Patrick Hunter – Painting Felt Like Something I Was Supposed To Do

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Patrick Hunter
Patrick Hunter

THUNDER BAY – ANISHINABEK – “It was in 2005 when I did my first Woodland piece, and I was just like ‘Yes, this is what I want to do,’” Patrick Hunter, 26, said of his foray into the art world. Hunter is an Indigenous artist who has successfully developed his own unique style. He also shares his skills as an artist with students of all ages through painting workshops.

Hunter was born and raised in the small northwestern Ontario town of Madsen, located in the municipality of Red Lake. He first picked up the paintbrush in a tenth grade art class at Red Lake District High School.

“It was in grade ten in one of Rhonda Bobinski’s art classes. We did a unit on Woodland art and painting,” he explained. He said that the class worked on their own Woodland pieces, and at the end the works were put on display and each student critiqued each other’s work. It was during the critiques that Hunter noticed his work had “a little bit of something else to it.”

“It looked more polished,” he said. “It stood out from all of the rest.”

Hunter figured that maybe he had a knack for painting in a distinct Woodland style, and tried his hand at another piece. He did a few more before taking a yearlong break from painting. He eventually returned to art.

“It (painting) always just felt like something I was supposed to do,” Hunter said. “When I got back into it, it wasn’t hard to figure out it was meant to be.”

iloveyoumothernature_webHunter credits his inspiration for his work to the landscapes of northern Ontario, and Woodland artist Norval Morrisseau as well as The Group of Seven (primarily group member A.Y. Jackson).

“I’ve always liked The Group of Seven’s work. They did a lot of stuff around the Great Lakes, landscapes and impressionists. I loved what they did,” Hunter said. He explained that he started off doing landscapes in his own work more than animals, and then went to traditional Woodland pieces. “I wanted to mesh the two (landscapes and animals) together, and that’s sort of where I’m at; a mix between Woodland style and Group of Seven impressionist.”

“If they (both styles) had a kid, I would be their love child,” he laughed. He also admires Vincent van Gogh’s work and his use of colour.

When looking at Hunter’s work, it is clear to see the influences of Morrisseau, Jackson, and van Gogh in it.

“It’s a mix of all those things, and that’s filtered through me and it comes out in this bright, new Woodland kind of way,” Hunter said of his work. He explained that it is easy to get lost in the Woodland style and produce work that is similar to others, but feels he is lucky enough to be able to create his own distinctive style when it comes to painting. “I’ve been very lucky to have a different eye for it. My work is not like some paintings where it’s hard to tell if it’s a Norval Morrisseau or someone else.”

Hunter says it is great that people create art that is like, or inspired by, Morrisseau’s but feels it is sticking within a mold, and that the artist is not expanding beyond what has already been done.
Hunter is now living and working in Toronto as an artist. He often visits his hometown, and enjoys the contrast between city life and small town life. “It’s kind of getting the best of both worlds,” Hunter said.

Being able to work full time as an artist in Toronto is something he considers one of his biggest accomplishments so far.

“Being self-employed, quitting part-time jobs and just working full force at this – that has been really meaningful because I took a big risk quitting old jobs,” he said.

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Hunter explained that he always had a safety net to fall back on, but that the jobs were making it hard to focus on completing art projects and commissioned work. “It got to the point where I was losing money. I wasn’t able to focus on artwork I needed to get done,” he said. Now he finds creative ways to make money through painting and illustration, and even some clothing design.

“I think that is my biggest accomplishment, being able to run this (art) as a business and treating it as such,” Hunter said.

Another activity Hunter engages in frequently is hosting painting workshops with students of all ages, something he hadn’t originally planned on doing but has since grown to enjoy.

“It took a lot of coaxing (to do a workshop) at first by my old high school art teacher,” Hunter said of the workshops. “I never thought I would want to do it.”

Hunter said that his first workshop in 2013 went pretty good. It took place in Red Lake at his old high school, and he returned later that year to do another one but this time it was with adults. Hunter said that at times the workshops felt awkward because as the teacher he was responsible for filling in the silences, but found that teaching art made him realize the process he goes through when he paints, something he had never really thought too much about before.

“It really helped me refine my process,” Hunter said. “It’s great being able to go into a school and teach someone, and by the time they’re done their work they’re shocked and I’m shocked. Three quarters of the way through, I’m like ‘oh God, they’re so good.’”

Hunter has another workshop coming up this month in Sioux Lookout where he will be working with high school students for several days. He explained that it’s important for him to show youth that even though they may be from a small town it’s possible to make dreams come true.

“It’s important for me to work with kids just because I come from such a small town, and I’ve always had dreams. And to be obtaining those dreams at 26, I think it’s important to tell kid there’s something, outside of the mine, that you can do and be successful with and happy with as long as you put in the hard work for it. I want to show them they can do whatever they want, not just an artist but anything really,” Hunter said.

In 2015, Hunter is aiming to come out with his first show in Toronto.

“I’ve only ever had one art show, really, that’s been all my work,” he explained. “It was a kind of a show and tell, and random pieces that I had. It went really well and almost sold out, but it wasn’t a theme. I want to have a good polished show, and you walk in and there’s a first piece and a last piece and there’s a theme to it,” Hunter said.

Another goal Hunter has for 2015 is applying to Ryerson’s School of Fashion Design.

“Those are two things I want to focus on in 2015,” Hunter said. “Oh, that and getting my driver’s license. I don’t need it in the city, but whenever I’m back home I gotta walk everywhere and it’s cold out,” he laughed.

Hunter’s work can be viewed on http://www.patrickhunter.ca, which also contains links to his social media accounts.

Stephanie Wesley

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