If you’ve spent any length of time in the Whistler area recently, odds are you’ve come across Vanessa Stark’s artwork without even knowing it.
Whether it’s hanging in a Village gallery, on a banner dotting the streets of Pemberton or splashed on a set of custom designed skis, Stark’s art is as ubiquitous to Whistler and its environs as the fluffy mounds of snow she so aptly depicts in her colourful acrylic paintings.
“I’ve always had a passion for art since I was a little kid. People always ask me when I started painting, but I always say I never stopped. Pretty much everyone paints as a little kid, so I just carried on,” said Stark, whose first art show appearance came at the tender age of eight.
Now at 37 years old the Pemberton resident has forged a profitable career out of her highly sought-after work and still manages to find time to raise a toddler and take part in one of her other passions: snowboarding.
“I totally have a passion for the mountains and the outdoors. It’s been a really good balance because (art and snowboarding) are almost opposite but I see them as really similar. Art is very mellow, but it’s almost the same feeling you get when snowboarding, that feeling of being in the moment,” she said.
Stark said it’s essential that she split her time between the mountains and her work, especially considering each of her passions heavily influences the other.
“You go out and get all this inspiration from being in the mountains and then you come home and you give your body time to heal while you’re expressing all that creativity and inspiration on (art), then you go back out and you’re recharged,” she said. “If I was in the house everyday painting I don’t think I’d be getting the same inspiration.”
Stark is hesitant to put a label on her artistic style, although her vividly coloured, almost abstract paintings and mixed-media pieces share an aesthetic that is undeniably her own.
“I think my art is kind of in its own genre because I’ve never tried to copy someone else’s style, it’s totally my own thing that’s developed over time. I always call it ‘mountain-style,’” she said. “You definitely see in different mountain towns there’s this sort of distinct style, but I don’t think it falls into a category that has a name on it yet.”
Stark has had a busy last few months with her art being selected as one of four designs that will grace Prior’s 2013 line of skis, seven of her works currently on display at Millennium Place as part of its winter-themed White Out exhibit and creating a limited-edition topsheet for Whistler Blackcomb. Fifty dollars from every one of the 40 sets of skis being made will be donated to the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, which supports various non-profit organizations in the Sea to Sky.
With so much of her work embodying the mountain culture that permeates every aspect of life in Whistler, Stark said the community she’s been a part of since 1992 has helped shape her work, albeit in a more subtle, subconscious manner than you might expect.
“A lot of the way I paint is a really intuitive style … It really filters through me and I generally don’t look at anything when I paint a picture, because it’s more how I remember something or how it comes out. It’s like dreaming, and dreams are totally influenced by where you live and what you do, so I think my paintings express that,” she said.
If you’re interested in purchasing some of Stark’s art, you can visit her website at www.vanessastarkart.com. Several of her pieces will remain on display in the Scotiabank Gallery in Millennium Place until Jan. 7.