June is National Indigenous History Month. It is a time for all Canadians — Indigenous, non-Indigenous and newcomers — to reflect upon and learn the history, sacrifices, cultures, contributions, and strength of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people. Throughout the month of June, we will profile Indigenous people, and share their stories and voices, so that we can celebrate the difference they have made in their communities and to our country.
June 16: Today, we celebrate Patrick Hunter
Patrick Hunter is a two-spirit Ojibway Woodland artist from the community of Red Lake, Ont. Two-spirited people are part of the LGBTQ2 community. He is a painter and graphic designer who incorporates nature, trees, animals and other Indigenous imagery into his work. Hunter was introduced to Woodland Art in the Grade 10 where he was taught and mentored by visual artist Rhonda Bobinski-Beckman.
“When conceptualizing Woodland Art, try and imagine that you have X-ray vision and you can see into things in nature and animals. You can see their bone structures, maybe what they ate that day, their connections to other beings, or what their spirit looks like. Generally artists will use wild and bright colours to paint the figures in their paintings because they’re painting it in spirit form.”
Hunter said he gets his inspiration from Norval Morrisseau (1931-2007), an Anishinaabe artist from the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation who pioneered the Woodland style of Indigenous art.
“What I find really cool is that he spent some of his life and painted quite prolifically in Red Lake, Ontario, where I grew up. There are quite a few originals in the area which I remember seeing around town, which had a huge impact on me visually,” Hunter said.
Hunter graduated from high school in 2006 and a year later took a position with Shingwauk Education Trust. He assisted with the early development of Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig in Sault Ste. Marie on the campus of Algoma University, which offers programs geared to Anishinaabe students. In 2008, Hunter was accepted to Sault College, where he enrolled in a graphic design program.
Hunter said he became an artist almost by accident: “I had gone to school to become a graphic designer in Sault Ste. Marie, at Sault College. At the time it seemed like there were more opportunities for work in the graphic design field, which is true. But there are a lot of graphic designers out there, which in my honest opinion were frankly a lot better than me. So finding enough freelance work to live off of was a huge struggle. But, flipping that situation around, I found that I didn’t like working for other people when it came to graphic design, but people liked the artwork I was doing design-wise. So I just kept it up, using graphic design to make my own artwork look better, and it worked.”
He graduated in 2011 and moved to Toronto to start building his career. Hunter said the support he received from his community in Red Lake and from Sault Ste. Marie gave him the confidence to focus all of his time and passion to his artwork. He saw this dream realized in 2015, when he launched his business, Patrick Hunter Art and Design.
Hunter specializes in art and designs from his Indigenous background in the hope of creating an awareness around this imagery. He has collaborated with corporate clients like Rogers, RBC and the City of Toronto, to name a few. His art can be seen in various buildings throughout Ontario.
“Using my talent to help revitalize language felt like I was moving in the right direction, and maybe becoming an artist wasn’t an accident after all.”
When asked what art project he is most proud of to date, he said there’s been a few.
“If I had to pick just one so far, it was the colouring books that I did for the Princes Trust Canada. They’re a Royal Charity with a goal to help restore Indigenous languages in Canada. I became their artist in residence a few years back, they received some funding to do a language book, and we thought it would be a great idea to combine learning Ojibwe with colouring my artwork.
“We had 3,000 copies of the book printed and shipped out to where another charity Teach for Canada was based out of remote fly-in communities in Northwestern Ontario, then put the books online through the Princes Trust website for free download. All of this was completed in 2018-2019. Then this pandemic hit this year and everyone had to stay home. I shared the links to the free books and they really were well received. It felt really good to be able to give back like that, and provide folks with something to do while we’re all at home. Using my talent to help revitalize language felt like I was moving in the right direction, and maybe becoming an artist wasn’t an accident after all.”