A different kind of art
Respected Baker Lake artist transferring images onto steel

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

BAKER LAKE (Apr 15/98) - Simon Tookoome is an artist who doesn't like to sit around and do nothing.

The Baker Lake artist, who has been respected for his pencil drawings since the 1970s, recently started sending his work south so that recreations could be transferred to painted steel by laser.

The only known artist doing this kind of work in the NWT, Tookoome said he jumped at the chance to travel to Regina, Sask., last October for two weeks to learn the art from Joe Fafard.

"The former owner of Baker Lake fine arts, Marie Bouchard, thought I would be a good candidate," said Tookoome.

His first collection includes 50 pieces, 30 small and 20 large, with three in each set. Each design has a story or a legend about Inuit culture to go with it and all are cut into painted black steel by laser.

Despite the change in medium, the stories are still a strong force in his art, according to Tookoome, who started drawing to communicate a message in the early 1970s.

"I wanted young people to know what life was like (before)," he said. "Also for the southerners -- so they could understand Inuit life and maybe bridge the gap between the two (cultures)."

Now 63, the father of 10 who moved to Baker Lake from the Gjoa Haven area as a teenager said he has grown a great deal as an artist since his first sketch in 1971.

This is due in part, to his need to learn. Always keen to discover new techniques, he is also interested in learning how to cut with lasers so that he doesn't have to send his work to Edmonton.

"That would be my favorite," he said.

Tookoome hopes to get more money from the NWT Arts Council to travel to Regina again and study under Fafard.

"If I could get more money, I would go back ... to do more work," he said. "I've seen lots of different artwork, but nothing like this."

But for now, Tookoome looks forward to the summer, when he plans to carve outside and maybe start a wall hanging. He doesn't know what kind of art form it will be yet, and it doesn't matter. Whatever keeps him busy.

"I don't like to sit around and do nothing -- I have to do something all the time," he said.

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