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Printing their way to Scotland

Adam Johnson
Northern News Services
Monday, April 23, 2007

RAE-EDZO - A two-day printmaking workshop could grow into something much greater for a group of students at Chief Jimmy Bruneau school in Behchoko.

Working with two Scottish artists from the University of Dundee - Gavin Renwick and Paul Harrison - 16 students drew, inked and printed their works last Monday in Yellowknife and Tuesday in Behchoko. Their finished work will be exhibited at the University, where organizers hope to send the students in 2008.

"I'm a little nervous," said student Leah Chocolate, 15, of the opportunity.

"I just think it's a great and unique opportunity for my students," said Chief Jimmy Bruneau art teacher Monique Froehler.

She said the project was helmed by Renwick, who has been working with elders in Gameti for the last decade to explore Tlicho culture through art. Now, she said, youth can participate.

"Through their artwork, they will be showing how they view their culture," Froehler said.

Throughout the bright art room, students with grease pencils busily sketched out traditional designs: sleds, leather clothing, and occasionally, a more personal item.

Chocolate was hard at work on a simple, but skilful drawing of her family's house in Gameti, where she stays when she isn't going to school.

"I miss home," she said simply.

Meanwhile, George Bailey, 16, drew an arrow, while joking with his friends nearby. However, he said he takes art, and expressing culture through art, seriously.

"I think our culture is important," he said. "Not a lot of youth are into their culture."

"We could lose it entirely, and nobody wants that."

As Harrison rolled ink onto a design, he explained this stage of the printmaking process.

"It's based on the principle of oil and water repelling each other," he said of the modern lithograph process.

First, designs are drawn with grease pencil onto transparent, plasticized sheets. The sheets are dampened, and then rolled with an oil-based ink. The ink only sticks to the grease pencil, allowing the sheet to be used as a stamp on multiple sheets of paper.

"This used to involve heavy industry and quite nasty chemicals," he said of the quick process.

"This is a way to introduce (the students) to the print-making process, with a view to really develop the project," he said. This would eventually allow the youth to visit Dundee, where they could work to create finished prints.

Both Harrison and Renwick were on hand at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife Sunday to present another arm of their project in the North: Culture-Baseline-Home.

The printmaking exhibit stemmed from Renwick's architectural studies in Gameti, combining heavily layered architectural drawings with traditional imagery to create striking results.

The exhibit is on display at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife.