A passion for art on display

She hasn’t been painting for long, just a little over two years, but Trisha Abe’s artwork can be found all over the region. You probably have already walked by one of her murals inside a business or outside for an art walk. From downtown Kitchener to her recent piece for Square One mall in Mississauga, the local artist is quickly making a name for herself.

“All I knew when I started painting was that I wanted it to be a consistent style so that it was recognizable around town – I have people sending me pictures saying, ‘I recognize your piece,’” said Abe.

“I like to make the style semi-abstract. There are so many times I’ve painted murals and people are like, ‘oh, that looks like my sister’ – it can literally be anyone. It’s so cool to see anyone fill in the blanks, putting their own meaning into it. I try to make them able to relate to a lot of people. One of the biggest things since the beginning was incorporating some diversity,” she explained.

Residents can view one of her latest murals on the side of Living Fresh’s location in St. Jacobs, part of the village’s art walk. Abe showcases diversity in her murals, wanting to provoke new ideas of the types of people that live here while adding in a sense of nature found in the region.

“I wanted to incorporate community and elements of nature because I’ve always known St. Jacobs for that. I loved working in St. Jacobs – everyone was really excited about new art, which was really assuring.”

Abe has painted more than 15 murals around the region, many of them hidden inside businesses that unfortunately weren’t open during the pandemic.

“People have been really good with wanting to support artists during this time. The pandemic has really changed the landscape of office spaces in general, so a lot of the companies I did pieces for announced they were going full-time remote – there are a lot of lonely murals sitting in offices right now. I prefer doing pieces outside because so many more people get to stumble upon them and enjoy them, take pictures with them.

“Canvas pieces were a big thing during the pandemic because people were sitting at home staring at empty walls. I switched over to more of an ecommerce model and started to sell more prints and t-shirts, stuff like that – it was a lot of adjusting. Adjusting in the sense that it is not just for the pandemic – it’s going to be permanent as part of my business now,” said Abe.

One of her murals can be viewed easily on King Street in downtown Kitchener, part of the city’s art walk.

“The art walk in Kitchener was such a good idea, I thought, even having a booklet to go with it. It’s such a pandemic-safe activity; people can do it anytime they want, and it’s a bit of a scavenger hunt.

“Whenever I see a blank wall, I’m like ‘there should be a mural there,’ so it’s nice to see some of those walls being filled with art and murals,” said Abe.

“I went to Montreal and any spot you think of could be a mural is a mural there. Montreal has an insane street art, mural experience. So we’re just catching up to that,” noted Abe.

Abe moved to the region in 2013 to study health sciences at the University of Waterloo. Instead of gaining employment in the field she studied after graduation, she did the unthinkable and pursued a career as a painter, following her passion.

“I did five years of that degree and really thought it was what I wanted to do. Towards the end, literally in my last semester, I [thought] ‘now that I’m doing this, I don’t know if this is for me,’ but I was so close so I just got the degree. And after graduating I just never looked back. I had no intention of turning art into a full-time thing – I didn’t even think it was possible.”

“When I started pursuing art, I had this decision to make whether I stay in the region or move to Toronto. I assumed at the time to make a living as an artist I needed to be in a big city like Toronto and I never would’ve thought I could make a living in Kitchener, being so tech focused now. But the tech companies from the start were my biggest supporters. I also think staying here has allowed me to have a bigger voice whereas if I had moved to Toronto where I’d be constantly competing,” said Abe about her decision to stay in the region.

Abe’s murals can be found inside numerous businesses such as Café Pyrus, Shopify, Insight Eyecare and Hustl+Flow. 

“I love doing local stuff because I often know the businesses and I’m able to connect with the actual designing part and get that community feel.”

Abe said she is excited about the new opportunities in front of her: she’s already on board for a new project for a local business.

“My next one is going to be in Spectrum’s new office – they recently did renovations on the new space in downtown Kitchener and they put out a call for artists to help with this blank white canvas wall to make their meeting space more colourful.”

More of Trisha Abe’s artwork can be viewed online on her website.

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