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SAM Creates: Comic Books with Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas

Carpe Fin is a very large mural created by Haida artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas on handmade mulberry paper from Japan. The people of the Haida Nation are native to coastal British Columbia and southern Alaska and have occupied Haida Gwaii since time immemorial. Yahgulanaas describes his artwork as “Haida manga,” which combines many artistic and cultural traditions and styles, including Haida formline art, Japanese manga, Pop Art, Chinese brush painting, and graphic novels. 

The artist uses black shapes to outline scenes from the story, which are similar to boxes you’d see in a comic book or graphic novel. The shapes Yahgulanaas uses, like ovoids and u-shapes, are usually used in formline or frameline design, which is the common visual language across Native communities in the Northwest Coastal region. He was inspired in particular by a 19th-century headdress created by his Haida relative, Albert Edward Edenshaw, pictured below. 

The story he tells is inspired by a traditional Haida oral story and the story told by his relatives’ artwork, but set in the world that we live in today. Carpe Fin is about the relationship between humans and the ocean. A sea mammal hunter goes in pursuit of food to feed his starving community and is taken underwater to the realm of a powerful spirit. Carpe Fin makes us think about environmental issues and the connection between humans and nature. Learn more about the history of the Haida Nation.

LOOKING QUESTIONS

Take a minute to look at the artwork and take in everything that you see. Then talk about these questions with a friend or family member.

  • What’s going on in this artwork? What do you see that makes you say that? What more can you find?
  • This panel is just one part of a much larger work of art and was inspired by comic book design. How is it similar to comics that you have seen before? How is it different?
  • Who do you think the characters are in this story? What can you tell about them based on the details you see?
  • Imagine you’re in one part of this painting. What would you see? What would you smell there? What would you hear?

Art Activity: Create a comic to tell your own story.

What You’ll Need!

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Optional: ruler, markers, colored pencils
  1. Decide on a story: Choose an interesting story that has been told to you by someone you know. Now, think about what that story would be like if it happened today with people you know. When you have an idea for your story and characters, write out the plot: a beginning, middle, and end. 
  2. Divide your paper into three parts, either by folding it or drawing lines using the ruler and a marker. For more of a Haida manga style, try creating three boxes using ovoids or u-shapes instead of squares or rectangles.
  3. Working from right to left or top to bottom (depending on how you use your paper), draw the beginning, middle, and end of your story.
  4. If you like, you can trace your lines in marker and color in your drawings. You can also add words
    to your story (consider using speech bubbles to make it look even more like a comic strip)!
  5. Don’t forget to write your name, authors and
    artists always sign their work! What title will you give this comic?

KEEP LEARNING WITH A STORY

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas also turned Carpe Fin into a book. Buy a copy from SAM. You can read more graphic novels on Hoopla Digital and Comixology. If you’re looking for more new takes on Indigenous stories, read Tales from Big Spirit series by David Alexander Robinson or Trickster by Matt Dembicki online.

Carpe Fin (detail), 2018, Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Haida, b. 1954, watercolor and ink on handmade Japanese paper, 6.5 x 19.7 ft., Seattle Art Museum, Ancient and Native American Art Acquisition Fund, McRae Foundation and Karen Jones, 2018.30, © Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas. Sakíi.id (headdress frontlet), ca. 1870, Albert Edward Edenshaw, maple wood, paint, and abalone shell, 6 1/4 x 5 7/8 x 2 1/4 in., Gift of John H. Hauberg, 91.1.82. Photo: Natali Wiseman.

SAM Creates: Suit Up with Walter Oltmann

While a human-caterpillar hybrid such as Walter Oltmann’s Caterpillar Suit I, may seem strange, it’s completely appropriate for these strange times that we’re currently living in. The tiny hairs that encompass the insects referenced in Walter Oltmann’s work are called setae. The function of these hairs are practical—they’re connected to nerve-endings and give caterpillars a sense of touch—as well as a defense mechanism. A recent study showed that the longer and denser the setae, the less likely predators were to eat the caterpillars. 

Looking at Oltmann’s work in the era of coronavirus brings to mind biomimicry. Biomimcry is described by the Biomimcry Institute as “the practice of applying lessons from nature to the invention of healthier, more sustainable technologies for people.”[1] Another way to understand this concept is through antennae-inspired outfits, designed to help with social distancing.

What ways can nature spur ideas to help us adapt to our new normal? Come up with your own biomimicry design for coronavirus through drawing. Oltmann makes more than sculptures, he also creates drawings and prints with similar designs as his sculptures. We’ll use this approach for our activity.

What you’ll need

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Fine-tipped marker or pen.

With drawing, like any physical activity, you may want to start with a warm up. Try sketching some simple shapes to warm up your drawing muscles!

Sketch a figure drawing of yourself or have someone in your home pose for you!

First, draw in pencil, then outline the essential lines in marker or pen. Erase the pencil marks. Your figure should be a very simple form, like a gingerbread man shape.

Next, think about ways that nature, your favorite animal, or an ecosystem protects itself. For caterpillars, it might be a visible attribute, such as setae protecting against predators, but it could also be a non-visible process, like how they consume poisonous milkweed without getting sick. For inspiration check out asknature.org.

