Artist Spotlight Series: Cate West Zahl

I am excited to introduce you to the latest female talent in my Artist Spotlight Series.

Enjoy getting to know

Cate West Zahl

Charlottesville, Virginia


What is your training? 

I first studied art under Lee Newman at the Holton-Arms School, from 7th to 12th grade. Lee, who is a fantastic practicing artist in the Washington D.C. area, gave me a traditional academic foundation of learning to see and work from life. I then went onto work with Richard Muirhead at Hamilton College, earning my BA in studio art. 

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 9.15.24 PM

What inspires you and your designs?

In terms of the natural world, I draw inspiration from geometric and flat topography. Often times playing with scale in my house when appointing a table of objets will lead to a painting. But mostly, I look to the great paintings and artists of the past; half the time in the studio is spent going through my library of art books. 


What is your favorite piece? 

I’m really detached from my work, so to think of the paintings in terms of a favorite is hard for me. The way I was trained was to not get overly invested in how something looked via exercises like blind gesture drawings where you had to draw a live model, or still life, without looking at your paper once. Hours of sessions like this took away any caution to make a mistake or attachment to the aesthetic of the painting. It was, and still remains, all about the process of making choices, eliminating what isn’t necessary, and, more often than not, solving problems. 

All that said, I think this abstract that I’ve been working on for months has reached a successful state. 

“Avon Extended, Oil Phase pt. 4″​


Oil and charcoal on canvas; 48″ x 24″

How has theyour area influenced your work?

We moved to Charlottesville from New York City five years ago, and have fallen in love with the beauty of the countryside mixed with the access to culture. I would say that my paintings used to be a lot darker and muddy. My palette has lightened up dramatically.

What is your favorite restaurant in Charlottesville?

Tavola. Incredible Italian fare in an intimate environment. 


What is your favorite cocktail?

A Sidecar in the winter,


and a Southside in the summer.


How do you balance personal life and work?

Haven’t figured that out quite yet! I have two boys, ages 4 and 2, so I’m really in the thick of it. But they go to pre-school and I have some help that gives me chunks of time to spend at the studio, which I share with Sarah Yoder and Stephanie Fishwick. Often times, I’ll help my husband put the boys down and then head to the studio to work at night. 

Dream trip?

Copenhagen, and a dinner at Noma.


Dream commission?

Either a huge painting for my favorite interior designer Tom Scheerer,


or to make a piece to go in Alex Katz’s NYC loft


Your favorite host / hostess gift to give?

I love bringing a nosegay of cut herbs and greens from my garden. 

fresh herbs --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis


Who is your style icon?

Catherine Deneuve 


But I also can’t get over how chic Kerri Russell is


Your favorite up and coming artist?

Hank Ehrenfried, newly located to Charlottesville from Brooklyn. His work is great, he’s got a big vision. I love his goache paintings on paper. 


What is your most treasured possession?

My necklace that I wear always that has gold discs with my kids names engraved, and a few other pendents from my grandparents and parents. 

What are you reading?

Two things:

 My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante



My Paris Dream by Kate Betts


What are you listening to?

The new Sufjan Stevens record “Carrie and Lowell


and the new Brandon Flowers solo record “The Desired Effect


and NPR… always.

What are your favorite blogs / publications?

I live for T Magazine


and the NYTimes Sunday Style section. Elle Decor and Veranda are my favorite shelter magazines. And my favorite blog is The Scouted Life from The Scout Guide. 



Here are a small selection from her incredible portfolio. 

















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  • June 30, 2015

    Great paintings, thank you for sharing.

  • April 25, 2016

    Exciting work and words.

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