Q&A with wildlife artist Cindy Weitzel

Cindy Weitzel holds up one of her paintings. She said she hopes her admission into the prestigious Artists for Conservation, an organization for the world’s most gifted nature artists and dedicated conservationists, propels her career to the next level as she goes full blast in 2019.

Wildlife artist Cindy Weitzel is destined to paint, it seems. At only eight years old, she won her first award at a juried art show at the Calgary Stampede. Fast forward to today: she has since collected an impressive array of prestigious accolades from international competitions in which she flexed artistic muscle with some of the world’s finest artists. In 2006, she was named Artist of the Year by Guide Outfitters Association of BC. In 2007, she was named Artist of the Year by Ducks Unlimited.

Weitzel’s art creations hang in homes and galleries around the world. Her fascination with studying and painting animals began as a young child and remains her greatest passion to this day. She has the unique ability to capture the living essence of her subject matters, exuding a sense of spirit and soul in every painting.

SPIRIT WITHIN: Acrylic on MDF board

Each creation is much more than a “lifelike” rendering; her creations practically breathe. Of particular note is her ability to capture life and emotion in the subject’s eyes. “Through an animal’s eyes, one can see its soul,” she often says. Every Weitzel creation is “living” proof of that philosophy.

She is in an elite league of her diversity in choice of art mediums. She not only utilizes standard mediums of canvas and wood, but takes her creativity to another level by regularly producing paintings on slate, leather and feathers.

In November 2018, Weitzel gained acceptance into the Artists for Conservation (AFC), an invitational group of highly skilled artists from around the world who depict nature and are dedicated to the conservation cause. AFC’s membership spans five continents and nearly 30 countries and comprises 500 of the world’s most gifted nature artists and dedicated conservationists.

What got you into painting?
My mom, Ann Zoobkoff, got me into painting. She was really good at painting herself. She did a lot of oil pastels. The one painting that I remember her doing was of a tall man that looked like Jesus. The man had long hair and long beard; he was naked and holding something like – I can’t remember exactly what it was – a chain or a rope. And there was a big golden eagle beside the man. I remember it was on a board, and I saw her painting it from scratch. Unfortunately, she had to look after us kids, and she had to stop painting and never pursued it.

TUK’E’AM: Acrylic on MDF hard pressed board

How did you get your start in painting?
I have always been interested in art. I won my first award at the Calgary Stampede when I was eight. I drew an outline of my hand, and then I made it look like a chicken. Then I got more and more into painting in school and did some murals. I got serious after I had my son. He is 20 now. I just want to be in my own little world after I’ve put him to sleep. The more I keep on doing it, the more it got better and better.

Then I started attending workshops. And this is how I met Terry Isaac, of Penticton, BC, who is a prominent wildlife and nature artist. I also attended workshops by John Banovich, also in BC, another world-renowned artist. I learned different techniques from these two very talented artists.

When I paint, I invest a lot of time to get the details right. I’m highly detailed, and I love my detail.

What does becoming a member of AFC mean to you and your career?
AFC membership is a vote of confidence on an artist’s body of work, and I’m overwhelmed and very honored to be part of such a prestigious group of artists. AFC has a very rigid vetting process for who it admits, and I’m glad to receive its recognition; it’s a big recognition. Sometime ago, a fellow from AFC apparently saw some of my work and e-mailed me and encouraged me to submit samples of my work to AFC. I keep putting it off though because, for one, I was busy at the time with a host of other things. For another, I wasn’t really sure if my work was good enough for me to gain AFC admission. You also need a recommendation from another artist who is already an AFC member. So Terry Isaac did it for me.

Sacred White Buffalo on Turkey feathers

I will be going full blast with my career in 2019, and I’m hoping the AFC recognition will help to propel my career to the next level.

Where do you start when you paint?
Everything starts in the mind. I envision things, and I try to see in my head first what I’m going to put on the canvas. I get a lot of inspiration from nature when I hit a mental block. I used to have a truck pilot escort business, and I always carry with me my camera every time I hit the road. I photograph and capture scenic spots along the way, and if there’s wildlife that’s even a bonus.

I also go to zoos and wildlife sanctuaries and take pictures. I just love animals.

How did you discover that feathers can be made into a canvas?
I think I discovered it about 10 years ago, and I thought I’d give it a try. The learning curve is steep. There are a lot of techniques involved to get the paint on there right, because feathers absorb the paint. Not a lot of painters use feathers. I’ve seen some that have done it but not as extravagant as mine. I try to make my feather painting realistic, artistic and really pretty. I use plumes, for example, to add intricacy and artistry.
So that’s what’s different with my feather painting.

Where can people get hold of your paintings?
My artwork may be viewed in the exclusive gallery Our Native Land with Jasper National Park.

Phone: (250) 420-1242
Email: wildechoes@cindyweitzel.com