Draw this natural defense attribute onto the figure you’ve drawn using lines, shapes, or patterns.

Share your innovative ideas with us by posting using the hashtag #StayHomewithSAM and celebrate everyone working hard in the midst of this pandemic to find practical ways of protecting us from the coronavirus.

– Kelsey DonahueSAM Assistant Manager for Gallery Learning & Lynda Harwood-Swenson, SAM Assistant Manager for Studio Programs

1 https://toolbox.biomimicry.org/about-the-toolbox/
Image: Caterpillar Suit I, 2007, Walter Oltmann, anodized aluminum and brass wire, 46 7/16 x 23 1/4 x 16 9/16 in., Gift of Josef Vascovitz and Lisa Goodman in honor of Kimerly Rorschach, 2019.25.1, © Walter Oltmann.

SAM Creates: Drawing from Margaret Gove Camfferman

Margaret Gove Camfferman was an early Northwest modernist whose colors and compositions reveal her love of the Pacific Northwest landscape. The soft palette of colors, blooming trees, and gentle light on the Sound reveal as much about the painter in that moment as the scene she painted. To learn more about Landscape before starting this art activity, click here!

Create your own landscape inspired by Camfferman’s work by choosing a landscape to work from. You can work from real life, a photograph, or an imagined landscape. For materials, you will need paper, pencil, and—if available—any kind of paint, pastels, crayons, or markers to add color.

Once you find your inspiration, start by completing some thumbnail sketches. Draw a series of little boxes on your paper and experiment with your composition. Keep it loose, and draw the scene in a few different ways. Compose in both portrait and landscape formats to see what is most effective.

To create the illusion of space in your work, start by thinking about where the horizon line is. In Camfferman’s Landscape the horizon line is in the upper third of the painting, and her vanishing point is obscured by the tree in the upper left corner. She uses them as tools in her composition to provide the illusion of space.

As you’re sketching, think about what objects are in the foreground (closest to you), middle ground, and background (furthest from you). Objects in the foreground are larger than objects in the middle or background in order to make them appear closer to you.

After finding a composition you like, translate it into a larger drawing; you can still work fairly small if you want—think of this as a study. In pencil, draw the basic shapes in the landscape, leaving out the details.

Now, add color: setting up your palette in advance can help you control the mood and tone of your composition. Working with a limited palette of colors that relate to one another creates harmony in the work. If you need inspiration, check out Coolors for samples of warm, cool, pastel, or vintage color palettes. Like Camfferman, skip the details and try using planes of color to create form and volume in your landscape.

After you’ve laid down some of the larger shapes, add some finer lines to help tell your story.

Take this further by creating a series of works, recording the daily changes in nature and the landscape we live in. Share your work with us using the hashtag #StayHomeWithSAM.

Kelsey Donahue, SAM Assistant Manager for Gallery Learning & Lynda Harwood-Swenson, SAM Assistant Manager for Studio Programs

Christopher Martin Hoff to Teach Watercolor Workshop at Olympic Sculpture Park

Usually when I think of painting en plein air, I picture a French Impressionist working at a canvas while seated under a large white umbrella in the middle of a meadow. Painting en plein air evokes a natural and pastoral setting.

Although he carries on the tradition, Christopher Martin Hoff is a different kind of plein air painter. You can see him all over Seattle painting all day, every day. He captures the urban landscape–billboards, bridges, traffic lights swaying over empty intersections, bright green dumpsters scrawled with graffiti. Hoff has also documented several important construction projects across the country and in 2003 was awarded an Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation grant, to create a series of paintings that document construction at the World Trade Center in New York.

Participants in the upcoming SAM Creates workshop “En Plein Air: Watercolor Painting” will get a chance to work with Hoff to explore the unique interplay of art, architecture and landscape present at the Olympic Sculpture Park. This is a three-part workshop, and the first session is Saturday, July 9. Click here to register now.

The SAM Creates workshop series provides a forum for artists to explain the philosophies underlying their work and for participants to delve into the artistic, practical or quirky processes at work in their daily lives. Instruction will include strategies for creating engaging compositions, the use of color to build space, creating work that has a sense of place and general practices for an effective outdoor studio. All materials provided, and all levels are welcome.

-Madeline Moy, Digital Media Manager

Behind the Scenes: In Space & Time with Gretchen Bennett and D.W. Burnam

Two weekends ago, on the gloomiest of Saturday afternoons, I had the pleasure of participating in Gretchen Bennett and D.W. Burnam’s “Unconventional Portraits” workshop on songwriting.  Created in conjunction with the Kurt exhibition and Gretchen’s video installation I don’t blame you, the artists put together a day of vigorous writing exercises for those who participated.

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Behind the Scenes: Unconventional Portrait Workshop

As SAM’s summer exhibitions Kurt and love fear pleasure lust pain glamour death—Andy Warhol Media Works opened last week, the Adult Public Programs team has been working hard to get ready for all of the affiliated lectures, performances, tours and  June 4th SAM Remix.  The simultaneity of these two exhibitions is exciting from a programmatic standpoint because we have the opportunity to use educational experiences to explore some of the conceptual connections between works in both.  One of the projects I have focused on developing in recent months is a set of three classes that are part of our adult workshop series “SAM Creates.”

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