Thursday, March 15, 2012

Day One Hundred Thirty: Michael Lonechild Paints with Words

Michael Lonechild Explains Why he is at the Career Fair
I’m part of the Treaty Four Student Success Program at the Governance Centre, over by the tipi there, that’s how I got involved here. They needed an artist and they came and asked if I would participate in their project. They’ve been sending me all over the place to do presentations and talks.
Michael Lonechild Transitions to Art Following Sheena on Writing
I’m not a really good public speaker, and I admire people who write.  I’ve associated with a few of them in my time, listened to them talk about their books; words come out of them like when you spill water, constant and flowing. I like that about the way people talk. I wish I could talk like that, but I’m an artist. Us artists, we don’t talk very much. We’re private people. We sit in a little room and paint all day, that’s what I do, listen to music.
Michael Lonechild on Artistic Yearning
I started painting when I was quite young. I started painting when I was sixteen, and I wasn’t really good at it. I’ve always had the burning desire to want to be an artist. It always bothered me; the yearning was always there for me. I’m getting old now, and that yearning is still inside me, I still want to paint. I believe that writers are the same way. They have this burning desire to write something, so they write something, eh? That’s what creativity is, I think, it comes from within our soul. I always wondered why do people like art, for example, they don’t need it in their life, it’s not a necessity like food, yet they spend a lot of money buying art. It’s just all of us have that feeling, for good stories, something good to look at. And some of us are blessed to be able to do that. Art’s not just painting; music is an art; writing is an art of course, and painting, and even public speaking is an art. Not everyone can do it. And when we reach that stage when we can make people listen or look, then we’ve achieved that place where we wanted to get in the first place. A lot of people who want to get there, can’t. That burning desire in artists, that’s what takes them there, to go beyond rejection, because when one person rejects you, doesn’t mean the rest of the world rejects you. I’ve never really taken art as a profession; I never, ever dreamt at making a living at it; I did it because it made me feel good, that’s why I did it. Today, if I’d never gotten a penny for it, I’d still be painting. I like the way it makes me feel. I was fortunate enough I started painting when I was fifteen; I had to learn how to paint; it took a process of about four or five years to actually do something that was worthwhile buying. I’m a self-taught artist, and by that I mean I researched material I needed to know.
Michael Lonechild on Fort San Colony
I went to an Art course for a week in Fort San, an arts colony; I went there for a week. I don’t know what I learned, if I learned anything there or not. The art teacher put me in the bush with a path and I had to paint the bush and the path. It took me a week to paint it. He’d come around once in the while; he’d tell me, “Do this, don’t do this anymore,” and then he’d be gone, same routine every day. When I was done, I picked up this huge piece of board and stuck it in my trunk and I didn’t come back, not because I was upset or anything, but I knew what he was trying to teach me.
Michael Lonechild on Getting an Agent
I became half decent when I was nineteen years old. I met a priest, and he became my first manager. He liked art. He bought about twenty pieces off me and we had an art show in Estevan. We had my very first art show in Estevan. And we sold all of them. Then we went to Weyburn. Then we went to Regina. I ended up in Calgary in the early eighties. He told me I needed a manager, who knew what he was doing, who would better my career, so we found one, and I stayed in Calgary for about ten years. I made a lot of money. I made a good living at it. And that’s the way my art has been since. 
Michael Lonechild on Teaching Art
I’ve been doing a little bit of teaching, and I go to all First Nations schools and I teach them art. I stay with each reserve for about three weeks, teach as many students as I can. And there are artists out there. I’ve seen them, I’ve met them. There’s a lot of them. They just have to mature, whether they want to become artists or not, it’s up to them. I read some words that were written in an arts magazine by Pablo Picasso, he’s the guy who painted The Egyptian, and he said that every child is an artist, the problem is keeping him that way until he grows up. Which makes a lot of sense. Guess I must have grown up to be an artist.
Michael Lonechild on Red, Yellow, and Blue
I’ll tell you a little bit about the way I paint. I only use the three primary colours: red, yellow, and blue. And I mix my own colours as I need them. I find that to be very simple. The more simple I keep it, the more sophisticated things start looking, the more drama I put in my painting.
Michael Lonechild Get’s a Good Laugh
I have three brothers who are artists, too. It seems to run in the family, but I’m proud to say that I’m better than them. (Laughter) But anyways, do you have any questions, I’ve been speaking all morning, if not…
Sheena Asks One Convoluted Question
Could you talk a little bit about the,  you used the word drama, and that idea of um, you had said before in the other session about going for drives and you like the light in the morning, and can you talk a little bit about light and negative and positive.
Michael Lonechild on Drama
For those of you who are artists that want to better your art, I suggest you study on positive and negative colour. It’s just black and white. That’s the way I started to paint. I understood that right away how to make your paintings dramatic. You just use dark colour against white background. So when you put a dot on a white piece of canvas you can see it right away, no matter where you are standing. We use up the space by making the dot bigger, right? If I had a big dot in there, it would fit perfectly, but if you made it really small, would you want to use the space, so art is like that. Like here, the horses would be negative colour and the background would be all white and it’s kind of overwhelming because the negative space is so pronounced, it takes over the whole canvas. That’s the way I learned to paint. I didn’t understand the relationship of the colour wheel. I had to gradually get into it as I progressed. The best time that I find when I paint pictures, is when I’m using sunlight, is the morning or the evening, because the shadows are so dramatic, and the colours are so bold, a lot of positive and negative colour again. I’d go into colour theory, but I’d bore you.
Michael Lonechild on Discovery
I started working with this group of people in Treaty Four; I’ve been there now for two years, and the first year I went to eighteen schools to teach the kids art, and after every art session we had the kids would take the brush and start mixing all the colours and I’d tell them to quit doing that, you’re making a mess. But it was fascinating for them, they wanted to know what happens when you do that. And I knew what happened when you do that, and I knew how it happens in my mind, but how do I share with them. So I went home, and I sat down, and I figured out how that works. We’ve all had art classes at one time or another. There are three primary and three secondary colours, right? The opposite of blue is orange. Yellow is the opposite of purple. That’s what happens when you mix the three colours together.
Michael Lonechild on the Creative Process
Art to me is a creation process, like writing, we create something out of our minds. The challenge is doing it, and when you do do it, and you achieve it, you gain more confidence, you even go beyond again. I’ve also taught adult classes, and I always like to call the people who are scared to go beyond is “Sunday Painters” because they have all these nice pictures but they look half done because they haven’t played with the positive colour at all, it just looks like they should do a little bit more on it, but they’re scared to go beyond. That’s what art is to me, taking it beyond, allowing yourself to make mistakes, that’s the way I learned. I made a lot of mistakes. I made a lot of wrecked canvases. I just destroyed them because they were no good.
Michael Lonechild Branches Out
My art has also taken me to other directions. I’ve illustrated some books for different authors. I’ve worked with Rudy Weibe, he’s from Alberta. And David Bouchard, who used to be a school teacher in Regina, but now he lives in Vancouver. I’ve been doing a lot of work with him. I just illustrate his books. The publisher tells me what they want, and I paint them. They give me a little bit of room to add in my own. This here is another branch off of art. It’s a canvas print. It’s a new technique to make prints. The original painting is three feet by six feet, and it’s just another way of selling art.
Deanna on the Intercom:
Pardon me for an announcement. Session number four will begin in three minutes. If you have a session, please attend to your period four session, and if you are on lunch, please go to the gym for lunch.
Michael Lonechild Says Thank You
And I would like to leave it there. I would like to thank you very much for listening to me, for inviting me to the school. Thank you so much.

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