A day of art therapy from Cree artist Michael Lonechild

The rustle of brushes and a calm deep voice telling stories about the relationships with colour, light, paint, tools and canvas were heard in the room. One of the Saskatchewan’s most accomplished and respected Cree artists Michael Lonechild held a painting clinic at Estevan Art Concepts Custom Framing. 

For this piece, Lonechild recommended his students to use only four colours – yellow, white, blue and red, but with the professional instructions, their success was assured. Those who attended the painting clinic received more than just an art class. 

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“For me, art is a universal language. It could relate to anybody, anybody could participate. Art is a kind of therapy. I find that once you start getting into it, suddenly you start to forget about stuff, forget about the world and you are just concentrating at it,” Lonechild said. 

He believes that he does art partially because of its healing nature. 

“Maybe that’s why I do art, the therapy part of it because growing up at the reserve wasn’t a very pleasant long time ago. Art kept me and my brothers going.” 

Snow and the sky were the main themes at this clinic as guests were painting kids skating on the ice. Winter is one of Lonechild’s favourite and also best-selling themes. 

“Mostly winter scenes (sell well). People relate to that. Well, of course, we are Saskatchewan people. Nobody can forget winter. Even summertime we think of winter,” he said.

Talented artist Lonechild is also a talented teacher and works of his students, many of who tried painting for the first time looked very close to the masterpiece. 

“Art is a visual thing, if you see it, then you could probably do it. So the way I teach is I show them what I want them to do and I kind of give them an idea of how to do it and let them go and follow them up,” Lonechild said.  

Painting clinic by Michael Lonechild
Lonechild’s work station was set in the middle of the room, and during the break students could check it out. Photo by Anastasiia Bykhovskaia

Artwork and teaching are the main components of Lonechild's contemporary life, and both of these activities are equally important for him. 

“I enjoy both. Now when I’m getting older I can only sit for four hours a day and paint. The first four hours are my most productive time, and after that, I’m kind of just wasting time.”

When schedule allows Lonechild starts painting as soon as the sun is up, but that doesn’t happen every day. And not to lose precious minutes he always has his own kit at hand. 

“I have a kit that I take with me for the past six years, everything I need to paint. Just set it up and ready to go. They (brushes) are special to me because I had them for six years (laughs).”

Painting clinic by Michael Lonechild
Lonechild’s teaching talent helped his students to create excellent pieces. Photo by Anastasiia Bykhovskaia

Clinics are a part of Lonechild’s routine, he travels all over southern and southeast Saskatchewan and sometimes goes as far as Prince Albert and Maple Creek. But his main job is with the Treaty 4 Education Alliance. 

“I do some contract work for Treaty 4 Education Alliance. It’s a group of teachers that were mandated by the chiefs to create the curriculum for the students on First Nations resorts. I do a lot of that,” Lonechild said. 

Besides that artist is doing his own art and also works on some pieces and prints for the Treaty 4 governor’s side. 

After many years, Estevan, place where Lonechild started his art career, still greets him with a lot of interest with the clinic attendance exceeding the planned capacity. Lonechild is happy to see as much turn out as he had in the 70s. 

“I was 18 -19 years old; I had my first art show here. It was in the Town Hall, the basement of the Town Hall. I think we had about 28 pieces, and I only went home with about four or five of them, we sold the rest. Back then we were selling them for a hundred dollars a piece,” Lonechild said. 

Nowadays, Lonechild is one of the most popular and top-requested Cree artists in Saskatchewan. Most of his works are in galleries and private collections throughout North America and some are displayed in the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC. 

Lonechild's painting clinic is one of the many interesting and creative art events set by the Art Concepts Customer Framing. Business owner Theresa Fuhr shared their plans. 

“Anything from photography workshops to more painting workshops to musical nights. We are pretty excited to fill up our year with anything creative… March 15, we are having an opening for our local artist named Diana Brown. Her work is water colouring ink, the series is called Taking Flight, and it’s all about birds. There also will be a photography workshop from Byron Fichter within next month. And we are looking in April for a live music event,” Fuhr said. 

For more information on Estevan art life, follow Estevan Mercury and  Art Concepts Customer Framing Facebook group.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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