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5 Things To Help Improve as an Artist in Northwest Coast Formline Design

Books on Northwest Coast Native Formline

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

Books on Northwest Coast Native Formline



*I’ll be creating a few tutorials myself to put online in the near future.

4. Research

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.

Search Google Images below
Search Pinterest collections for “Tlingit” “Haida” “Tsimshian” “Nishgaa” etc.

5. Experiment

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!

Posted in Tlingit Art