A flutter in my belly pulls me into my studio. I sense how quickly time passes and how precious life is, and I begin to paint. Soon the painting unfurls itself in layers of colour and contrast — form, light and space become a landscape carved from the passage of time. Ideas come to me from our common well of human needs and experiences: how we relate to time, to change, and to mortality. As I paint, I strive to convey a sense of life’s beauty through the messages I find within nature. I paint these images as a way to connect with people who, like myself, thrive on what lies beyond the surface of things. Walking with my husband and dogs in the West Kootenay outdoors, I see stories in the surrounding landscape. I see lightning strike a tree and I think about how a forest needs fire to flourish, just as hardship can develop us into our best selves. In my imagination I see a tree, struck by lightning, transforming into birds. With this image in my heart and mind’s eye, I feel that flutter in my belly. I return to my studio and begin again to paint.
My family members are makers of things and creating art as a young child felt very natural. From the time I saw my babysitter’s sketchbook I was inspired to draw. This led to a degree in graphic design and visual arts from Kwantlen College University, BC. I was continually drawn to create artwork through the peaks and valleys of my life. After graduation, I worked for a publication company before establishing my own design company which I sold after 15 years. I then established the Mirja Vahala Art Studio. In 2007 my husband and I moved from the Lower Mainland of BC to the West Kootenays to establish Windborne B&B, which also houses the Mirja Vahala Art Studio. The visuals of the wild and rugged Kootenays are a definite influence on how my artwork is evolving — as is the open friendliness of the local residents. There are several artists who have been integral in helping me to improve my methods. For years, my mentor has been Bonny Roberts. Other influences include Doug Swinton, Mike Svob, Liz Wiltzen and class participants.