kate zessel grizzy painting

These Backcountry artists will inspire you these holidays

In case you hadn’t noticed, the backcountry is a beautiful place. It can be hard work to get  out there and home again, but few people would argue against it being worth every sweat-inducing step. With such magnificence on our doorstep in British Columbia, it’s not hard to see so many artists use it as their primary inspiration for drawings and paintings.

For these holidays. MSAA has profiled five of our favourite backcountry artists in the province. You can find these works sprinkled around mountain and coastal towns in BC, peruse their portfolios on Instagram and even contact them for commission if you’re so inclined.

Kate Zessel

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ᵂᴼᴸᶠ ᴹᵁᴿᴬᴸ 6’ ˣ 5’

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Whistler artist Kate Zessel draws her inspiration not just from the mountains where she lives, but from the elusive creatures that inhabit them. The Vancouver native grew up spending her weekends in Whistler, where she moved full-time after graduating from the University of Victoria’s Graphic Design program.

“It was when I moved up here (to Whistler) that I began to draw with this style,” says Zessel. “When I go out for a hike or a bike ride, what I see and experience influences the way in which I illustrate these animals.”

The furry fauna in the Coast Range, such as bears, wolves and deer are a recurring theme in Zessel’s work, as are the now-scarce bison of British Columbia. Strong vectors, hatching and polygonal patterns compliment facial portraits of the creatures, depicting the places where Zessel instills her creativity whenever she takes a break from her home studio.

See more at zesseldesigns.com


The goal of Jessa Gilbert’s work is “to celebrate wilderness and adventure.”  Growing up in upstate New York before moving to Vermont to study Art and Art History at the University of Vermont, she competed nationally in freestyle snowboarding while honing her skill as a figurative painter. Making the move to BC in 2013 and settling in Squamish, she now blends her mountain passions by working as a tail guide at Baldface Lodge near Nelson and painting massive murals in homes and public spaces.

See more at jessagilbert.com


Guide and mountain girl in every sense of the word, Kendra Hicks draws inspiration from all of her alpine adventures whether skiing deep powder or climbing granite faces. Completely self-taught after buying a small collection of paint, one brush, and a sketch book in the Summer of 2015, her passion and talent for drawing her most revered landscapes belies her youth. All of Kendra’s paintings are acrylic on Canvas and they’re all of mountains, many of those in the Sea to Sky Corridor.

See more at kendrahicksart.com


A London, England transplant now living in Tofino (after a few years in Whistler), Sarah King’s distinct style is influenced by BC’s coastline as well as its mountains, animals and people. Words are a big part of her work, using them as a texture and inspiring thought. Sarah’s client list includes heralded art collections such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Royal Society of Arts, as well as mainstream publications such as Oprah Magazine and Bloomberg Businessweek.

See more at sarahaking.com


A rural Ontario native now residing in Revelstoke, Hayley Stewart’s discoveries as an artist were made exploring the beautiful and vast wilderness of Western Canada. Her distinct process begins on canvas with aerosol paint, a more explorative and expressive phase. The second, more deliberate and controlled phase, sketches, maps the foreground with meticulous detail.  Bold, saturated colours are a big part of her work, as are intriguing creatures.

See more at hayleystewart.com

Written by: Vince Shuley

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