Artist Spotlight: Trisha Abe Meet the painter, illustrator, and muralist who has been breaking down complex, multi-dimensional beings into their basic elements, creating quite a stir in Kitchener

Courtesy UW Alumni

Wandering the streets or local businesses of KW, you may just be lucky enough to spot one of Trisha Abe’s eye-catching linework murals. The Kitchener-based painter and muralist has been very creative for as long as she can remember. Growing up, school projects allowed her creativity to shine. “Whenever I could bust out the coloured pencils, I would,” Abe says. Even as a child, her preferred canvas was the living room wall over any colouring book. Her mother jokes that, as a muralist, Trisha gets paid to “draw” on walls now. 

Abe excelled in her biology and health care classes in high school, so it seemed to her that the most logical path was pursuing a degree in biomedical sciences at the University of Waterloo. She enjoyed the research side of her studies, but began to realize a career in academia was not for her. She finished up her thesis studies, thanked her professors, got her BSc, and went on her way. It was in that fifth and final year at UW that she began painting furiously.

What was the catalyst for picking up her paintbrushes? “The combination of a surprise breakup and the build up from a 5-year creative drought is really what did it,” she says. “I had all these intense emotions from such a weird transitional time in my life that I wanted to communicate somehow, and art seemed like the perfect therapy”. 

However, it wasn’t easy in the beginning. It was frustrating for Abe when she wasn’t flawlessly executing the visions she had for her art. It wasn’t until she stopped meticulously planning her pieces and instead started painting what she felt in that moment that she finally got into the groove.

photo by Lou Bocanegra

In 2019, Toronto tattoo collective Ink & Water reached out to Abe and asked her to be their first illustrator in a collaboration program. Abe knew she wanted to work with Bea (@inkbybea on Instagram); an artist at the shop who had previously tattooed Abe, including two of her own designs. “Bea is an absolutely amazing tattoo artist and human,” says Abe. “I first saw their work on Instagram and couldn’t believe how crisp and clean the line work was.” Abe loves how simple and continuous her linework is, and their inking techniques are both bold and dainty. Skin is the most permanent canvas, and Abe says it is an incredible compliment as an artist having her work on other people’s bodies. 

Abe plans to continue experimenting with different mediums, as her linework translates so well. She loves switching between canvas painting, murals, digital work, denim and apparel. It’s important to Abe that she switches between mediums because it allows more people to access and enjoy her work. “I understand not everyone has the budget for murals and canvas work, so t-shirts, painted denim, and art prints are a great alternative.”

Mural work has been some of the most satisfying work for Abe purely because of its large scale. Her murals are scattered across KW and beyond; she has been commissioned by Shopify, Inkbox Toronto, Communitech, and the City of Kitchener, to name a few. Her process for commissioned pieces is quite different from her personal projects. “My personal work is heavily female-focused, incorporates more colour and overall tends to have a more serious tone,” she says. “My corporate mural work tends to use a black and white palette yet is more cheery overall, and showcases fun, collaboration, workplace diversity, and the occasional office dog”.

Abe enjoys experimenting with completely different creative outlets as well. Abe and her partner, Taylor Jones, have created exhibits for the City of Waterloo’s LUMEN festival, and Kitchener’s THEMUSEUM. “For LUMEN, we created an interactive, luminous living room pop-up where all the furniture, fixtures, and plants were colourfully glowing. As part of THEMUSEUM’s climate crisis exhibit, we created an indoor forest installation and played with mirrors to give the illusion of an ‘infinite forest’”. Trisha’s installation with THEMUSEUM is located inside The Shops in uptown Waterloo and is open to the public until September 2020. She is also hosting her very first solo exhibit on Mar. 5th at the ‘Paint by Munzy’ space in Uptown Waterloo – something she has strived for since she began painting.

One goal she has for the year is to paint a mural abroad. “All in all, I’m so incredibly fortunate to be able to create art for a living and to continue doing that would keep my heart full”. Keep an eye out for Abe’s work as she continues to make her mark across the region.


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