Born in Chibougamau and raised in Chapais by his adoptive parents Harry and Laura Whiskeychan, Tim Whiskeychan eventually settled in Waskaganish. Art has been important to him from the time he was a child: Crayons were his favourite present. “My dad said I sometimes slept with my colouring crayons and colouring books. I loved to colour so much, I would pass out – fall asleep – colouring. And even today, I'm so into my art, I loose all track of time.”
Both parents were creative: Tim's mother Laura was an accomplished beadworker; his father Harry was renowned for his tamarack geese decoys. And both were a great source of inspiration. “Many times I was inspired by my late dad, who was a great person and mentor, and who encouraged me to follow my dreams. He would say, 'Keep on painting, son. You will see someday how far you will go.' To this day I am blessed to have been his son.”
Encouraged by his parents and school teachers, Tim went on to study fine arts at Cambrian College in Sudbury, Ontario. His favourite medium is acrylic painting because, as he explains, “it dries fast and doesn't smell. And the airbrush is one of the tools I like using for getting realistic effects, nice gradient effects – clouds, sun rays....” He also paints with watercolour; and does stained glass, collage and etchings; and designs metal sculptures made with sheets of cut steel.
Tim finds inspiration in the peace and tranquillity of the land. “The fresh air completely clears my mind,” he said. But to produce his best work, he feels he needs to explore the world and its many cultures. Once inspired, he works at a painting until it tells him it is finished.
While Tim likes to paint landscapes, what he finds most gratifying is using his skills as an artist to help his community: “At one point in my own life, when I was at my lowest, a person asked me to do a painting of a loved one who had passed away. This made me realize that I had an important role to play in the community. It's not just portraits of loved ones, but I can also do paintings to help charities raise money for good causes.”
Tim's contribution to the public good is probably best exemplified by the large sculpture – a memorial – he created, in collaboration with sculptor Robert Nepveu, in recognition of the people whose lands were flooded by the Eastmain-1 hydro-electric project. And by the plaque Tim produced, also with Robert Nepveu, in homage to the late Tommy Neeposh, whose lands were destroyed by the Rupert River diversion hydro-electric project.
Examples of Tim's work have been given to such dignitaries as Matthew Coon Come, former chief of the Assembly of First Nations and grand chief of the Crees of northern Quebec, and to the federal minister of health. He has also exhibited his work in group shows at the regional, provincial, national and international level. “I haven't had a major solo yet,” he said. “And I haven't shown my works in major galleries, either. But I'm looking forward to it.”
Just as he was encouraged to pursue his art, Tim is passing on his knowledge in his capacity as vice-president of the Cree Native Arts and Crafts Association. “As for the future, I'm never going to stop painting because I paint for the love of painting and not for the love of money,” he said.
Learn more about Tim at: www.creetourism.ca