quite) here. We can turn around and move in the opposite direction. Why not get started?

For those of you who don't believe in conscious consumerism, can we agree that it's a gateway to other, even more powerful choices like active citizenship, grassroots organizing + political engagement?

I’m not perfect, but I prefer to focus on what I’m able to do. You may discover that this feeling is contagious. The more folks you find who believe that that their small actions are meaningful, the easier it is to get excited about what you can do. And are already doing. 

My friend Lindsay Coulter calls this “building islands of sanity in an insane world.”

I’m pretty into her philosophy and it makes me feel like all this stuff matters. A lot. That’s why I believe it’s worthwhile to offer a framing choice for my collectors that is simple, stunning and environmentally sound.

  • Even though Ikea has lots of cheap, pretty frames. 
  • Even though you could probably get 100 wood frames on Amazon or Ali Baba for $30.
  • Even though there are a million inexpensive, beautiful looking frames at Michaels, West Elm + Walmart.

What I discovered is even if you decide to go down the deep dark rabbit hole of custom professional framing, there are very few frame options that are an unfinished + unpainted hardwood. 

That’s why I created this for you.

Its not the cheapest option. It’s not the fastest option.

It is worth your consideration (in my humble opinion.)


We are proud to share that these frames are:

  • handcrafted in Canada (Vancouver, actually)
  • made of raw Poplar, completely unfinished (no varnish, paint or resin)
  • simple, classic, sexy profile
  • durable and resistant to dents (thanks to the qualities of this hardwood)
  • may last forever, if you you treat them nice (or decompose completely if left outside)
  • can be repaired or turned into something else, if they ever break


I hope some of this conversation resonates with you. Even if this framing choice isn’t right for you right now, I trust that you’ll make a choice that fits you and your life right now. If you need alternative ideas: some of my collectors buy vintage frames, or find the perfect fit in a secondhand shop. Some folks are crafty and make their own, or rescue one from a friend or family’s giveaway pile.

If you have any questions about the framing process, I’m happy to answer any and all of them! Just email me at studio@marisapahl.com

STUDIO TOUR: Welcome to my (almost) plastic + waste free studio!

Marisa Pahl

Welcome to my studio!

Since my artwork + creative process is all about human connections to wilderness and the small daily steps we all do in support of the environment - I thought you might enjoy seeing how this affects the things I use on a daily basis in the studio. 

I've been working on eliminating plastic and waste from my workflow but this process is ongoing. I'm not perfect, my workflow isn't perfect, but for me knowing the direction I'm heading is a powerful thing. I've included improvements planned for 2017, because it's fun to share those tweaks.

Right now (of course!) my business is on the small side. I hope that doing this foundational work and making mindful environmental choices now will make it easier to have minimal impact as my work, studio and practise expands.

Here goes!



Paint + Process

PAINT: I use all single pigment watercolour paints from Daniel Smith out of Seattle. I like that their 15 ml tubes are metal rather than plastic. The tiny plastic lids can be cleaned and recycled. These tubes last me years sometimes, as I've got a rainbow of colours on the go ... and my paintings are quite small!

PALETTE: I use an aluminum palette the size of a business card. The individual pans are removable and refillable. They are made by an expeditionary artist out of Seattle and the most brilliant travel palette I have encountered. This is what I use in the studio, in cafes, on the trail or on the beach.

BRUSHES: a motley crew. I'm always on the hunt for quality, plastic free brushes but I have not yet found one brand worthy of my love.

PAPER: I use 100% cotton rag papers made Arches. The 140 lb and 300 lb are my favourites. Last year I transitioned from Fabriano, who have a family run factory in Italy and are fairly transparent with their environmental impacts. I started using Arches because to me, the product feels superior and a better fit with my work. I'm still researching the details of Arches factory + business practises in relation to the environment.

INK: I have a few calligraphy pens and I use bottled inks for filling out things like certificates of authenticity and writing notes to collectors.

PENCIL: I use a refillable pencil I bought from the Regional Assembly of Text. It's made of wood and metal and works like a charm ... Now, if only I could find a source of lead that didn't come in a ridiculously excessive plastic and paper package!

TRAVEL: I have a small Pelican case that comes with me backpacking, paddling, biking or anywhere that I'm painting outside. It's plastic but not disposable. It was given to me preloved and will probably last forever.


in 2017

PENS: Right now, I have an ever evolving roster of micron pens on the go at all times. I'd like to switch these out for a refillable option this year.

SKETCHBOOKS + NOTEBOOKS: I'm a fan of Moleskin. The papers are beautiful and they are available everywhere. The drawback is that they are wrapped in plastic and the covers are questionable in terms of recyclability. In 2017 I'll be transitioning to Paperback Note, a Vancouver company that makes sketchbooks out of old book covers. At first I was skeptical of the quality because of the recycled factor. When I learned the company is run by a local architect named Herman, I began to understand why these notebooks are beautiful in form and function. Herman uses heavy, bright white papers and binds them individually in a lay flat format. The covers come from comic books, old paper backs and add a sassy, fun element. The covers are either paper based or fabric on the fancy old ones.


