Sea Bear Totem, 2014
24” x 30” x 1.5”
Queen Charlotte Island
Carver, Bill Reid 2013
I spent some time looking online for Haida Gwaii totems, other then the famous grouping that everyone is familiar with from the Haida Gwaii village of SGang Gwaay. But I wasn’t able to find images that had the same monumental look, age, or with enough clarity to compose a painting from. (I will just have to find a way to fund a trip to Haida Gwaii one day so that I can experience the totems and culture of the carvers first hand.)
The one totem that I decided to try was the one at the Haida Heritage Centre at Kay Llnagaay. But I was concerned by its predominant gray cedar patina. It is likely that the photograph was taken on an overcast day, a common problem on the west coast. But it was a good opportunity to further study the carved forms used and the aging of the paint.
With red being dominant in this selection, I used a dark gray at the overall base for the canvas. With using a gray under base, I couldn’t use the reds from previous paintings where I used a black base. I needed to adjust the reds so that they would read in the same way as in the Grizzly Bear Father painting. *See image of colour swatch options.
I tried adding a bit of warmer tones to the gray areas, but not too much, given that they weren’t in the photographs.
The one new element in the totem was the slight wood grains on the inset carved areas under the eyebrows and near the bridge of the nose etc. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do these correctly. I used very watered down paint colours to basically glaze them in. That way I could control the blend and keeping the grain subtle and not reading as solid lines. The ones on the eyebrows were more of a wearing down of the paint along the raised edges of the grain.
The reference image that I had of the totem included the full face and the wall of the Heritage Centre behind it. But in keeping with my choices for the previous paintings, I preferred cropping the image to exclude the background, and maintaining the strength of the one full eye.
Andre Prevost, began his work in theatre in the late 70s after completing his studies at the Banff School of Fine Arts, and in his iconography in 1980, and having a large body of work in each. He has since been based in Western Canada; North Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and now back on the West Coast.