More than 16 nations make up this grouping including Tlingit, Haida, Heiltsuk, Nuxalk, Tsimshian, and Kwakwaka’wakw. Although each group has its own unique culture, art, and language they do share some commonalities, and I am highlighting some of the art forms that cross between many of the groups.
The Northwest coast has rich forests, rivers, and rocky coastlines. Their art reflected this environment. Much of their art was created with the abundant trees from the area and featured animals found in the forests, rivers, and oceans such as eagles, beavers, whales, wolves, ravens, frogs, and bears.
These animals had special meanings and symbols and individual clans had animals associated with their clan. For example, whales symbolize ancient wisdom and awareness, beavers stand for creative and artistic ability, and frogs symbolize spring and new life.
The Ovoid is a style of painting, carving and weaving used by First Nations Artist in the Pacific Northwest.
The front of the longhouses on the coast were painted in this style. The Royal BC Museum’s long house, designed and painted by Haida artist Bill Reid, is a wonderful example.
Draw an Animal in the Pacific Northwest Style on a Cedar Plank:
Hummingbird Lesson by Lyle Wilson
Cedar planks (shingles from hardware store) or rectangles of scrap wood
Acrylic paint in traditional colours: black, red, yellow, light blue
Ovoid Lesson from SFU’s Bill Reid Center: Lesson #2
Hummingbird from SFU’s Bill Reid Center: Lesson #2
The lesson from the Bill Reid Center at SFU is available for download to be used as a school lesson. Special thank you to the artist, Lyle Wilson, for making his images available for our students.
I recommend Lesson #2, Making an Ovoid
Copy the ‘making an ovoid’ lesson for the students for practice of the technique on paper.
Print the Hummingbird, one for each student. Have students use a dark or charcoal pencil to trace the image onto a blank page.
Place the image charcoal side down onto the plank and secure for registration (use tape on each corner or have a friend hold while the student rubs). Rub all over to transfer the shape to the plank. Watch out for slivers!
Use paint to make the Hummingbird onto the wood.
Older students may wish to design their own animal using the ovoid forms right onto the wood.