Starting up Colouring It Forward and promoting Native Canadian Art and Wisdom are of immense value to me because, as they say, “the harder you have to work at something, the more you value you place on that experience”.
Starting my journey to promote Native Canadian art and wisdom
I started with very little experience because I had never had my own business, I didn’t know how to make a book or convert artwork to black and white, much less sales and marketing, accounting, etc. I also had never worked on a project with elders so I had to learn protocol and many other lessons.
Finding the elders
My first task when I was starting the series of colouring books was to find artists and elders to work with. Without them, the exercise would be futile as my purpose was to create authentic books. I wanted the books to share teachings directly from elders and real Native Canadian art by artists from that nation. The first artist that I found was not local to the area I live in. He is Chipewyan Dene and his name is Michael Fatt.
My first collaboration
When I first started looking for artists, I reached out to Yvonne at the Moonstone Creation Gallery. I had met Yvonne when I attended one of her beadwork classes. She said that she had an artist’s work in her gallery that might work for my project. I went to take a look at it and I was stunned when I saw it. The artwork was beautiful and also perfect for converting to an adult colouring book because it had nice dark lines. When I finally met Michael, I was thrilled that he was interested in collaborating on the book. He gave me the confidence to move forward with the project.
Which book comes first?
If you’re wondering why the Northern Dene book didn’t come out first, it has to do with a conversation I had with an elder from BC. When I asked her for feedback on my idea, she recommended that I start my project with my home community. I had to think about that for a while because I’m originally from Quebec and my family is not really connected to our native family. That’s because my mom was in residential school and doesn’t have strong ties with them. Also, I’ve lived in Alberta now for over 14 years so it was a tough question: which did I consider my home community? I decided that even though I would love to make an Algonquin or Métis book one day, I would start where I live, with artists and elders from the Treaty 7 community.
Finding the artists
I searched for a while. I asked all my friends if they knew any local artists and didn’t have much luck at first. But I’m stubborn. Thankfully Google search is my friend and it found Blackfoot artist Ryan Jason Allen Willert thanks to his website. I drove up to Red Deer to meet Ryan and we had a nice chat about the project. Thankfully Ryan was interested. He also introduced me to Blackfoot artist Kalum Teke Dan and Blackfoot elder Pablo Russell. Then we started down the path to make the Blackfoot colouring book together.
Reconciliation is a process of sharing and connecting
We are very fortunate that people loved the idea of sharing the beautiful teachings and artwork in a book. The idea was to give people a fun tool to learn about the culture and reconnect. Reconciliation will not happen unless we develop appreciation for each other and support each other. Colouring It Forward intends to help people to do just that by promoting Native Canadian Art and Wisdom.