Packaging, Shipping + Gift Wrapping

WASHi TAPE: did you know washi tape is made from rice paper? It's a great alternative to clear plastic tapes. High quality washi tapes are acid free and lingin free but the adhesives are not archival. That means they are only used on layers not touching the artwork, otherwise they could cause changes in paper or pigment colour over time. 

GIFT WRAPPING: artwork is gift wrapped in kraft paper or old maps. Any ribbons used are thrifted from secondhand + curiosity shops, or recycled silk sari ribbons purchased from Etsy. Anything bought new is made of natural fibres like hemp or cotton. Baker's twine is a reliable go to with no plastic content.

LOVE NOTES: I collect vintage postcards and right now, this is what I write thank you's and notes for collectors on. My favourite ones are a collection of old wilderness photographs from locations around Vancouver, about 100 years ago.

PACKAGING: this year I'm using strictly kraft paper mailers. Since small unframed prints and paintings are shipped as letters, upgrading to a coated envelope would not offer much more safely in terms of moisture damage. I replace any artwork that arrives damaged and that has not yet happened, though I know it may eventually!

ENVELOPES: made of 100% recycled fibre, or found from my favourite recycled materials art shop, Urban Source.


In 2017

PRINT MATERIALS: I don't use business cards but I do print postcards and Certificates of Authenticity from Moo. I love this company! Their customer service is impeccable, they share so much useful information and the products are on point. The drawback is that even when I order the 'greenest' paper option, it arrives in a plethora of beautiful, heavily coated packaging. This is probably the largest pile of unnecessary waste leaving my studio at the moment. I'd love to find a local print company to work with this year, letterpress or otherwise, for my ongoing print needs.



PRINTING: my limited edition, archival quality prints are printed on a heavyweight 100% cotton Moab paper. All digital printing is taken care of by Fidelis Fine Art Prints out of Parker Street Studios. Alan is kind enough to wrap my orders in a parchment vellum and pieces of cardboard.

PACKAGING: Prints are wrapped in archival tissue. Soon this will be replaced by transparent vellum parchment envelopes - which is the sexiest paper I know, next to watercolour.

PRINT MATERIALS: For me, it's so important to include some key paper pieces in a print order. This keeps collectors informed and makes it clear how they can contact me with questions, feedback or future orders. It also provides some essential information about the artwork. Each thing is thoughtfully printed on recycled paper and can be recycled afterwards. Packaging is kept to a minimum. Each print is accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity, a postcard with a note from me and a bit of information about the series. I invite folks to email me for a PDF of hanging, framing + care instructions.

ADDRESS LABELS: are written by hand or printed on paper and glued onto the envelope.


In 2017:

STAMPS: ordering a few branded rubber stamps will allow me to provide consistency when using found, recycled and vintage paper materials. Once I move into my new studio in September, I will also FINALLY get an address stamp.

EMBOSSING: the signature on my prints and paintings is written on a raised, embossed circle. This 3D element is created using an architect's metal square with circle cutouts in it. The paper is manipulated using this metal circle cutout shape and an embossing tool, which looks like a pencil but with metal circle knobs on each end. The paper is pressed and pushed to pop out in the shape of circle. I'd love to discover an old school metal punch that creates this simple circle shape, but in the meantime my embossing tool broke this week! (I've had this tool since I was 7, and using to enthusiastically make greeting cards out of rubber stamps and metal stencils.) I'm excited to replace it with a wood or metal handle version.


FRAMES: in 2016 I transitioned to a raw Maple, made in Canada moulding. It was the only thing on the market that was untreated and made of hardwood. I was unhappy with the life of the more standard black and white frames I favoured in the past. After being moved a few times or up on display, one in five of these classic frames would end up with chipped edges. The wood frames that I started using last year are BEEEautiful. Not shockingly, they are not cheap either. I've found a solution for this, see below.

FRAMING: no, I do not do framing myself. A. it would take FOREVER. B. I have a professional who I trust to the moon and back. Liz McLaughlin is my framer, friend and consultant on all things relating to archival materials. She takes care of all my framing needs and does beautiful, reliable work. I have learned so much from her and am so grateful for her willingness to work with my quirky, ever-evolving environmental standards. I may or may not be her most high maintenance customer but she loves me anyways!

In 2017

FRAMES: This year I am thrilled to partner with a local woodworker here in Vancouver. Together we are exploring a durable, environmentally sound, hardwood frame that is more affordable than the raw Quebec Maple. We are starting with Poplar, as the patterns and tones of this wood are gloriously neutral and it's half the price of Maple. The Poplar wood grain really lets my paintings shine. Later this year we may get to play with a beetle kill Pine edition or some reclaimed wood.

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Why Haida Gwaii?

Marisa Pahl

10 Superb Reasons to Visit Haida Gwaii   [ ...and a longer creative reflection. ]

Warning: the longer journal entry includes references to the genocide of indigenous people.

Read More