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Pioneer Stories: Kaitlin Ziesmer

We’re excited to introduce you to the amazing artist, Kaitlin Ziesmer.

Wholly and confidently, fine artist Kaitlin Ziesmer [zees-mur] has embraced her style, though sometimes she struggles to see it. The 34-year-old illustrator and muralist describes herself as “shy” and “selectively extroverted,” but you wouldn’t know it by looking at her artwork, which is poppy, brightly coloured, lighthearted, and simply fantastic. 

After spending ten years as a career artist, Ziesmer is pushing further to celebrate her style and allow it to branch out into new mediums, which is helping her grow both as an artist and as a self-assured pioneer. We asked Ziesmer to open up about her journey in the arts and how she sees her style changing and maturing.  


When did your fascination with art take over?

In high school, I very quickly realised that there wasn't a lot that interested me academically. I did really well in school, but that’s because I just regurgitated information, and I wasn’t absorbing anything. Whereas with art, I was really absorbing it. It clicked for me, and I decided to go to art school because for me there was nothing else to do. I attended Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, where I was making illustrations, on a fine art scale, really big because, for some reason, in my mind, I just wanted to make big paintings.

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Why’s that?

You can get more detail. There's something I really like about big paintings and, more recently, murals. It’s a very neurotic thing, wanting it to look just as perfect up close as it does far away. Sometimes I get very frustrated because it's a perfectionist thing, but I'm trying to let go a little bit because especially with big paintings, it looks fine when you don’t get lost in the weeds and take a step back; you don't need to be working on a mural with your face four inches away from the wall.

How did you get involved with murals?

An artist friend who I admired said, “Hey, you should try painting your stuff really big sometimes, like a mural.” It sounded awesome and then another friend of mine invited me to an all-ladies [and non-binary] mural group called “Babe Walls.” I really couldn't have gotten into any mural events on my own, since the scene is super saturated and sort of cliquey, but in summer 2020, we threw a festival because an outdoor event was about the only thing you could do. I really enjoy murals, because it gets me out of the studio for a week here and there. Honestly, I don't think I could do it every week as some people can, but it’s really, really fun.

How do you feel about mural culture?

People have very strong feelings about it, especially those who come from graffiti and street art...


I absorb and listen to the people who come from the culture, what they have to say, and then filter out the ego bullshit. The drama is not worth getting involved in. It’s like any community, where you listen and take things into consideration, and also realise that some things don’t involve you. I'm glad I never referred to myself as a street artist. A lot of people very innocently make that mistake, but it’s like ... you're not. You're a muralist. I wouldn't go out and pretend that I've been writing graffiti because that would be that'd be absurd. I come from the studio, painting puppies and stuff.


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You’ve moved into sculpture now, too, so you must feel pretty comfortable with your artistic style, no?

I’ve learned to feel comfortable in situations where I don't 100 per cent know what I'm doing. I can trust my technical skill, and if I get thrown off a little, it's not going to ruin me, you know? 10 years ago, if things didn’t go right for me or how I expected, I would have cried, but now I can roll with things a lot better. I feel more myself, building off what I know and pushing myself little by little. When I do make a big leap to an entirely new medium, I'm so frustrated, because it isn’t perfect right away, and I don't like not being good at stuff. But I also know it's good for me to keep things interesting, and there's a special gratification I get when I do make that big leap to a new medium, and people immediately know that I made it, whether it's a sculpture or spray painting or whatever ... when people say that it looks like I obviously made it, to me that’s a success.

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In your decade-long career as an artist, what is an important lesson you’ve learned?

Don’t say “yes” to every single thing, which was my mindset for quite a while there, both out of necessity and fear that I would be irrelevant if it didn’t keep my momentum, but burnout is real. In the last five years, I burned myself out so badly, and now I feel like I'm kind of levelling out a little bit more, and only busting my butt when I absolutely need to. There are times when I should be able to live a real life. You can be a hustler, you can still work hard, but you can also enjoy a real life.

How does art impact your “real” life?

I’m kind of an anxious, nervous person, and art helps me feel comfortable in my own skin. It's like a little comfort box. In the grand scheme of life, I say to myself, “Okay, if all else fails, you got this.” You can just keep plugging along, just keep going at it.

Interview and photography by Chris Nelson

Catch up with Kaitlin on her socials @kaitlinziesmer


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