The main traditional colors of Northwest Indian art are
black and red. Black is the primary color used in the formline which is
the outline for the body of the subject. The formline is discussed
further in the article about the shapes
of Northwest Indian art. Although Native artists use
commercial paint these days, black color was derived from charcoal,
graphite or lignite coal in the old days.
The secondary elements of the subject are usually painted red. Red colors were derived from red ochre and hematite minerals before the days of paint.
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Many pieces of Northwest Indian art use only these two colors to achieve that characteristic Northwest Native look. A fine example is the raven and bear carving below left by Albert Joseph of the Squamish First Nation.
---Northwest Indian Art -------- Northwest Indian Art
------------ Raven & Bear Carving -------- Bald Eagle Carving ------------
course, many Northwest Native artists also use additional colors to add
final touches to their artwork. A tertiary color often used as a filler
is blue-green where the shades can range from pure blue all the way to
pure green. This was an influence from the Northwest Native artists
from the northern regions of the Pacific Northwest.
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In the past, black was painted first, then red and any tertiary colors came last. In many instances, black and red colors were painted on wood before any carving was started since these two colors were usually put on the plane surface of the piece. Any tertiary colors like blue-green, yellow or white were added in after carving. This method was thought to be more practical for the artist. However, most Northwest Native artists today carve first and paint later. Clear shoe polish or oil is then applied to carvings to give an extra shine to the surfaces.
Northwest Indian artists are producing some stunning artwork these days. Imagine such a piece displayed in your home. See Northwest Indian art carvings or Northwest Indian art prints at very affordable online prices at Free Spirit Gallery.
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