Boulevard Magazine – In studio with artist Athena Bax

Making art for a living and for philanthropy

– Story by Lin Stranberg Photography by Lia Crowe

The decision to make art for a living is a brave one. As Henri Matisse put it, “Creativity takes courage.”

“I suspend the fear,” laughs Athena Bax, a Vancouver artist who for years has made and sold hundreds of paintings from her home studio, a live/work space in a converted office building east of Gastown.

Her real-life story and background belie first impressions of a probably privileged childhood, a prestigious art school and an automatic entrée into the patronage of international art world connections. In fact, she was born into Vancouver’s Greek-Canadian community, raised by a middle-class single mom, and she is entirely self-taught. Her only academic degree is from Kitsilano High School, where she graduated with awards for her art. With her great looks and style, Athena may appear outwardly to be just another Instagram cool girl, but appearances can be deceptive. On the inside she is a deeply spiritual being: an emotional softie with a tough work ethic.

She’s been working hard since she was 13, applying herself with diligence and, presumably, her abundance of charm.

“I got a job in retail with a letter from my guidance counsellor. I began at $3.65 an hour and was soon earning $6.”

After high school she was recruited to work in the growing software industry, creating visual graphics with design teams for games that were produced for big-name companies like 20th Century Fox and Disney.

Her mom’s passing in 1994 was pivotal. Looking to lighten up her career focus, she began working as a professional makeup artist, another job she nailed with no formal training. Instead, she trained other makeup artists to be trainers, working on an international makeup team at MAC for five years, then for seven years for a makeup and hair team from Proctor and Gamble/Wella. During that time, she began painting in the living room of her apartment in Vancouver’s West End.

One of the pieces she painted was a beautifully expressive portrait of her late mother, which now hangs in the bedroom of her living space. It was then that she took art as her life’s work.

“Before, it was all about income. Although I was always encouraged in my art, it was always considered strictly a hobby in the culture in which I was raised,” Athena says.

“I painted my late mom’s portrait in 2003 and everything clicked. I began painting professionally and never looked back.”

Her foray into the Vancouver art scene began at Liberty, a now-defunct West Broadway décor shop that was madly popular at that time. They hung her paintings and her reputation grew. Since then, she has been self-represented.

“I have been — and still am — my own gallery, my own promoter. I always call it living on a prayer. Good people show up.”

Athena believes in the power of good, light and love.

“I have dedicated my work to philanthropy first,” she says.

Her most recent painting, an impressive 50” x 72’’ canvas and the only art piece in the live auction at the 2019 Reveal Gala, benefits the Canucks Autism Network. Children with special needs are one of her favourite causes. Over the years, she has contributed her time and talent to Variety and many other important children’s charities.

The acrylics on canvas she paints are purchased by corporate and private collectors — everyone from dentists to developers.

“People don’t leave the studio buying my work unless they love it,” she says.

Six of her pieces hang in the spa at Vancouver’s elegant Wedgewood Hotel, where the soft focus and dreamy colours complement the soothing spa environment.

An ethereal atmosphere defines her artistic style. That and the soft focus are constants in everything she produces except for her equine and canine portraiture, which uses a more realistic technique to portray the animals she is commissioned to paint. Perhaps the most famous of these is Seamus, a chocolate Lab that belonged to former US President Bill Clinton. The portrait was commissioned as a gift from his friend, Frank Guistra, a well-known Vancouver businessman and philanthropist who also collects her work.

Athena works from photos for her animal portraits, and indeed for all her paintings. So what inspires her?

“I paint anything I think of: nature, the ocean, landscapes, rocks in the water. I am blessed because I can paint what is brought to me in my emotional vision. Right now, I’m obsessed with these heavenly florals.”

The light in those recent floral paintings was inspired by a photo of the heavens she discovered via the Hubble NASA space telescope feed on Instagram. She went to great lengths to recreate it, lying down flat on her back on an East Vancouver sidewalk to photograph a lush hydrangea bush with the sky as a backdrop. It was worth the effort.

“My paintings are my babies. I work on them until I feel I genuinely love them. At that point, I know I’m finished.”

Athena Bax’s website is here.

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Far Away Show 2017

Variety Gold Heart Gala 2017

Variety – the Children’s Charity has a tradition of honouring a philanthropist each year for their work in the community and for Variety.

Arts Umbrella Splash 2017 Art Auction and Gala


Arts Umbrella believe that art is for everyone. As a not-for-profit arts education centre, Arts Umbrella think access to the highest quality arts education is a basic human right, regardless of your experience, education, socio-economic background or ballet slipper size. Arts Umbrella are just for those ages 2 to 19 though, because, well, we love the way kids and youth love the arts.

For more info click here

The September

We love her style because it’s eclectic and feminine.
Athena Bax is a Vancouver-based fine artist who draws inspiration from the simple things in life. One look at her work and it’s clear that nature is her muse: animals, flowers, trees and water, all find a place in her work. The results are stunning, so it’s not surprising that her work has found a place in the homes of some famous clients. She has been commissioned to paint for former U.S President, Bill Clinton, among others. The beauty she captures on canvas is matched by her own beauty and incredible sense of style.

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How do you describe your style?

I’d say it’s “flexible,” in that I appreciate a wide range of styles. I gravitate to pieces that are “form-fitting” and I always like to throw in something vintage. I like clothing that moves with the body. I love following the seasonal trends and trying to incorporate what I already have with some minor purchases or alterations. 
I recently took the sleeves off a Donna Karan leather coat from the late 90’s and it looks like a current runway piece!

What is your approach to dressing?

I am a stickler for dressing for the occasion, but I think it’s nice to add some “edge,” something that says “you.”

