Banff 2021 Q&A: Meet the Artist

BUFF® Staff / 10-25-2021

For the 2021 Banff Center Mountain Film and Book Festival, we put a call out to find a new artist to work with. This artist needed to capture the essence of Banff's mountainous environment and show the deep connection with the outdoors we all feel. We had so many applications— it was a truly huge task to choose just one artists from all applied.

But one stood out to us, Bryn Merrell.

We caught up with Bryn before the Festival to get insights into her artistic process, passion, and inspiration.


Tell us a bit more about yourself and your journey as an artist?

I grew up in a very odd, creative, and artistic family. Our family vacations would be backpacking in the Grand Canyon, our household pets were hissing cockroaches and tarantulas, and as a kid I was often considered the ‘weird one’. I love the unconventional creativity that came from my family, but I wanted to explore something new, so I decided to study mathematics and environmental science in college.

It wasn’t until after graduating that I began to explore other creative outlets. The goal with my degree was always to be outside. When I hit the workforce as a mathematician, I realized that this could not be my reality. This is when I took some time off and began to explore my creative outlets again.

I went into seasonal work in the outdoor industry, and that lifestyle was hard to beat. Between the interesting people, flexibility, and the fact I never had to sign a rental agreement, I was very content with that way of life. It was this transition where I really began to develop my artistic approach.

I draw most of my inspiration from personal experiences outside. When I am not painting or sketching, I can often be found mountain biking, watching animal videos, backpacking, and/or skiing. I love to explore a new area and take note of what makes my surroundings unique, especially the colors found in the area. I remember my first time visiting Banff and Jasper, I fell head over heels for the bright contrast of the larch trees sprinkled in with the evergreens. That shade of yellow was my most used color for the remainder of the year!

I have been a fan of the Banff Mountain Film fest for a few years now. I am so incredibly inspired by the stories shared at this festival. I leave feeling re-energized and re-fueled to pursue my own passions. I am most excited to feel this energy in person while being surrounded by like-minded people, and the storytellers themselves.

This partnership was a dream come true for me, and it will be a hard one to top. I am looking forward to creating alongside everyone that makes the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival such a powerful event!

"I remember my first time visiting Banff, I fell head over heels for the bright contrast of the Larch Trees sprinkled in with the evergreens.”

What made you want to put your art in the running for the Banff Artist Search?

I learned about the artist search from a social media post by John Fellows. I was sitting in a sliver of shade in a used car lot with Sheila (my dog), putzing around on Instagram until my husband, Michael came back. I saw the posting and thought there was very little chance I could be selected, but better to throw my hat in the ring. I actually thought I got a spam email from a fraudulent Rab account when I received the congratulatory email! It wasn’t until further investigation that I realized it was real!

Where do you draw inspiration from?

I draw most of my inspiration from personal experiences outside. I love to explore a new area and take note of what makes my surroundings unique, especially the colors found in the area.

Can you take us through the steps you use when creating a piece of art?

The first step for me in the creative process is sketching and inspiration. I look back on previous trips or explorations to the areas of interest and begin sketching a concept of where I want to take the piece. This is definitely the hardest part of the process for me. There is something so intimidating about a blank piece of white watercolor paper.

Once the sketching is done, I go in and add some color. I generally have an idea of what colors I want to use, but I almost never make a solid palette. I’ll generally go color by color. So if I am starting with green, I’ll go through and add all the green areas that I want on the entire piece. I love letting the color get a little wild which often creates a bold look. It leaves an unpredictable nature to the process which I love but doesn’t always end up in my favor. My favorite part of the coloring process is adding layers of color. I love making small details in these layers, and can spend all day on it!

The finishing touch is usually either adding ink detail or removing the watercolor gum if I am going for a negative space look. I’ll often declare it as ‘done’ but then end up adding more detail the next day!


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