Always learning
"I drew on anything. But it was gum wrappers that I used the most." - Germaine Arnaktauyok

by Janet Smellie
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 011/96) - Germaine Arnaktauyok's career has taken her to all corners of the world. Next on the list is a show in Winnipeg.

Arnaktauyok has worked as a print-maker and illustrator in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Iqaluit and Yellowknife.

She has produced more than 30 children's books, featuring her illustrations. Her travels have taken her as far as Israel, to design a poster for El Al Airlines, and Japan, where C.W. Nicol's The Raven's Tale, a book she illustrated, was translated into Japanese.

"I used to love flying, but now I don't enjoy it so much. Always in the air -- I always can't wait to get home."

Her latest project as an illustrator was Dogsled for Moshi, a children's book by Jeanne Bushey now being made into a Disney cartoon.

"I like illustrating and working with books to help children," Arnaktauyok says, adding that most of her work comes from Inuit legends recorded in the early 1920s.

"I read a lot. That's where I get my ideas. When I read I see things as they were happening. I'm always learning the more I read. It's hard to explain, but it works."

Where the Babies Come From, an original pen-and-ink drawing she sold to a family in B.C., is one example Arnaktauyok offers of how her readings have come to life in her work.

"It has to do with a legend in which people had to travel far to find a baby. They were grown like vegetables in the ground. Girls were easier to find, but if you wanted a boy, you had to go great distances."

Born in Igloolik only to be whisked off to Chesterfield Inlet to attend residential school, Arnaktauyok says she remembers drawing on chewing-gum wrappers.

"I drew on anything. But it was gum wrappers that I used the most. I'll never forget the Wrigley gum."

While she says she has been able to afford a house in Yellowknife, Arnaktauyok still works occasionally for the Department of Education "just to get those regular paycheques."

Her work there includes translation and illustrating textbooks.

"I always try to find the funny stories, not the serious ones, because I think kids need to have fun. I helped with this book that's used as a Grade 1 reader. It was a very exciting project."

Her upcoming show at the Winnipeg Gallery is scheduled for the spring.