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Kamloops News

It's all coming together for this Kamloops artist

Zach Abney, left, and his assistant Nancy Kuchta were happy to work with each other again for their second mural of the summer.

As you drive and stroll around downtown Kamloops, chances are you’ve seen one of the massive murals done by local artist .

Zach Abney is finishing yet another mural in downtown Kamloops, making that three major works for him around the city. He worked with Nancy Kuchta on the mural located by Seymour Street and Third Avenue.

“It's nobody in particular. The big idea with this is how we communicate with each other, how a look is the first way of communicating with somebody before any words are even exchanged," Abney says. "It’s supposed to be about the sort of things that can be conveyed without words.”

Abney puts on the finishing touches of his last mural of the season, while Kutcha coats the mural in anti-graffiti coating.
Abney puts on the finishing touches of his last mural of the season, while Kutcha coats the mural in anti-graffiti coating.

Two of the other murals that Abney has done include the famous saxophone player Maceo Parker on Zac’s Coffee and the wrap-around mural on the Paramount Theatre. 

“For me, it’s pretty surreal,” Abney says. “When I drive through Kamloops and I see my own work up on the walls, it’s really really cool but there’s always going to be that little part of me that thinks, ‘Oh, maybe I could’ve spent a little more time on that.’ I’m nitpicky.”

31-year-old Abney has called Kamloops home for about five years and says he didn’t know what to expect of the art community when moving here. Now, he has a studio, multiple murals and hopes to collaborate with other local artists like Stace DeWolf and Kelly Wright.

“The arts community here is amazing. I had no idea what the artistic community was like in Kamloops and coming from Vancouver, it was a much different scene there,” Abney says. “It was very refreshing for me to come to a place like Kamloops. It blows my mind how talented some of the people we have here are.”

This is Abney’s second mural that he’s completed thanks to assistant Nancy Kuchta. He says he couldn’t do it without her, as she works on the murals while he’s away working with Canadian Pacific Railway. Kuchta recently moved back to Kamloops and loves to see her handiwork throughout the town.

“I grew up here when I was a kid so this is my happy place…. The Paramount was my childhood theatre, it’s where I saw my very first movie,” Kuchta says. “I was just so happy that we got to paint the Paramount, it was like a dream come true for me. It’s amazing, it brings tears to my eyes.”

Kuchta says working on the Paramount Theatre mural was a dream come true.
Kuchta says working on the Paramount Theatre mural was a dream come true.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK / Nancy Kuchta

Abney is relatively new to painting murals and has spent most of his artistic career focused on smaller pieces. Now, he’s got an eye for art on a grand scale.

“l find myself looking at blank walls and thinking, ‘what a great opportunity for a mural,” Abney says. “When it gets too cold to paint outside I’ll retreat to the studio and paint some smaller paintings, and I can be as picky as I want with all the little details.”

Although he often imagines what could be painted on blank walls, he keeps his space at home free from his artwork.

“I hardly ever hang any of my own work up in my house,” Abney says. “If I were to hang artwork in my house I’d want to go back into it and paint over everything... I find I’m so critical of my work as it is, so any sort of opportunity for me to get away from it, usually I take it.”

Abney puts some final details on his newest mural.
Abney puts some final details on his newest mural.

One way Abney takes a break from art is not what you may expect, as he finds peace while working in the engineering services division for Canadian Pacific Railway. The hands that create emotional pieces of art toughen as he changes out old track and ties and fixes up worn-out rail, although his artistic eye is always finding beauty.

“I get to see some of the most incredible things that nobody really gets to see unless they're out on the railroad,” Abney says. “We’re out there at two or three in the morning, it’s dark… you just start to see the sun poking up over the mountains out in Ross Peak and Glacier… there’s bears and wolves and it’s pretty cool.”

Abney used to focus on landscape painting and took much of his inspiration from scenes he witnessed working on the railroad. He says he will continue to work for Canadian Pacific while pursuing art, as it helps him keep perspective.

“I like my job on the railroad, I like the idea of having a pension,” Abney says. “If I needed to make the switch one day maybe I would but I feel like it’s a really good way of keeping my head from going up my own ass.”

If he’s not laying track or painting the town, Abney spends his time working on his fitness and tinkering with machines, big and small.

“I’ve always really enjoyed running, I like to fix old espresso machines, I have an old car that I like to work on… it’s a ‘78 Fiat Spider. (I’ve been working on it) for years, but it’s nowhere near finished," Abney says. “I pick up a guitar every once in a while, but I couldn't call myself a guitar player, I'm awful at it."

Abney and Kuchta in front of their newest mural.
Abney and Kuchta in front of their newest mural.

While Abney continues to work in B.C., his artwork is making splashes around the world, and he hopes to visit some of the places where his work is collected.

“There’s a lot of places I haven’t been to where I have work, I have clients who collect my work in Sweden, New Zealand, England and a few other places. My work seems to go where it wants to go,” Abney says. “My new girlfriend has a travelling bug so hopefully she can convince me to get out there and do a little more travelling. I’ve always wanted to go to Italy and Spain and the places I’ve read about in art history.”

For more information on Abney or to check out some of his works, you can visit his website or Facebook page.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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