About Mirja Vahala


From the time I saw my babysitter’s sketchbook, I was inspired to draw. This eventually led to an education in graphic design and visual arts. I was continually drawn to create artwork through the peaks and valleys of my life. After graduation, I worked for a publishing company and then established my own business. Fifteen years later I sold the company and opened the Mirja Vahala Art Studio. In 2007 my husband and I moved from the Lower Mainland of BC to the West Kootenays. 

Since then I have been a resident artist on BC Ferries from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert and with Holland America Cruises, travelling around South America and Antarctica. My work has been displayed at the FCA gallery in Vancouver, the Kootenay Regional Gallery, Studio 365 and Cannon Beach. My work has also shown in cities such as Kimberly, Nelson, Revelstoke, Rossland and Calgary.  

There are several artists who have been integral in helping me develop my process. For years, my mentor had been Bonny Roberts. Influencers include; David Langevin, Doug Swinton, Brent Lynch, Liz Wiltzen, Brigitte Desbois, Mike Svob and my amazing, art mentoring participants.

I love so many aspects of the discipline of painting. However, the most important aspect for me is to connect with the creative muse. My intention is to ignore the mind’s voice of shoulds and judgements and to paint in that timeless state of creative flow. This state allows mystery and discovery beyond the initial work of studies and colour choices.

For process, I am attracted to the dramatic dark and light contrasts of paintings created before the industrial revolution’s ensuing palette of pigments. Then, in complete opposition, I am amazed at the shimmer of colours obtained by the impressionist way of juxtaposing cool/warm and bright/dull pigments. There is also a deep pleasure in the challenge of placing complex layers of hues into the masses of lights, mid-tones and darks. I especially enjoy scratching into wet paint with silicon forks and colour shapers. Additionally, the uncontrolled look of spattered paint adds energy to the surface. And always, I love to play with the many aspects of design. In this regard, I admire the discipline of artists such as landscape painters John Carlson and Mike Svob, who make a myriad of design thumbnails before painting. 

Artist Statement

A flutter in my belly pulls me into my studio. I sense the preciousness of all living things — I begin to paint. Soon the painting unfurls itself in layers of colour and contrast. Form, light and space become a landscape painting made from a sense of connection to the earth.

Wherever I am, I see messages in the surrounding landscape. I also feel a universal energy pulsing through trees, water and earth. With the ensuing images in my mind’s eye, I feel that flutter in my belly. I return to my studio and begin to paint.

“My deepest intention when painting is to share a sense of wonder about our infinite inner and outer worlds.”