Formline as a Way of Seeing

I was talking to a local painter earlier this week about how my brain will usually see formline patterns in most things. I see designs in wood grain, in the clouds, in seaweed washed up on the beach, in fabric patterns. I like that.

The other person described how she began to see formline shapes continuously arranging and rearranging as she watched the waves in the harbor. When we see patterns highlight themselves as formline shapes, it’s because our brain is being trained to interpret shapes as formline. If I inundate myself with Northwest coast design, it’s what I imagine most.

I wonder what it must have been like living in a Tlingit village before European contact. The art was integrated in every aspect of life. And much of it was based also on a relationship with the natural world and its inhabitants.

For myself, I want art to be infused in my every day life. I like to see art in things. I want it to be my way of interpreting.

This is why the daily sketches are important. Not only do I improve through practice, but I train myself to see designs in things. It becomes a habit. The other day at work for example, I folded a paper napkin in a way that the print on it suddenly looked like a Tlingit design. What do you see?

I see a Tlingit halibut design in a napkin pattern

Art in things

I wonder how many of you saw a halibut design? The dark blue in the lower right corner even looks like it has facial features: eyebrow, eye, mouth… How cool!

Just some thoughts that were running through my mind the other morning as I did my morning sketch. I don’t know if I’ll do anything further with this sketch. Mostly doodling, but keeps me habituated.

Tlingit ovoid shapes

Quick and Practical


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