Danny Aaluk remembers sitting in a classroom as a boy, with much of what was being said not registering due to his hearing impairment. He preoccupied himself with what came naturally, drawing wildlife in his notebooks with his pencil.
“The teacher goes, ‘You’d rather do that?’ and I said, ‘Yeah,’ Everybody knew that I couldn’t really hear,” Aaluk recalled.
For the past 26 years, he has been supporting himself through sales of his artwork.
“I do this every single day,” he said, adding that he has established a reputation. “If any visitors come around (looking for art), they mention me at the hotel and the hotel will give me a call or an individual will take that person to my house. So many people track me down.”
Aaluk’s handiwork can be seen across Nunavut. He designed the character performing a one-foot high kick in an anti-smoking campaign through the Department of Health, for example.
“I’ve done (logos) for lawyers. I’ve done them for other government workers who wanted them on their letterhead,” he said, adding that the Arctic Games, Parks Canada and the Hamlet of Gjoa Haven have also selected his sketches for various initiatives. He also created a board game for the health board, he added.
A few months ago, Aaluk’s entry was chosen as the new logo for the Kitikmeot Chamber of Commerce. It almost didn’t happen. Aaluk didn’t find out about that contest until 30 hours before it closed.
He raced to get it done, but he wasn’t satisfied with what his imagination and his drawing hand were producing.
“I had to sketch it over and over, trying to get an idea of how to do it,” he said, adding that he starts out in pencil and then traces it with a pen.
He finally came up with a five-point star to represent the five Kitikmeot communities that make up the regional chamber. He adorned it with a number of wild animals, which have long provided nourishment for Inuit.
His talent isn’t limited to sketching. He also carves, paints, makes jewelry and sews. He surprised his mother by sewing sealskin mitts years ago.
“There was this one time that these two couples wanted pairs of mitts. (Mom) said, ‘I can’t do them all,’ And I said, ‘I know. I’ll try to help you. She said, ‘You could?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I do some sewing,'” he recalled.
Lately, Aaluk has been working on illustrations for a book that a Gjoa Haven teacher is writing. He has also taught many of his nephews and nieces to draw and he’s been enlisted to give art lessons to students at the local high school as well, he added.