Make Your Heart Happy

This post was written by Wiley Ho in Arts, Profiles
Acrylic painting by Pam Westerman

Fun, whimsical and full of laughter are what you can expect around Pamela Westerman. A self-described “lunatic with colour,” Pam’s paintings are playful and vivacious. A multi-media artist, she loves textures, colours and exploration, all of which she brings to her art classes. “I love teaching,” she says, “it’s so fun to see someone who thinks they’re not an artist and show them that they are!” Pam’s infectious energy and sense of fun are what make her classes popular with school-aged kids and adults alike. This spring she is teaching classes at Parkgate Community Centre, John Braithwaite Community Centre and Lion’s Gate Community Recreation Centre. Read on and find a class for the artist in you.

An artist brimming with colour

From oils, acrylics and watercolour painting to quilt blocking, tie dying and art journaling, Pamela Westerman’s eclectic approach to artPainting by Pam Westerman embodies her zest for life. She loves to explore different art concepts, media and techniques, and believes art should be freely expressive and joyful. Her exuberant style is reflected in her professional paintings as well as her teaching style. “Art is a verb to me,” Pam says, “it is the practice of creativity.”

Ever since she could hold a pencil Pam has been making art. By two years of age, she was able to draw a remarkably realistic horse. For as long as she can remember, Pam says she has been fascinated by patterns, colours and drawing. But Pam’s early artistic training began in photography and she studied at Langara College. She would use that training to become a professional photographer, specializing in weddings and portraits of families with special needs children. Her openness and warm laughter have a way of putting people at ease and engaging them – qualities that would make her a natural teacher. 

Pam painting with a palette knifePam remembers always wanting to take photos “to stop the moment” so that she could draw the subject or scene later. Her entry into painting came in 2013 when she took a course in oil painting at John Braithwaite Community Centre. She’s been painting ever since. 

Pam enjoys exploring different mediums, including sketching, painting, decoupage, collage, fabric art, and mixed media. “There isn’t anything I don’t want to try. I work in whatever makes my heart happy.” Currently, she is honing her palette knife technique to create bold and textured paintings. “I always add more colour than is necessary,” she says laughing, “because you can never have enough colour in life.”

Her paintings have been exhibited and sold at art crawls. Professionally, Pam never paints the same idea twice. She tells the story of an original painting (Umbrellas in Burrard Inlet) that was sold to a couple who flew it to the States. Except the painting didn’t survive the trip and was ruined in transit. When the couple contacted Pam to repaint it, she said no. “I never remake originals. The light, the materials, the mood can never be the same again.” She is pensive for a second before erupting into laughter. “I have too many ideas in my head for one lifetime and I need to get them out. I collect visual arts concepts like other folks collect figurines.”
Her biggest art influences include Vincent Van Goh, Emily Carr, Leonid Afremov, her own photography and life itself. A thyroid cancer survivor, Pam’s passion for life is expressed in bold lines, brilliant colours and a deep sense of joy. Next to her easel sits a painted sign: Art is a breath for the spirit.

Pam’s teaching style

Pam has been teaching art since 2017. Her popular classes and workshops are offered for school-aged children and adults. On occasion, she helps at other NVRC locations when needed and for special art workshops, such as for the Canadian Autism Network and the North Vancouver Disability Resource Centre. Pam with examples of some of the art from her classes

“I’ll go everywhere for art,” Pam says with a big laugh, “I think art is for everyone.” Her inclusive, fun and quirky style has garnered her the nickname “Pamda” by her younger students. 

In her classes, Pam introduces various art techniques and themes but always encourages students to explore “whatever makes your heart happy.” She believes that when students are free to be themselves, the art follows naturally. “When I teach a theme, everyone will end up with something different. That’s because we are all unique!” She emphasizes that the process is much more valuable than the product. Above all, she wants her students to have fun and let go of the notion of not being artistic enough.

“You don’t need ‘talent’ to take my class,” says Pam. “I’ll take you step-by-step. Don’t you fret!”

View all of the art classes available at Lions Gate Community Recreation Centre


Wiley Ho.

A long-time North Vancouver resident, Wiley works as a technical writer and is the current newsletter editor for the North Shore Writers’ Association. She spends her free time reading, hiking and discovering new things to try at North Vancouver Recreation & Culture!


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