Expressions of his childhood, culture

He may not consider himself an artist, but his family and others who have seen his works tended to disagree, Russell Tiljoe said, which started the process leading to his very first art show, this Friday and Saturday.

Artist Russell Tiljoe stands by a collection of the works he’s made over the years

Artist Russell Tiljoe stands by a collection of the works he’s made over the years

He may not consider himself an artist, but his family and others who have seen his works tended to disagree, Russell Tiljoe said, which started the process leading to his very first art show, this Friday and Saturday.

“From the time I was a kid, I liked drawing in school,” Tiljoe said. “Sometimes I’d get carried away and start doodling instead of doing my schoolwork.”

He’s a little nervous of the show, which is being held in the Houston Mall from 12 until 5 p.m. on Jan. 21 and 22, but excited at the same time as it will be the first time he’s brought his work out to the community he grew up in.

His family has been in the Houston area for at least 100 years, Tiljoe said, who spent the first six or seven of his years living in Moricetown until his father moved to Houston, where Tiljoe’s maternal grandparents and other family members lived. But before that, he was more than familiar with the area, Tiljoe said, who remembers a childhood of heading out to the lakes nearby to trap as well.

“There were no roads up there, so we would have to snowshoe all the way,” Tiljoe said. “It would take us four days to get up there.”

After school, he didn’t get many opportunities to paint or draw much, he said, so busy was he with work and life, but when he, his wife, and their 10 children moved into a home that had just been renovated, he was given the materials he needed to get a move on turning the images in his head into something more concrete.

“They had done some painting and there was a bunch of house paint leftover, and I thought, ‘gee, that could make me the right kind of colours that I can use,’” Tiljoe said. “So, I painted a picture.”

A far cry from the artists’ paints he uses today, he acknowledged, but even then people were telling him how beautiful it was. Unfortunately, that picture, and the rest of his earlier works were destroyed in a house fire, but after that his family has been great in supplying him with an easel, paint, and whatever else he needed to get going again.

“I love this [his art], because it shows him, and his past,” daughter Marion Shepherd said. “He does some really neat things.”

Most of his paintings, which focus on outdoor scenery, comes from his early childhood, he said. Before he went to school he and his father would spend the winter on the trap line, and in the summer they’d head to the mountains to hunt caribou and goats. That was around 1953, and it’s incredible the sights you’d see, he said, as the sun rose over the camp. In the summer’s, they’d never use a tent, sleeping in the underbrush with nothing between them and the sunrise and sunsets.

“I loved the alpine and the mountains,” Tiljoe said. “You could see the beautiful scenery, and that sort of stuck with me.”

His culture played a large role in it too, he said, who was handed the chief name LahDealYea as a six-year-old boy. Currently a wing chief with the Gitdumden clan, the spirituality of their nation really came out in their feast system, where you see how people have lived before the explorers came, Tiljoe said.

“Most of my art is scenery as I remember it,” Tiljoe said, whose mediums include paint, glass etching, and the canvas of traditional drums.

His first art show also commemorates his 75th birthday, Shepherd said, who even after years of her father painting, noted that a lot of people still seemed surprised to hear that he was an artist.

With that in mind, she put together this art show that she hopes will show his home community, and everyone who knows him, what he’s capable of and the amazing creations he’s made.

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