How did you decide to become an artist? 

I knew from an early age that it was a way of life for me, not just a hobby or an hour in art class, but it was in 2003 that I made the decision to paint full time. With the encouragement of a good friend and some serious introspection I decided to put faith in myself and do what many considered crazy. Painting for a living has been described as a luxury. I agree that doing what you love is a privilege in some ways, especially in this economy, but a luxury it is not. It’s an extremely challenging conversation with yourself on a daily basis. I knew it would not be an easy road, but walking it, I have zero regrets. Fears are plenty, but no regrets.

How do you describe your art?

I usually describe my art as “my babies”: some are sweet; some are strong; and some give me a very hard time. Visually I would say that they are moody without the sadness; colourful without the primary palette. I like to paint whatever it is that moves me when I get to canvas. Sometimes it’s realism, the desire to capture the beauty of something without distortion, or the colour of water and rocks, skies and earth, melting them together and capturing the beauty that I ‘feel’ vs. what I see.

What is your proudest accomplishment as a fine artist?

My proudest accomplishment as an artist is when someone wants to buy a painting. There is a part of me that still lives in disbelief that people actually want to have something I made on their wall. It’s humbling and I feel proud, but not in a boastful way. Extreme gratitude is the accomplishment.

Who is your style icon?

This one is a tough one to answer because there are a few of them. I love Muccia Prada. She thrills me with her fantastic mind and her story book outlook on women’s fashion. The day dreamer in me loves her ideas. I love Sophia Loren and J.Lo. They are both sexy and know how to dress a body with curves. This appeals to me in a practical way. Oh, and of course, the one and only Karl Lagerfeld… the master of black clothing. It does not get better than that!

Fred UnLEEshed

Athena Bax is among 42 artists who have donated works to Arts Umbrella’s 33rd Splash Gala on Oct. 17 at Performance Works. Proceeds from the art sale support Canada’s preeminent performing arts organization for youth.


Brian Jessel Magazine

Athena was featured in the Fall 2014 edition of the Brian Jessel Magazine

Jump for Joy


Where are you from? Where do you live? What is your work?
born in vancouver.. parents born in greece.. my work is my art-painting

What inspires you to want to jump for joy?
Accomplishment! being able to make the idea/dream/fear become real..

What was your experience like doing the jumping photos? How did you feel?
I felt like i was in dance class again.. but free to feel awkward and my age..the experience was not ordinary.. thank you Eyoalha.

What inspires you in life?
Time…how fast it moves. Nature. She get everything right. My thoughts.. and seeing if i can paint them or find the words to write them…

What is/are your greatest passion(s) in life? Why?
Love.. it seems to be that way for me..the human kind is the most rewarding..also the most revealing of our nature. So, yes.. love .. and its many hats..

What is your driving force in life? Why?
Can i say its me? and fear? i’ve always had to dig deep to stay focused on achieving what felt right. putting in the hours days and years to finally understand that i’ll never get it right.. the result is that doing what i love for a living is the driving force..

What is your philosophy in life?
“Everything happens for a reason”

If you could do anything in the world, what would it be? Why? And are you presently working towards making it happen? Why or why not?
I’m going to assume its something other than painting? i’d be a appeals to my perfectionist side and my love of people side… no.. not studying.. next life maybe. 🙂

What work/art/projects are you working on? 
I’m working on a project called “MyArtYourHeart” its where i collaborate on photo’s provided by the client and i’m trusted to transform them into something special.. hopefullly – stay tuned for another project called “Project Baby Bird” – centring around BC Womens Hospital and the future NICU – the next AthenaBax Studio project is called “Dream Machine” my first mixed media show.. ( in progress ) can get you more info or in touch with me..

Mini bio, interesting facts about you or something special you want to share.
I’m self taught painter that spent 6 years designing entertainment software – i spent 12 years in the makeup industry – 7 of those teaching between LA and NYC. i had a dance scholarship at 12.. i’ve had the same birthday cake from the same bakery every year since my 1st birthday – my favourite month is October i love popcorn and i wish i could fly.. and scuba dive..and i think i’m claustrophobic.. but seriously.. i’m just so grateful.

Fashion Highlights

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The September

Modern Vintage
Athena Bax lives at the far reaches of Gastown, in Vancouver. Amidst surroundings which are industrial and gritty, she has carved out an oasis of calm. Her studio loft is both home and “office:” downstairs is the light filled studio where she makes a living as a fine artist; upstairs is her lush and ultra-feminine living space. A study in contrasts, her home decor mirrors her fashion sense.
What is the trick to marrying vintage and modern?
Simplicity and fit. I prefer vintage coats over most vintage clothing because the shapes were wider, so adding a piece with volume over something slim fitting and black is comfortable for me. I never add vintage jewelry if I’m wearing vintage clothes…it’s too obvious. A simple leather glove and current handbag and shoes do the trick. Vintage jewelry looks best on simple modern pieces.

What is your favourite vintage find?
My favourite find is a coat from the 60’s. It’s all metallic thread in black, silver and gold in a classic circular print. I think it’s timeless and it’s like wearing a party vs going to a party!

What appeals to you about vintage pieces?
What appeals to me most is its originality and unique energy on the body once it’s on. Vintage pieces are like jewelry to me…one piece is enough. It will always say something wise because it has already lived a long time. It’s like wearing art, really.

Where do you draw inspiration?
I love reviewing seasonal collections in magazines. I love the invention and reinvention in clothing, then I see if I can recreate newness with something old!

What piece in your closet will you wear forever?
Probably my patent leather Chanel chain bag. It took 41 years to save for it! I kid you not!


“Vintage pieces are like jewelry to me…one piece is enough.”



For more info visit The September