I have been drawing since I was in kindergarten. My teachers would have us work on art projects in class and I used to love how she filled her pictures with beautiful colors. It was intriguing and inspiring to me. I also believe that my artistic abilities have been passed down from my Ancestors. My mom does a lot of sewing and beading. Her mom did the same, and her dad used to do woodworking. My dad likes to draw, and his mom could make everything: jackets, fur hats, mitts, dog harnesses, you name it! Creativity runs in our family.
Even though drawing and painting come to me naturally, it took many years of practice to get to where I am today. When I was in high school, my friends knew I was an artist and they would ask me to draw athletes that they admired. I still have these drawings in my personal portfolio because they are so important to me. I taught myself how to paint in 2009 when a colleague asked if I would do a portrait of him and his wife for their anniversary. I had never used acrylic paint before, but I watched some videos online and picked up the techniques. The portrait I made looked exactly like them and it motivated me to continue!
There are a lot of artists out there who have a lot of talent, so when people come to me asking about portraits, it makes me feel good that I have the ability to do it. My focus on realism seems to be what catches people’s attention. I get a lot of requests to paint portraits of loved ones, as well as portraits of Elders and Chiefs. Each painting is worth a thousand words – from the expression on their face and their posture, you can tell if they’re happy or working hard. In that way, each painting carries a story of its own.
I am very meticulous when I paint people’s faces, making sure that the expressions and shadows are just right. I put a lot of focus on the details, such as the shape of the eyes, the jawline, the ears, the hair, the wrinkles on the clothes, the direction of the wind. It all takes a lot of time and effort, but I enjoy the process. Capturing the image exactly as it is in real life down to the smallest details is what I like the most about painting. I also love to see the expressions on my customer’s faces when they receive the final product.
Painting makes me feel calm and at home; it’s therapeutic. I get my inspiration from the land. When you grow up here, you see all the natural beauty of the North. The landscape, the clear water, the leaves turning yellow in the Fall, the purple sky at the horizon in the Winter, the animals – those natural elements are all very inspiring to me. I take a lot of photographs when I go out on the land to capture the scenery, and then I use these photographs to paint on canvas.
As for the next generation in my family, my daughter likes to color a lot and my oldest son really loves to draw too. They like to pick up the little habit that their dad has, so when they are not at school, I let them watch me paint sometimes. In return, they like to ask a lot of questions and I do my best to teach them what I know.