Some Inspiration Behind My Tlingit Formline Designs

I get my ideas in different ways, from different sources. Some of these are ingrained in me from working with Tlingit formline almost all my life. Some are the influence of past great works, many of which are in museum collections. I’m inspired by today’s Native artists’ works. Some of my designs inspiration comes from other cultures, and other famous artists in popular art genres. Ideas present themselves in objects and in nature. Here’s a short list off the top of my head:

Recent Native Artists

  • Robert James “Jim” Schoppert, (1947 – 1992). Do I need to say any more? Jim Schoppert helped break the mold of conformity to a fixed classical style commonly called “Traditional Northwest Coast.” Some of his panels that look like they’ve been re-pieced together are some of my favorites.
James Schoppert 1986 Alder, Pigment

Blueberries by James Schoppert 1986

  • Clarrissa Rizal (1956 – 2016) – I couldn’t find images of Clarrissa’s work in the public domain, but do visit the link to see some of her amazing paintings and collages. The first time I saw Clarrissa’s blending, shading, and overlapping techniques, I was inspired!

Artists in Other Genres

  • M.C. Escher – I received a book of Escher prints one Christmas, and have designed a number of paintings in which the entire surface was geometric shapes of alternating formline designs. I was able to imagine Escher’s “Sky and Water” adapted to Tlingit formline. (Ambiguity in formline is nothing new.)

©M.C. Escher Fair Use

  • Gustav Klimt – I like most any art that has obvious symbolism. His paintings from his “Golden Phase” are some of my favorites. The use of circles and squares on fabric patterns give me plenty of ideas.
  • Wassily Kandinsky – I have a large poster of Kandinsky’s “Squares with Concentric Circles” on my studio door. Basically, I like every painting he did in his “Blue Rider Period.”

Vassily Kandinsky, 1913 - Color Study, Squares with Concentric Circles

Cross-pollination of ideas keeps things fresh, ever-changing. I like to remember this quote when I’m borrowing ideas from other places:

“It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”
— Jean-Luc Godard

With that, here’s the sketch from January 21 (influence of Dali “Soft Watches”:

Tlingit Art Daily Sketch Jan 21

Unfolded Killer Whale

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