Kunghit House Totem, 2013
18” x 36” x 1.5” Acrylic on exhibition canvas
From 1850 Interior House Pole inside house called ‘Raven House’ belonging to he lineage of the ‘Sand Town People’ of Raven Moiety of Kunghit Haida.
Haida Gwaii: Kungkit
Depicts Human with unknown creature beneath hands and a bear cub between the ears of the bear below.
Having completed the first Totem Duo painting, I was still tentative in my new venture in this series, and wondered what that next image could be. While looking through my library of images, which were primarily from the UBC MOA collection, I was conscious of my early discoveries and of the fact that I was still learning my new technique. I was also limited within my library in that the lighting for the indoor collection brings out the gray cast of the old wood and my camera could not pick up the hint of the undertones (even if the human eye could see them). I was also unwilling to chance ‘interpreting’ what that could be based on my priority to stay faithful to the totems and what was actually there on the surface.
So I decided to go with the Kunghit House Totem piece as its features and textures intrigued me. My picture was naturally dark given that this piece is in the center of the museum and away from the wall of windows to the north. I chose a dark gray base colour to block out the white of the canvas and did the shadows and top sections (where the wood had fallen away) in a dark gray/black.
One other technique which I forgot to mention in the Totem Duo background is that I continue to use the most basic of algebra formulas (that I served my well all these years) to determine the ratio of which images fit available canvas sizes, or telling how I needed to crop the jpeg. Works perfectly every time.
If your canvas is 18” x 36” like the Kunghit canvas and your jpeg
Is 12cm x 36cm, to calculate how much of the jpeg you can use:
If: 18 = 36
12 = x
12 X 36 ÷ 18 = 24
Note: I use metric measurements for the jpegs as it gives me a more
precise way of measuring.
After painting the base colour of the canvas, I then plot out the standard grid pattern on the jpeg print, followed by drawing out the same grid on the canvas in a light grey (hard lead). Then the work begins in transferring the enlarged image on the canvas. Accuracy is important in my work, as the First Nations motifs are very distinct.
Now the painting challenge was to take the lessons learned from the first painting and continue the evolution. You will note that in this one, I was experimenting with the heavily cracked wood and age of the totem. The use of lines for cracks was more extensive but even though the painting was dramatic, I felt that I would need to develop that concept further as I progressed. I needed to develop how a crack is not just a line but everything else that the wood is doing around it. I also started experimenting with added a bit more colour with my finger painting technique. Even though the jpeg was dark and gray, having seen the actual totem numerous times, I could see faint undertones in the jpeg, and I wanted to bring them out carefully. Less is more.
So in the end, I could see a marked change from the first painting, and it was time to move on to the next.
Link to MOA UBC webpage for this Totem:
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