Many people are drawn to our Northwest Coast Formline style, understandably. It’s got a unique elegance.
For some, it’s not enough to admire, they wish to learn how to create their own work in this style. If that’s you, hopefully this post will be helpful.
Non-Natives should be aware that our clans have what is considered at’.oow (sacred clan emblems).
Please be respectful, and become more educated on the issue of cultural misappropriation.
1. Find a Mentor
Tlingit art has been handed down through an apprenticeship system. This is still the best way to learn.
Apprenticeships are fun as well as rewarding, Check out Alaska Council on the Arts Grants to Individual Artists
2. Practice, Practice, Practice
Practice. Practice the basics, the formline elements: Ovoid, ‘U’ shapes, and their endless variations.
Save Your Work. Keep a sketch diary. Date your entries so you can look back on your progress.
Trace. There’s nothing wrong with tracing; it helps you get used to drawing shapes correctly. Kinesthetic learning.
3. Build a Library
- Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form, Bill Holm
- Northwest Coast Indian Painting: House Fronts and Interior Screens, Edward Malin
- The Transforming Image: Painted Arts of the Nortwest Coast First Nations, Bill McLennan and Karen Duffek
*I’ll be creating a few tutorials myself to put online in the near future.
Some of the finest examples in the world can be seen in museum collections. If you can’t visit in person, visit their websites. Most have an online database of images.
- Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka, AK
- Alaska State Museum in Juneau, AK
- Bill Holm Center, Burke Museum in Seattle, WA
- American Museum of Natural History in New York, NY
- Field Museum in Chicago, IL
- Shotridge Collection at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia, PA
- National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
- Museum of Ethnology in Berlin, Germany
- Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography in St. Petersburg, Russia
Learning the design rules feels limiting at first, but believe me, there are limitless possibilities.
You will reach a point where it’s time to start experimenting.
Use the search below to search for (as distasteful as the word is) “contemporary Tlingit art” and you’ll see some of today’s innovators. Very cool!