Gull Bay’s Kevin Belmore has created a protest painting featuring animals leaving in a canoe over man’s destruction of the environment.
“It’s called Animal Protest — they are protesting what humans are doing to the natural environment,” says Belmore, who began creating his northern woodland Ojibwa style artwork in 1989. “Slowly we are killing the environment with all our activities. So what these animals are doing is they are gathering together and they are taking some of the forest with them and they are leaving.”
Belmore’s mentor was Roy Thomas, an influential First Nation artist known for his colourful totemic animals.
“He showed me the basic outline of how to put colours and then add black lines,” Belmore says. “What makes mine different from his or Norval (Morrisseau) or any other First Nation artist is that I like to do these different coloured backgrounds. I use the stars and the universe a lot in my paintings.”
Belmore says each artist has to develop their own style of work.
“People recognize my artwork now,” Belmore says.
Belmore’s artwork ranges from the protest painting to an emotion painting featuring a man and a woman surrounded by flowers.
“When you look at it you can tell they are getting married or they love each other a lot,” Belmore says. “It’s more of an emotion painting. Maybe somebody wants to express an impression to their loved one and sometimes a painting will do that for them.”
Belmore began selling his artwork at the Country Market about 10 years ago. The County Market is located in the Dove Building at the CLE in Thunder Bay.
“I was the first Native person here, and now we have a Metis artist and one of the board of directors for the upstairs here is a Metis woman,” Belmore says. “So it is good for us to be part of mainstream events that take place in the city.”
Belmore usually has a range of original acrylic paintings, black and white drawings and prints for sale at the market. He says his sales fluctuate between more originals or more prints. His prints range from $20 to $60 while his originals range from $30 for small five-by-seven-inch canvas paintings to $2,000 for larger paintings.
“Most of what I have here today are original paintings,” Belmore says. “Collectors come walking through these halls and every once in a while they prefer to have an original painting over a signed print. So I like to have both.”
Belmore usually enjoys creating his artwork while people look on or pass by his booth on the second floor at the Country Market.
“When I come to the market here I like to do some of my artwork so people can see a little bit of what I do,” says Belmore. “I try not to give away too much, but I just like to show people how I do my artwork.”
In addition to the artwork he sells at the Country Market, Belmore also creates murals and logo designs for businesses and organizations.
“I usually do three or four rough sketches based on the information they gave me,” Belmore says. “They’ll get back to me as to which design they like and also things they want added in or taken out of the design.”
After Belmore creates the design, he works with the client on their colour scheme.
“Over the years I’ve recognized that sometimes people change their mind at the last second about something about the logo, so my process allows for that time to happen,” Belmore says. “My process allows for any last minute changes.”