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Artist uses Inuit printmaking approach to create Bucketfish mural in Ontario

A beautiful Bucketfish mural that now adorns a street in Collingwood, Ont., has a distinct Inuit touch behind its vibrant colours.

Rob Saley works on a mural he recently created in Collingwood, Ont., using a printmaking technique he learned from Andrew Qappik while teaching art classes in the Kivalliq region.
photo courtesy of Rob Saley

Rob Saley is the artist behind the 20-foot x 6.5-foot section he created using a printmaking technique he learned from Andrew Qappik while teaching at the annual summer art camp sponsored by the Kivalliq Inuit Association (KIA).

Qappik taught printmaking with stencils at the camp, which Saley and fellow artist Paul Mantrop have been attending since 2006.

Saley said he finished the mural, which was a super-fun project, about three weeks ago with the help of his 16-year-old daughter and creative director, Natalia.

He said he and his daughter were able to paint four Bucketfish per hour and finished their section in under five hours.

“I was approached by the Town of Collingwood about a 20-foot by 6.5-foot section of boarding around a construction site that they wanted some artists around town to beautify,” said Saley.

“I was trying to figure out the best approach to a canvass that size because it was probably two decades since I tried to do something that large.

“The only way I could figure out approaching it was something that I learned at the Inuit art camp from Andrew Qappik and his teaching of using stencils, which I thought could apply to a spray paint approach.

“The mural's end result was very much from skills I had learned from travelling through the North.”

Saley said each Bucketfish that he created using Qappik's technique had a series of four separate cardboard stencils.

He said he would cut out different parts of the fish for each stencil until he had everything marked out for each fish. Then he could hit each area with spray paint.

“Up in the North they would use a stencil brush and oil paints and dab the paint on. I used the same concept, only with spray paint.

“It took two-and-a-half days of prep work in the studio – cardboard cutting and building frames that would hold the stencils in place – and about 4.5 hours or so to actually paint and complete the project.”

Saley said the Inuit summer camp didn't happen in 2019 due to a change in personnel at the Kivalliq Inuit Association, which led to the camp falling through the cracks.

He said Covid-19 wiped out any plans for a 2020 art camp, so he's just waiting to see what the future has in store for the camp.

“To be honest, I haven't even called to see if there would be a summer camp this year because I just assumed everything would be shut down due to Covid-19 and they wouldn't want anyone coming in.

“So, it looks like we're in a bit of a holding pattern right now but I certainly hope the camp starts up again once all this is behind us.”