Westjet - a Canadian commission honoring a brother. by Abbie Zuidema

My friend Joelle Hann asked me to paint a very special commission.  It was a thank you map for Westjet Airlines. They flew her for 16 months unlimited from New York City to Canada.  So that she could be with her brother and his family while he underwent chemo. It would also commemorate that special window of time they shared.

 “Yesterday Bill, my brother, would have turned 40. This morning I landed in Vancouver to spend a week with his wife, and kids Sammie, 7, and Alex, 8.

This time I bring with me my "thank you" gift for WestJet, the company Bill flew for, who very generously--incredibly, really--flew me from New York to Victoria as often as I needed while Bill was sick. That's 16 months of flights. They never said no. In fact, they said there is no limit.

They are directly responsible for all the extra time I got with Bill. Because of them I got to know Bill again as an adult. I got to know his wife and kids. West Jet was key in bringing my brother and me together again before he passed. It is a gift I can't repay. 

But, I offer this token: an original watercolor painting by the talented Brooklyn artist Abbie Zuidema. A map showing the flight routes I took for those 16 months, one of Bill's favorite quotes, a note of thanks, and the things we loved in both places: the Olympic mountains in the west, the Williamsburg bridge in the east. To WestJet, thank you. (And thank you, Abbie J. Zuidema for the love you put into this project.) I've brought the painting to show my family, and then it's going on to WestJet offices in Calgary.”

-Joelle Hann

This map chronicled a life journey.  We all must face seemingly impossible challenges in our lives, and the passing of a loved one is something we all must experience.  This map was a testament to the grace of leaning into the challenges that life gives us. It’s about survival and abundance, even in the darkest moments.  As I was making this commission, I too was struggling with a loss I didn’t think I could bear. It was incredible to take part in documenting something so affirming.  Thank you Joelle for asking me to be a part of this.


Sports Illustrated’s D.C.-Baltimore issue by Abbie Zuidema

{click thumbnail for a closer view}

An amazing opportunity came my way.  Would I be interested in doing a map for Sports Illustrated? 


48 Hours-Concept, drawing, outline & color in less than 48 hours. With edits in between.

I have never painted so fast in my life!

After the map was finished, I literally stood in front of the fan to dry, so I could scan it & send it on its way.  Totally insane & gratifying all at the same time. Bye bye stage fright.

(Sports Illustrated even used the teams hand painted logos on the tops of the pages)

Guest Blog on Imagethink! by Abbie Zuidema

My good friend Heather Willems requested me to contribute to her blog, .  She asked me to make a painting in reflecting on a current event.  The Japanese map is in response to that.  Heather is one of two women behind the company Image Think, "they transform ideas into powerful visuals."  It’s due out later this week. I met her in Vermont a few years ago at my residency at the Vermont Studio Center. She rules. 

Map No.9~Japan

My map is of Japan.  The earthquake & the aftershocks are breaking my heart.

In my map research I came across Fugu, the Japanese pufferfish.  It is the only thing that the emperor of Japan is forbidden, by law, to eat.  Eating Fugu has been practiced for centuries. It can kill you if it's not prepared correctly.  It takes years of training to acquire certification to prepare Fugu. The poison, tetrodotoxin is concentrated in the liver, ovaries and skin. It is a neurotoxin, the victim remains conscious, but cannot move or speak.

In this painting Fugu represents the paralyzing affects of the tsunami on Japan. It is symbolic of Japanese culture & tradition that has existed for centuries. Fugu also represents nature, and with that, the promise that Japan will regrow with time.