Tlingit Art Daily Sketch January 5 – Combining Formline Elements

So today I broke my own rule. I used my sketchbook more for drawing  formline than for sketching. When I think of sketches, I think of spontaneity and looseness. But today I was quite a bit more deliberate in my design than I intended to be.

This is one of my habits that I’ve developed from my early days of practicing our Tlingit art, more generally referred to as Northwest Coast Native Formline. Being deliberate is necessary when first learning the basic rules of formline, one must learn how to organize the formline elements in a way that they will flow elegantly from one shape into the next.

This morning’s sketch gave me an opportunity to work on piecing those parts together. Here’s what I came up with:

Jan 5 Tlingit Art Daily Sketch

Jan 5 Tlingit Art Daily Sketch

Now you can see what I meant by being more deliberate. That means I also used my trusty eraser a lot more.

Here’s the thing about practicing formline: once you place one shape next to the other, the incorrectness of the shapes becomes more apparent. I already see, looking at the image just posted, which shapes need a little more tweaking.

But my sketchbook isn’t all about tweaking and getting things perfect, it’s more about just getting something down on paper and not sweating the details that much.

Nonetheless, I’m glad that I have another image that could very well be turned into a carving, painting, graphite drawing, or even a woodcut. The purpose of my sketchbook is to become a catalog or sorts I can leaf through for even more inspiration.

I had written in another blog on my Tlingit Tribal Art website about 5 Things To Help Impove as an Artist in Northwest Coast Formline Design. It’s intended for those just starting out. More advanced artists will already have done the suggestions:

  1. Find a Mentor
  2. Practice, Practice, Practice
  3. Build a Library
  4. Research
  5. Experiment


  1. Alisa Nielsen January 5, 2017
    • Tlingit Me January 20, 2017

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