Chapter 5: Life as a Full-Time Canadian Visual Artist with Trisha Abe

Meet Trisha Abe : Canadian Visual Artist base in Ontario

Tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Trisha Abe, I am a visual artist based in Kitchener Ontario. I am a big fan of  ‘slow-living’, which involves working hard on my craft but also prioritizing rest and life outside of work. I strive to live consciously and thoughtfully whether it be through my purchasing/consumption habits, through the art I create, or even how I spend my down-time. Outside of art, my other interests include thrifting (clothing, furniture, absolutely everything), playing scrabble, and learning how to skateboard!  

What do you do for work?

I work as a freelance visual artist and muralist, and have been doing this full-time for almost 2 years! I do everything from small-scale illustrations to large-scale indoor and outdoor murals. Although murals are my main gig, I also create canvas paintings, prints, tattoo illustrations, painted denim/apparel and more! The style I work in is consistent through all the different mediums and is best described as continuous-line art, with a focus on portraiture and people. 

I’m so inspired by your artwork and the beautiful murals you do within your local community. can you tell me how you got started and why you chose the ‘unconventional’ path of being an artist?

My dive into the arts was extremely sudden and intense! I started painting consistently while finishing up a science degree at the University of Waterloo. As soon as I graduated, I made the decision to not pursue further studies, but rather serve/bartend part-time so I could dedicate more time to creating art. Being a full-time artist was never my goal when I first started out, I was using it purely for therapy to work through some weird life transitions. I found myself painting these ‘expressionless’ yet confident looking figures which at the time is what I was striving to be. This continues to be the foundation of my work and acts as a constant reminder of why I started painting. 

“Having multiple streams of income is crucial! Putting all your eggs in one basket is pretty risky when trying to monetize your creative work. Offering a variety of products/services at various price points makes your art accessible to a much larger demographic. It also allows you to pivot your focus when needed…”

What is one of the biggest struggles you have encountered as an artist?

Freelancing in general comes with its waves of highs and lows. I find financial instability is one of the biggest barriers to overcome. Especially as a new freelancer, you just have to accept that there will be months that are super busy and others that are painfully slow. Over time it tends to even out the more streams of income you incorporate into your business but there is always that risk of unpredictability (perfect example: a global pandemic!). Additionally, like many artists, confidence in your work can vary quite a bit. Putting your art (which is often extremely personal) out into the world is a very vulnerable thing. Especially when you work in a niche style, there are times where you get tired of your own work or feel the constant need to “one-up” yourself. It can be exhausting which is why taking healthy breaks is crucial to prevent burnout and a loss of passion. 

What is the most exciting art piece or project you have made to date?

The answer to this question constantly changes because more often than not, my most recent piece becomes my new favourite! My murals have typically been more on the minimalistic side - (often black linework on a white wall). However, I have been noticing a movement away from minimalism in my work lately and moving toward incorporating more colour, “busier” linework. My most recent mural in a local Café (Café Pyrus) is my brightest most colourful piece to date and was very exciting to create! Working with colour has definitely involved lots of trial and error but I’ve been absolutely loving how it turns out! 

How has Covid-19 impacted you? what are you doing to overcome these challenges?

My heart goes out to everyone in the arts and performance industry for sure, this has been an unsettling time for so many. My own practice came to almost a complete halt at the beginning of COVID as one by one, mural jobs were being “postponed” and vendor markets/events cancelled all together. With more companies transitioning to permanent work from home, I also came to the realization that the corporate mural clientele would significantly decrease and even some of my existing office mural work could get covered up. 

There’s been lots of pivoting for sure— I’m seeing a huge emphasis on e-commerce which is an area I hope to improve on myself. But it’s definitely helped to exercise the creative problem solving skills. I’m grateful to still be doing art full-time and will try to do it for as long as I can as we navigate this new way of life. 

What advice would you give to artists who are just starting out?

Having multiple streams of income is crucial! Putting all your eggs in one basket is pretty risky when trying to monetize your creative work. Offering a variety of products/services at various price points makes your art accessible to a much larger demographic. It also allows you to pivot your focus when needed i.e. murals are in high demand during the summer but tend to slow down when city/company budgets run out. During mural “off-season” I tend to push ecommerce much more. This includes canvas, prints, and t-shirt sales which are a more affordable option. 

Do you have any big plans over the next few months (or year)?

Honestly, with Covid, it's hard to plan anything - I’m really just taking it one month at a time! My biggest focus right now is to up my e-commerce game and be able to offer products on my online shop all year-round! Additionally, I’m constantly trying to evolve and experiment with the art style I work in, that’s just an ongoing plan always!

If you could leave us with one message today, what would it be?

It’s never too late to start! I went through a 5-year science degree, thinking that was the career path for me and barely touched my art supplies during this time. Just because you’ve put a lot of time and effort into one thing, doesn’t mean you have to stick with it for the rest of your life. There's no harm in trying something new especially if it makes you happier. :)

Where can we find you (social media)?


IG: @trishaabe    

Twitter: @trishaabe

LinkedIn: Trisha Abe 

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