Stretching the Boundaries of Northwest Coast Formline

The elements that make up Tlingit formline design are the Ovoid, U, eye, ‘s’ and a few other less basic shapes. Often, you will see components repeated throughout a design. For example, a salmon-trout may be used instead of a basic solid ovoid throughout a design. A certain variation of the ‘u’ shape, such as a split ‘u’ or a double ‘u’ may be repeated as the secondary ‘u’ shapes.

In the sketch below, I took the idea of repeated shapes a LOT further than just repeating the secondary shapes throughout the design. I place the repeated shapes in totally unexpected places where they ordinarily would not belong. Start with the main center ovoid. First of all, I let the “floating” ovoid sink to the bottom of the inner ovoid area, rather than its usually upper area. Then I added part of an eyelid. I took that interesting guy and duplicated him in the outer formline ovoid (upper left), which would ordinarily be solid black. Weird, eh?

Now take a look at the upper right ‘u’ shape. I serrated this usually solid black formline and placed an eye instead of a variation of the ‘u’ as the secondary shape. Then I duplicated the entire ‘u’ shape — both primary and secondary ‘u’ — and plopped that guy in the upper right of the usually solid outer ovoid. Again, weird.

I did the same thing with the bottom ‘u’ shape. Rather than the usual solid ‘u’ formline, I developed a motif, and duplicated that inside the secondary ‘u’ area. This was a fun sketch. Stretching the boundaries of formline. Because of the repetitions, I call this one “Echo (Echo)”.

contemporary tlingit art robert davis hoffmann

Echo (Echo)

Like the title says “Formline Practice” — once in a while I just need to practice the basics and not be too damned concerned about coming up with something shockingly different.

contemporary tlingit art robert davis hoffmann

Formline Practice

What can I say? I don’t know what came over me. I just started sketching and for some odd reason remembered a carving I did of Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” when I was in art school a lifetime ago. The she is. Isn’t she beautiful?

contemporary tlingit art robert davis hoffmann

The Birth of Venus

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