Pangnirtung printmaker loves sharing his knowledge
PANGNIRTUNG – There’s little doubt that Pangnirtung artist Jolly Atagooyuk is making his mark.
Sitting behind his work table in the Pangnirtung Print Shop in the Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts, Atagooyuk repositions his paper and offers a beaming grin.
He’s used to people watching him work. Adjoined to the Pangnirtung Tapestry Shop, the print shop encourages interested visitors to come in, ask questions, and buy prints.
With the onset of autumn there aren’t many tourists in the shop, but well-known artist Andrew Qappik, is working on a sign for a cemetery and two older men are playing chess in the corner. They whoop and holler over the game as the sun streams in through the huge windows.
Atagooyuk jumps at the chance to explain the process behind one of his etchings. The bird with outstretched wings appears in brown lines against a light brown background. Atagooyuk pulls out the original drawing he worked from and shows how he had to trace the image onto a metal plate using etching tools and acid. Then he had to run it under a printing press without ending up with a solid blob of ink.
Etching is his favourite medium, he says, but he has many skills. He’s spent years learning the techniques of printmaking and silk screening through Arctic College.
Atagooyuk returned from Cambridge Bay last month after attending his third Nunavut Arts and Crafts Festival. He says it took him 11 hours to get there, as the plane stopped to pick up artists in other communities, but it was all worth it. At the festival he conducted stencil demonstrations and spoke to people about printmaking.
“I saw new faces and met lots of new artists,” he says, still grinning. “It helps us a lot to see and try new artistic techniques. It’s like, he learns from me and I learn from him.”
He worked with small groups of five or six people at the festival, people who had never stenciled before.
“The first time (they tried it), they were not so good,” he says. “The second time they were better, and the third time, it was there, it really is right. It makes me feel good that they learn new things. This is fun, stenciling.”
His spring and summer have been jam-packed with engagements. In May he went to Nuuk, Greenland, for their arts festival. The students there said stenciling was “just like magic,” Atagooyuk says.
In July he made a trip south, to Halifax, as a representative of the print shop for the World Trade Show. He conducted printmaking demonstrations there as well.
Next year he hopes to go to a festival in Iceland, but his main priority is still his art.
“That was done with a zinc plate,” he says, pointing to a blue etching of frolicking belugas. Artists tried using copper plates for a while, but the copper scratched too easily, he explains.
A new group of tourists enters the shop and lingers over some works on the table behind Atagooyuk. He moves to introduce himself, the ever-present grin still intact, and begins to explain how the prints were made.