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Found in translation by calling West Van home

BEAUTIFUL B.C. - Painter Lisa Wolfin is inspired by the beauty of West Coast landscapes. Michaela Garstin photo - Michaela Garstin
BEAUTIFUL B.C. - Painter Lisa Wolfin is inspired by the beauty of West Coast landscapes. Michaela Garstin photo
— image credit: Michaela Garstin

Lisa Wolfin has lived amongst Paris’ world-famous buildings, top high-fashion designers and classic cuisine, but it’s the views of West Vancouver she’s most drawn to.

She didn’t always think this way, however.

After leaving the Lower Mainland to study fashion in Los Angeles, Wolfin quickly set her eyes on The House of Dior in Paris.

“I had tunnel vision. I didn’t even know how to speak French,” says Wolfin, sitting beside one her stylized paintings.

“My dad was worried I didn’t know anyone. I told him I’d just figure it out once I got there.”

At just 25 years old, she secured an apprenticeship at Christian Dior, where she stayed for two years.

“They didn’t realize I didn’t speak French,” says Wolfin, who is thankful a co-worker was willing to provide constant translation until she learnt enough to get by.

But the excitement of the hustle-and-bustle in La Ville-Lumière didn’t last forever.

Wolfin desperately missed the parks, forests and mountains near Vancouver.

With this thought in mind, she flew back to Canada.

After running Wear Wolfin, a women’s clothing company that sold across Canada and the U.S. for several years, she realized work was taking away from raising her children.

“I had a friend whose mother was a fashion designer and she was never there for her,” says Wolfin, explaining her decision to quit the fast-paced world of fashion.

But her spark for creativity never went away.

While her three children were in bed, she started painting portraits, a skill she worked on while at Dior.

“I always painted-in the face,” she says, referring to her fashion sketches.

Painting West Coast landscapes, however, took a bit more practice.

“I needed to loosen up,” Wolfin says about her technique that reaches beyond realism. “The more you look around, the more colours you see.

“If you see dead seaweed, it’s dark burgundy. I take that colour and bump it up.”

The colours in her paintings are enhanced. The bright blue and orange water on Ambleside beach, for example, meets deep red sand.

As the person who chooses art to display at West Van’s Hollyburn Country Club, Wolfin knows what people are looking for.

A club member herself, she noticed the building’s empty cinderblock walls were a waste of prime art space. She was later offered a job to find artists who wanted to display and sell their work.

“Loose art with freer, more brighter colours sells. Not just natural colours,” she says. “I was used to realism in fashion design.”w

It was after taking courses that Wolfin developed her own technique.

“I love the forest,” she says about the influence for her landscape art. “I have a greenbelt right behind my yard.”

As it turns out, Wolfin’s passion for painting didn’t come from the bustling streets of Paris, but from the tranquil nature of West Van.

Wolfin is exhibiting her new show Beautiful B.C. at Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver until mid-January. Her website is

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