THUNDER BAY – Rod Ostamas is a very relaxed gentleman. A very patient person as well, from what I have known of him, and these are two attributes that contribute to his success as a local Thunder Bay Anishnawbe painter who has delighted so many people with his talent and skill.
Rod, who is a Eabametoong First Nation band member, relates that he started drawing at the age of eight. Although he never took art classes in his life, he seemed to have a knack for drawing. He started out drawing “little skidoos,” cars and trucks, and other examples of life on the First Nation such as houses.
Rod continued to develop his natural talent for drawing. He soon attended St. Patrick’s High School in Thunder Bay, as so many other First Nation youth do, due to the fact that they must relocate for Ontario secondary school courses.
In 2006, at the age of 30, Rod started painting. “I had friends who were artists, and I just liked the way that they did their work, their animals.”
When asked why he ended up painting mostly animals as his brilliant subject material, Rod responded: “I just like doing animals; they are what I like doing.”
Rod clearly enjoys a connection to wolves, moose, eagles, ravens, and loons. The clear sharp lines of his work and deep rich colours provide a soothing sense of nature: “Maybe it’s just the style of the loons. I probably sell more of those than any other animal.”
The City of Thunder Bay can be proud of the fact that we have a homegrown talent from Eabametoong First Nation living and working among us. Rod’s calm demeanor conveys a sense of his mastery over himself and his life, as well as his discipline towards his work: “People expect to hear negativity in the news [about Natives]. They are sometimes watching the news thinking, ‘what will happen now?’ It can be depressing.”
Rod uses his art to combat this: “Personally, because I do dialysis for kidney failure, I use art as therapy. I could have been a drunk, drinking. Instead, I sit at home and do paintings. It keeps me grounded.”
Grounded indeed. Rod has one foot here in Thunder Bay, while the other is in his paintings, on the water with the moose, in the skies with the eagles, and in front of the moon with the wolves of Eabametoong.