Eight Minutes With Local Artist And Super-Creator Zoë Pawlak

photo: Jamie Mann

Zoë Pawlak is that rare strain of artist who creates, curates, promotes, engages and still has energy left over to create some more. Let’s call her a super-creator. Case in point: Zoë is currently busy in her studio working on a new body of work that will premier at the IDSWest show (September 29-October 1, 2011) while simultaneously curating an upcoming (opening night is Friday, September 16 | 6 -11 pm) gig at the Catalog Gallery of works by Mike Macri (Check back next week for more on that…). On the side she’s taking commissions, pulling together the always stunning window display at the Lululemon lab on Broadway and Cambie (check it) and gearing up for the 2011 Eastside Culture Crawl. See what I mean? Super-creator!  So, in between those activities, Scout caught up with her to ask a few questions…

  • Parker Street Studios
  • Zoe Pawlak Studio visit
  • Artist Zoe Pawlak
  • Zoe Pawlak Studio visit
  • Zoe Pawlak Studio visit
  • Zoe Pawlak Studio visit
  • Zoe Pawlak Studio visit
  • Zoe Pawlak Studio visit
  • Zoe Pawlak
  • Zoe Pawlak Studio visit
  • Zoe Pawlak Studio visit
  • Zoe Pawlak Studio best ever strategic plan
  • Detail: Zoe Pawlak Studio visit
  • Zoe Pawlak Studio visit

Three things about Cambie and Broadway that make you want to live there: We love the Canada Line, and the general access to transit. We can also hop onto the seawall with our bikes, get down to my dad’s boat at Heather Marina or enjoy the beach in any direction. Also, Elysian Coffee.
Architectural style that you most identify with: Modern, open, clean…though my current abode is none of those things.

Three words that describe the vibe of your current living space: Great art collection, tons of light and an eclectic collection of furniture amongst a sprawling landscape of children’s toys.

What inspires you? People who are authentic. There’s nothing better than a great conversation with someone who can open your mind and heart. Enthusiasm and optimism are contagious.

Describe your favourite photograph: I have a photo of my great grandparents and she is all in white and he happens to be dressed all in black in a dapper suit. I have it framed as a dypthic and they are cheersing on their wedding anniversary. They look so in love and elegant.

Default drink: White wine as of late, but I’ll take a cold beer anytime.

When you can’t sleep: Affirmations about the things I am thankful for.

Favourite place to see live music: The Gorge.

Cheap place for dinner: Nuba.

Book you’re reading: The Help. Along with the rest of the entire planet.

Last place travelled: Stuart Island off of our beautiful coast. Float plane, fishing, fine food and wine. It was a blast.

What is beauty? Beauty is what moves you. It is everything that compels good. It is what gives you shivers. You can feel beauty in your gut. Superficially, I think women are about as beautiful a thing as you can find on earth.

Community event or festival that you look forward to every year: The Cheaper Show

Best sneaker in the world: I have put some miles on my Saucony’s, that’s for sure.

Best bar stool in the city: My husband works at Monks, so any excuse to see him and the ocean is great. Bin 941 on Davie was pretty awesome the last time we were there too.

Dumbest purchase ever: Our car. Who signs up for unnecessary monthly payments!?

Best garage sale score: Too many to mention.

The view from your favourite window: A 180 view of the mountains from my studio window. Every day I come in there and think about how lucky I am.

Best Vancouver place to be inspired by emerging artistic talent: Friend’s studios. If you can get into the studios of other Vancouver talent, it’s a really special thing for an artist. I especially enjoy Fiona Ackerman, Jessica Bell and Carolyn Stockbridge. For Vancouver locals, the Culture Crawl is your best bet at access.

Favourite way to get your hands dirty? Just my hands…hmm? Painting and camping.

Last art show that really blew you away: Everything I saw in L.A. on my last trip down. Especially the Jeff Koons exhibit at the LACMA.

Talent you wish you possessed: To keep my whites white.

