Kenojuak Ashevak’s print of The Enchanted Owl, 1960

Kenojuak Ashevak’s print of The Enchanted Owl, 1960

Kenojuak Ashevak (1927-)

1979.10.1
© Reproduced with the permission of the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative, Cape Dorset, Nunavut


"I have been drawing a long time…. At first, when I started drawing, I used just a black pencil and smaller paper than now…. Sometimes when I put the paper down to draw, for a long time I leave it there trying to think of what I'm going to make. I always think maybe it will be better this way – or that it will be better that way. And sometimes when I really get stuck, I just go ahead and draw. A lot of times, I don't make what is in my head because, as I go along, it even gets better. Maybe a lot of the artists are like me. They get stuck, and as they go along, it just comes."1

"I have been drawing a long time…. At first, when I started drawing, I used just a black pencil and smaller paper than now…. Sometimes when I put the paper down to draw, for a long time I leave it there trying to think of what I'm going to make. I always think maybe it will be better this way – or that it will be better that way. And sometimes when I really get stuck, I just go ahead and draw. A lot of times, I don't make what is in my head because, as I go along, it even gets better. Maybe a lot of the artists are like me. They get stuck, and as they go along, it just comes."1

1 Marion Jackson and Elda Ward, Dorset 78: Cape Dorset Annual Graphics Collection 1978 (Toronto: M.F. Feheley Publishers, 1978) 51.


© 1978, M.F. Feheley Publishers. All Rights Reserved.

Seemingly her most popular print, The Enchanted Owl exemplifies Kenojuak Ashevak’s graphic art: the simplification and uniqueness of form, strong composition, and vivid colour. The bird form is a recurring image, and one that Ashevak particularly favours; despite connections to traditional Inuit narrative and mythology, she just tries to "make something beautiful, that's all."

Seemingly her most popular print, The Enchanted Owl exemplifies Kenojuak Ashevak’s graphic art: the simplification and uniqueness of form, strong composition, and vivid colour. The bird form is a recurring image, and one that Ashevak particularly favours; despite connections to traditional Inuit narrative and mythology, she just tries to "make something beautiful, that's all."


© 2006, McMichael Canadian Art Collection. All Rights Reserved.

Kenojuak Ashevak engraving on a metal plate, 1968

Kenojuak Ashevak engraving on a metal plate, 1968

Photo by/Gift of Norman E. Hallendy

© 2006, McMichael Canadian Art Collection Archives. All Rights Reserved.


[O]ne of the first women to engage herself in the new arts projects in the late 1950s, Kenojuak [Ashevak] has been a sculptor and graphic artist for more than [thirty] years and is today one of the most widely recognized living Inuit artists.

Kenojuak Ashevak spent her early years living on the land following the traditional Inuit lifestyle. She was born at Ikirashaq and grew up travelling from camp to camp on South Baffin Island and, for a short period, in Arctic Quebec. As a very young woman, Kenojuak was married to [artist] Johnniebo Ashevak [and together] in the late 1950s at Keatuk [they] began to carve and draw. [Husband and wife] moved to Cape Dorset in 1966 and continued to work closely together until Johnniebo's death in 1972.

Kenojuak Ashevak's move to Cape Dorset opened the door to an important adventure. She has been one of the major contributors to the Cape DorsetCape Dorset print collections issued since 1959. She continues to be very active in the arts and is [continuously] exploring new themes and stylistic possibilities.1

[O]ne of the first women to engage herself in the new arts projects in the late 1950s, Kenojuak [Ashevak] has been a sculptor and graphic artist for more than [thirty] years and is today one of the most widely recognized living Inuit artists.

Kenojuak Ashevak spent her early years living on the land following the traditional Inuit lifestyle. She was born at Ikirashaq and grew up travelling from camp to camp on South Baffin Island and, for a short period, in Arctic Quebec. As a very young woman, Kenojuak was married to [artist] Johnniebo Ashevak [and together] in the late 1950s at Keatuk [they] began to carve and draw. [Husband and wife] moved to Cape Dorset in 1966 and continued to work closely together until Johnniebo's death in 1972.

Kenojuak Ashevak's move to Cape Dorset opened the door to an important adventure. She has been one of the major contributors to the Cape DorsetCape Dorset print collections issued since 1959. She continues to be very active in the arts and is [continuously] exploring new themes and stylistic possibilities.1

1“Kenojuak Ashevak,” in Inuit Women Artists: Voices from Cape Dorset, Odette Leroux, Marion E. Jackson and Minnie Aodla Freeman, eds. Copyright © (Hull: Canadian Museum of Civilization. Published by Douglas & McIntyre Ltd. 1994) 94.


© 1994, Canadian Museum of Civilization. All Rights Reserved.

A demonstration of the printmaking process. Fom: "Eskimo Artist: Kenojuak" Artists at Work, 1987

In the past we've carved in stone, and drawn on ivory. But this is a new idea. A piece of paper from the outside world, as thin as the shell of a snowbird's egg.

National Film Board of Canada/National Gallery of Canada

© 1987, NFB/National Gallery of Canada. All rights reserved.


Learning Objectives

Kenojuak Ashevak The Enchanted Owl Learning Object is designed for students and educators to meet the following objectives:

  • Learn about the artist and her contribution to Canadian art;
  • Explore themes in Canadian history and cultural heritage;
  • Establish links between art and cultural identity;
  • Learn about a type of Canadian art - Inuit art, and demonstrate knowledge in the art of other cultures, nations, and groups;
  • Identify, research, and describe visual characteristics and themes found in Canadian and other cultures’ art;
  • Demonstrate an understanding that the function of art may vary from culture to culture;
  • Discuss and analyze a work of art using principles of design and other artistic terminology, and classify a work of art by period, style, and subject matter; and
  • Identify the skills required in various visual arts and art-related careers.

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