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Artists Create Vivid Images Of Nature In Saskatchewan

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      FALL 1998      v28 n03 p07  
Artist Gary Natomagan
Artist Gary Natomagan
Gary Dennis Natomagan's life as an artist began well before he first applied hand to canvass. Born and raised in northern community of Pinehouse Lake, the young Natomagan walked the trap-line with his hunter/trapper father, observed the natural surroundings during their daily quests. As a small Id he stored numerous images of father's interactions with nature, while discovering the depth and scope of the natural world.

By the time he entered the fast grade, Natomagan had developed a keen eye his surroundings. His artistic talents became evident to his parents, and teachers in elementary school, and they encouraged him to develop his raw ability.

Natomagan is entirely self-taught; relies on his "close encounters" with nature for direction and inspiration, and draws from images he amassed during his formative years in Northern Saskatchewan.

Using a variety of medium, including watercolor, acrylics, ink, oil paint, coloring pencils and charcoal, he has expanded his work into commercial art, graphic design for magazines, newspapers and newsletters. He is also regularly commissioned to create murals on everything from canoes, and semi-trailers, to schools and businesses, including dozens of sports teams.

This year, he provided the illustrations for a series of booklets written by Darlene Meeds, an environmental health officer and educator from Saskatoon.

Natomagan made his move to Saskatoon eighteen months ago to facilitate the promotion of his art, by taking advantage of the larger market. He recognized that the isolated community of Pinehouse Lake, with its sparse population, could not afford the level of exposure he needs to adequately market his work.

“We need joint ventures such as Summit Marketing. These partnerships not only will help individual artists such as Gary, but can act as models for how we can all work together, and that we need each other.”

"Gary had never before left the community of Pinehouse Lake," said Natomagan's marketing manager, Glen McCallum. "This was a big move and commitment for him. But he understood that he had to leave Pinehouse, as it is only 1,000 people all together."

Gary Natomagan artwork At present Natomagan, and McCallum, have opened up a partnership with Summit Marketing Inc., in Saskatoon, as an avenue to promote his art, and hopefully enable him to earn a living from his work. His dream is to open his own gallery, and market his images of Saskatchewan, internationally.

Natomagan and McCallum, however, are realists. They understand that much needs to be done before some of these dreams can be realized.

"Right now we are trying to lay the groundwork for him. This includes testing the market, and providing him with a place to display is work." At present, they have been able to secure the help of Creative Closet, Blinds and Picture Frames, in Saskatoon. The company displays and sells Natomagan's paintings for him, in return for the sale of a frame for the piece to the customer. "It is a start," remarked McCallum. "From there it is easy to load up his work and bring it to trade shows all over the west." McCallum has featured Natomagan's art in Vancouver and has attracted the interest of some of the art community in the United States.

The major goal for Natomagan, at present, is to prepare a professional portfolio of his work. "As it stands we don't have any of his work on slides, or small prints and samples of his better work to display in publications such as this one." What we can show the public, a gallery or a art dealer at present, is only a small fraction of what he can really do and it doesn't necessarily represent the scope of his ability."

McCallum expresses the importance of partnerships with non-native investors as a key to establish Natomagan's work. "We need joint ventures such as Summit Marketing.

These partnerships not only will help individual artists such as Gary, but can act as models for how we can all work together, and that we need each other."

Natomagan believes that art provides one of the better modes of communication between cultures. In many of his original works on display, one can see the smooth, seamless way that wildlife and the physical terrain blend and fold naturally into each other. The earth, in one his drawings, appears to give birth to herds of bison charging out of a hillside.

Natomagan maintains that this imagery reflects his desire to remove barriers between cultures and life on the earth. He feels that by creating works of art that touch people in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal society, he is taking a major step towards realizing his dreams.

Gary Natomagan artwork Gary Natomagan artwork

[Below: art from page 1]
Gary Natomagan artwork