The trend you wish you never followed, but did: My moto in highschool was to ‘never wear something you couldn’t one day regret’. I was trying to be a risktaker and too many photos were taken of my fashion mistakes during that era.

Musical instrument you long to master: Piano to sing to.

Sport you gave up: Softball. I was a pretty good fastpitch player, but had limited competitive spirit.

Three things of no monetary value that you will keep until you die: Besides my kids, I love my new short jean jacket, mustard yellow palm tree lamp and a few old sketchbooks filled with drawings and poetry.

Local ladies you admire most: A tie. Jane Cox of Cause and Affect and Martha Sturdy are two local favorite-lady trend setters.

Best concert experience ever: Lilith Fair with my mom at or Radiohead outdoors in Montreal for free followed by gay bars with the funnest gay man I know. Each decidely different.

Animal you most identify with: Cats. They are really spazzy and loving.

Favourite Vancouver park: MacLean for the kids and the down-to-earth moms with our wine in a mug.

All time favourite movie: Great Expectations with  Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert De Niro, Anne Bancroft and Chris Cooper. All of Finn’s artwork and portraits of the main characters in the film were done by Francesco Clemente, an Italian painter. What artist doesn’t love that scene where he draws her….?

The dish you’re proud of: I make a pretty mean garlic, yam and potato mash.

Best thing about Vancouver in the Summer: Oh my gosh…to much too name!…The beautiful outdoors. Patios, weddings, the Islands, ferries, the seawall…We are so blessed!

Best hotel room ever: The Juiper in Portland, but I also have to admit I have an online love affair with everything ‘Ace’.

Most memorable celebrity encounter: I met Sarah McLaughlin at Unite with Art. I spent the majority of my adolescence in love with her music and then there I was, years later, rendered speechless as she asked which painting was mine.

Sexiest item of clothing for a woman: On it’s own…tiny panties of course!

The clothing item every man should have in his closet: A good blazer.

Town you were born in: White Rock. The same hospital room as our first daughter.

Thing you miss most about home when you’re on the road: My kids.

Two places you like to take out of town visitors in order to show off your city: I am recently loving on QE Park and guests love the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

If the Mayor of Vancouver was a genie and could grant you three civic wishes, what would they be? (you don’t have to rub him) We have to take better care of kids. The foster care system is a mess and could use some attention. Real and amazing bike lanes, and his utmost attention directed towards mental health.

The first three things you do every morning: After the 16 things I do for my kids to get them ready and keep them alive, I shower, hop my bike and enjoy the beautiful things called ‘coffee’ either at my studio or along the way.

Favourite book as a child? Anything I could get my hands on.

Album that first made you love music: Paula Abdul. She’s a cold-hearted snake.

What are you listening to as you answer these questions? Animal Collective and Drake have been on repeat all week.

When did you know you could make it as an artist? When I did a commission for a San Francisco interior designer and she flew up to check on my ‘progress’. We had a great talk where she told me she had hired me for me. I was trying to be something else and make the painting something else and was making everyone miserable along the way, most of all, myself. She infused a confidence in me that was pivotal to my career. That conversation really set the course for the last three years.

How do you define your style and subject matter? My styles are all over the place because I have done so many commissions coming straight out of school. I am really still trying to find a style, but there are some very common elements in my paintings that have been around since I was 18. I recognize them and it is very exciting. Being an artist is more of a later-in-life career than our culture would have you believe. My favorite subject matter is people, but I can’t paint portraits all the time because they don’t always sell and it is a very intense type of painting, so I change up my subject matter quite a bit. The best paintings are honest only to that moment in both style and subject matter.

What do you think is the role of the contemporary artist? The goal is to be most honest. Sometimes the contemporary artist occupies herself with social issues and other times, her aim is to explore only the formal elements of painting or the pairing of the two.

Best and worst day of work? The best day starts early with a full bank account and is wide open. The worst day includes a fractured schedule, too much going on, pressure, no music and hot heat in the late afternoon.


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