"Let's talk about you!" - Cedarseed's DA challenge

>> Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cedarseed (on DeviantART) posted a "Let's talk about you!" challenge on her journal. I thought it would be interesting to join in.
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Cedarseed: The cultural interest in your work is close to my own heart. :D You create original animal totems in the style of NW coast tribes. Can you tell us more about that creative process, the design elements you keep in mind, in short how you manage to make them true to culture?

Me: Thanks, Cedarseed! I'm not sure if I make my totems true to culture, although I try very hard to. While the NW coast tribes (in particular) are not part of my aboriginal ancestral heritage, I still identify with their distinctive art style.

When someone makes a request, or I feel a need to make a totem, I start with the basic animal shape. I try different poses until it conveys what I want. Then I use that shape to set the symbolism/shapes into. I do the larger areas first, usually the body or head. Mainly these are the ovoids. Then the limbs of the animal, using U-shapes, split-Us and S-shapes (half U- shapes). Circles or ovoids are used for the eyes. Any negative space I try to fill up with the shapes that would "fit", either altering thier orientation or size. When I'm done, I scan it into my computer to cleanup the edges, and to colour it. So far, I have been using two colours for my totems (black and another colour). To me this is a good balance, black being very grounding and the other colour used to highlight certain areas of the totem. I may introduce more than two colours once I am more confident in this style.

Every symbol/shape that appears in the totems appear in Nature. Ovoids are found on the Skates (shark relative) of the Coastal waters, and the U-shapes are from feathers. Circles are used because everything happens in cycles. And the shapes have to "flow" well together, as each shape helps define the next one. Some totems are a struggle for me, for instance, the Jaguar. That one just did not want to be made! I was trying to make the forelegs with ovoid shapes, and nothing "flowed" right until I changed to using U-shapes and split-Us, then the piece started to come together.

It is a difficult art process, especially for someone who doesn't come into contact directly. I've studied other pieces, researched it for a long time before attempting it. I still don't know if I am doing it properly, but I do like what I have made, and so do other people. I guess my own style shows through, and that's what counts to make my pieces identifiable.
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I don't get to talk about my art very much (except on this blog), and sometimes it is very hard to explain, but I think I did a pretty good job on this art process.

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My First Commission!

>> Friday, March 7, 2008

At the school where I work, a mini-clinic for teens is operating there on Wednesdays. The group that runs this clinic wants to create a welcoming atmosphere in their "waiting" area. Specifically some Aboriginal art by a local artist. The Resource Teacher and Guidance Counsellor immediately thought of me! YAY!! The Teen clinic wants 4....count'em...4 pieces of art. Three of them will be 24"x36" (roughly) and 30"x30". Two of them need to be companion pieces, and they need to have them before Feb 27th. I am so stoked!!
I have the two companion pieces planned out already...they will be my "Raven Stealing the Sun" and "Raven makes the Sun, Moon and Stars", just on a larger format. The other two, I'm not sure what it will be. I have an idea for a painting dealing with a Native American Prayer that may be appropriate. Even though the due date is quite soon, I am confident that I can do this. I am planning to do them in acrylic, so that they will dry fast, and my paintings are planned out so that makes it much easier. The thing I'm wondering about is how to hang them? They will be in a high traffic area in the Jr. High, so they need to be protected. I figure using a plexiglass over top will be good enough, not to thick so that it's heavy and fall off the wall, but strong enough to withstand some abuse it may get over time.

UPDATE
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Well the people at the Teen clinic changed their minds, and are wanting two pieces instead of four. I can't say that I'm not disappointed, but I understand that they are working within a constrained budget. Also, I sold them the paintings for a really good deal, much less than what I would have sold them for regularly.
I am finished them, and they turned out great! I have found out that Acrylic paint is very hard to blend, but I did it! They are very vibrant, and I am very proud of them. The people at the Teen clinic really like them as they give a pop of colour in their "waiting" area. Maybe they will want more later. I will post pictures when the paintings are attached to the wall.

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