Montreal-based painter and all-around creative Zoë Pawlak has a prolific practice. Her dreamy, ethereal style, whether rendering floral still lifes, figurative sketches, or abstract landscapes, is distinct and immediately recognizable.

Over her decade-long painting career, Pawlak has become well-known for her creative use of mediums from canvas and paper, to custom rug designs. Her work has graced the pages of Gray, House & Home, and Martha Stewart Living and FBFA has had the pleasure of working with her on numerous projects. Part bohemian creative, part savvy businesswoman, Pawlak is a dedicated maker with a passion for her craft that resonates in every piece she creates. We caught-up with Pawlak to learn more about her process and her unique perspective on creating.

You’re originally from Vancouver but relocated to Montreal. How has the city influenced your work?

Montreal is a very social and fun city. The city has many young people due to a large number of universities and many artists live here too. Because of the low cost of living, it has been easier to have a larger studio and home. The extra space has afforded me room to grow my practice and my team.

You have spoken about how you look at your practice a bit like running a business, what are some methods you’ve adopted from the business world?

My painting practice runs alongside a business that I take very seriously; they are interconnected. When I paint, I must only concentrate on making quality artwork and allow all else to fall away. When I am planning and strategizing, I think like a businesswoman. I have respect for both. Painting saved me and keeps me sane, it allows me to release emotions and publicly explore ideas. My business is largely based on customer service. I love people and I really love my clients. I have the deepest respect for the way I have been afforded making a living. This is a unique time to be alive.




Photo by Caroline Mulock.

How do you approach a new work? 

I sketch and write, and think and stew. I use my sketchbook daily to sort out what matters. When you sift ideas, the nonsense, trends, and what doesn’t matter falls away. I collect and print color palate ideas and put them up around my studio. I plan by purchasing a number of surfaces and then put on the music and go for it.

You work across artistic mediums, from paint and canvas to more decorative arts such as rugs and mirrors. What are some of the challenges you encounter in bringing your style to each medium?

Bringing my style to each medium is not difficult. Sometimes the medium itself is new to me and I have to learn how to use it, bend it, have it obey or surprise me. The medium is a tool to communicate. The more you know your medium, the more command you have over how to speak clearly.

Calm Prospects II.

Photo by Janis Nicolay.

How would you describe your artistic perspective?

Trust what you feel and make work about it, people will respond to what is true. Or, be thankful: the second you are not thankful, you squander the gift.

Who are some of your contemporaries that inspire you?

Oh gosh…Ceramicist Bari Ziperstein; photographer Stephanie Vovas; painter and hard-worker Fiona Ackerman; my NYC gallerist Tze and her team; and Gen Ennis of Hume Atelier, my BFF since I was five and one of the humblest, [most] kick-ass designers I know. I could go on forever. I have met so many amazing designers in NYC recently, too, including Nick and Rachel (owners of Calico Wallpaper) and the ladies of the Egg Collective.

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