By Rick Garrick
THUNDER BAY – Wikwemikong’s Dwayne Wabegijig and Fort William’s Brian Michon recently shared their unique styles of painting at the 7th annual Sequin Aboriginal Fine Arts and Crafts Spring Show and Sale.
“(People) like my work because it is unique — it’s not a play on just strictly woodland style,” Wabegijig says during the May 10-13 Sequin show at the Victoriaville Centre in Thunder Bay. “It’s something unique that I think is starting to resonate with people. It’s something they haven’t seen before and it also pulls in people, Native and non-native, because it is not strictly one style.”
Wabegijig describes his artwork as “a blend of woodland and landscape.”
“I just like having bright colours and backgrounds,” Wabegijig says. “But I like having trees and landscapes, a little more realistic, and adding the woodland to it.”
A self-taught artist, Wabegijig says he studies other artists and tries out different techniques.
“Every painting brings me closer to where I want to be with my artwork,” Wabegijig says. “I’m hoping to take it to the next level, especially after this show. When I get a good reception, a good show, it only motivates me to get ready for the next one and have more work, more diversity, (and) pull in different people. All the work and time you spend alone painting, it really pays off when you get to a show and you can chat with people about it.”
Wabegijig often watched his father Ken Wabegijig doing his own unique style of artwork while he was growing up in Thunder Bay.
“He is where I got a lot of my ideas as far as presenting my work — a wide variety so there is something for everybody,” Wabegijig says. “He had six, seven, eight, nine, 10 different things so he was successful at every show.”
Wabegijig says his father’s strong work ethic was a big influence on his work.
“He always told me: ‘Keep sketching, keep drawing,’” Wabegijig says. “Even if you’re not painting, keep sketching, keep doing it. And that’s where I’ve got a lot of my inspiration from.”
The Sequin show was organized by John Ferris, who also organizes the Aboriginal Fine Arts and Crafts Christmas Gift Show and Sale every year in early December.
“This is a Mother’s Day special for the crafters and the customers,” Ferris says. “Originally it was for three days, but I extended it for another day for the artisans to make some (additional) sales.”
Michon says his work is focused mainly on portraiture, but with some woodland style incorporated into his paintings.
“I started incorporating a lot of abstract elements into the backgrounds along with the Native elements,” Michon says. “And just making sure I put a lot of colour into them because I get a lot of good compliments. People like the colour that’s in my paintings.”
Michon says he paints about six to 10 people per year.
“A lot of the people I paint I do know,” Michon says, pointing to a portrait that featured the daughter of one of his friends. “But I’m always painting my own stuff as well. Eventually I would like to round up all of my work and approach a gallery, either in Thunder Bay or down south in Toronto, to have a showing.”
Michon has posted some videos on Youtube about his artwork, including one called Portrait Art by Brian J Michon, which is available online at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=fR7Igyd58OM.