"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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