National Indigenous Peoples Day – Honouring Our First Nations in Canada

On June 21st, National Indigenous Peoples Day, we come together to acknowledge and celebrate the rich history, heritage, resilience, and diversity of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples across Canada. As someone who grew up on Vancouver Island, I am particularly aware of the presence of 50 First Nations within three distinct tribal regions: Coast Salish, Nuu chah nulth, and Kwakiutl. These nations are the original inhabitants of Vancouver Island, and you can explore their territories through this interactive map.

The 50 First Nations of Vancouver Island.

During my childhood in the community of Sooke, located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, I was immersed in the Coast Salish culture. Our home was just a short walk away from a reservation on the ocean, nestled up a long hill beyond a pasture of horses and a weather station. Many of my childhood friends and classmates either belonged to this reservation or traveled a long distance by bus (over an hour) from the reservation in Port Renfrew, which we affectionately called “Renfrew.” In those formative years, Indigenous elders visited our elementary school to teach us about their vibrant culture. I have vivid memories of learning to harvest kelp and seaweed on the rocky Whiffen Spit beach, where we would make Seaweed Soup over an open fire. Our classroom discussions often revolved around spirit animals, and I can still recall the excitement of live owls being brought in for educational purposes. As a child, I found myself captivated by this fascinating culture, and I even received a certificate upon completing my first “Nitinaht Culture Course” from a man named Randy Chipps, whose infectious smile I can still faintly remember.

National Indigenous Peoples Day

Certificate Nitinaht Culture Course, 1980

Growing up in Sooke, BC, meant a life intertwined with the natural wonders that surrounded us. Beachcombing, hiking, swimming in the Potholes, and exploring the old growth forests were regular activities. In the summer, we would harvest wild blackberries and sell them through the kitchen window to the chef at our local luxury west coast hotel, The Sooke Harbour House, which was merely a mile down the road. Building houses on the beach out of driftwood and spending hours skipping rocks at the Sooke River potholes were cherished pastimes. During our hikes, encounters with deer, black bears, and cougars were commonplace, yet we never felt afraid. It was simply part of the rhythm of life. It comes as no surprise that the art I created as a child was heavily influenced by these experiences, reflecting the blend of British, Ukrainian, and Canadian backgrounds that shaped my identity.

National Indigenous Peoples Day

Drawing, 4 years old, Brandy Saturley

National Indigenous Peoples Day – A Tapestry of Family Connections

I was born in Victoria, British Columbia, often referred to as the Harbour City and City of Gardens. However, it is important to acknowledge that it is also one of the whitest places in Canada. In Greater Victoria, nearly three-quarters of the population is of white European descent, with British (31.4%), Scottish (23.6%), and Irish (18.4%) backgrounds comprising the largest ethnic/cultural origins. German (12.3%) and Canadian (11%) identities follow closely. In 2021, 34.4% of the population in British Columbia identified as members of a visible minority group, whereas in Greater Victoria, this figure was 16.7%.

I had a close uncle who dedicated his career to social work in BC and served as the superintendent of social services for what was then known as “Indian Affairs.” He was one of the individuals working tirelessly to support communities across BC, residing on various reservations and even adopting a daughter born in the Haida Gwaii area of BC. Eventually, he helped her reconnect with her birth family. With a Native cousin from Haida Gwaii and a Métis niece, I felt that I had a deeper understanding of their cultures compared to many of my Canadian friends at the time. As a second-generation Vancouver Islander, I have often referred to my family as natives of Vancouver Island, despite not having “Native blood.”

National Indigenous Peoples Day

Painting, 8 years old, Brandy Saturley.

With the arrival of Canada150 and the subsequent conversations surrounding colonialism, I found myself compelled to reflect on my childhood and my connections to Indigenous culture. The pandemic has forced us all to examine ourselves under a magnifying glass and consider our interactions with one another. It has sparked new understandings of cultures, humanity, and the ongoing process of reconciliation in Canada. Humanity, as a whole, has been yearning to become more compassionate and understanding. Asserting our individuality is a cry for recognition, but once we have voiced our truths, it is crucial to prioritize peace, respect, understanding, and self-reflection.

As I delved deeper into learning about my Indigenous relatives, I also found a renewed interest in exploring my Ukrainian and British cultural heritage. Consequently, my recent paintings have become more influenced by multicultural perspectives, reflecting my evolving outlook on life.

National Indigenous Peoples Day

Paintings reflecting the Canadian-Ukrainian experience – Brandy Saturley, 2023

My Top 10 Favorite Indigenous Canadian Artists

Over the years, numerous Indigenous Canadian artists have ignited a fire within me through their incredible work. Here are ten Indigenous artists you should know about:

1.Kent Monkman
Kent Monkman









2. Terry McCue

National Indigenous Peoples Day
















3. Jane Ash Poitras

4. Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun

National Indigenous Peoples Day

5. Norval Morrisseau

6. Rebecca Belmore

7. Christi Belcourt

8. Roy Henry Vickers

9. Susan Point



Natural Affinities: Lawren Harris and Rockwell Kent

As a Canadian artist deeply connected to the rugged beauty of my homeland, I find myself inexorably drawn to the works of Lawren Harris and Rockwell Kent. The artistry of these two painters has had a profound influence on my own creative journey, inspiring and shaping my unique painting style. Harris’s ability to distill the essence of Canadian landscapes into mystical abstractions resonates with my soul, while Kent’s romantic realism kindles a sense of longing for untouched wilderness. While they may have worked in different styles and contexts, their works share striking similarities, revealing natural affinities between the two painters. In this blog post, we will delve into the artistic journeys of Harris and Kent, examining their contrasting styles and analyzing the common threads that bind their masterpieces.

Art has the extraordinary power to capture the essence of the world and transport viewers to different realms. In the realm of landscape painting, Lawren Harris and Rockwell Kent stand as giants, each leaving an indelible mark on the art world.

Lawren Harris: Mystical Abstractions

Lawren Harris, a prominent member of the Group of Seven, was renowned for his abstract and spiritual interpretations of the Canadian landscape. His paintings often depicted rugged mountains, icy glaciers, and vast stretches of untouched wilderness. Harris possessed an uncanny ability to distill nature’s raw power and transform it into something ethereal.

Harris’s works, such as “North Shore, Lake Superior” and “Mount Lefroy,” showcased his affinity for simplicity and abstraction. He employed bold lines, geometric shapes, and a restricted color palette to capture the essence of the subject matter. The resulting images exuded a sense of serenity and mysticism, evoking a profound emotional response from viewers.

Lawren Harris and Rockwell Kent

North Shore, Lake Superior – Lawren Harris 1926

Rockwell Kent: Realism with a Romantic Touch

Rockwell Kent, on the other hand, was an American artist whose paintings encompassed both realistic and romantic elements. His artistic journey led him to various locales, including Alaska, Greenland, and Newfoundland, which greatly influenced his subject matter. Kent’s works portrayed expansive landscapes, seascapes, and the human figure against majestic natural backdrops.

Kent’s paintings, such as “Moonlight, Winter” and “Monhegan Night,” captivated audiences with their meticulous attention to detail. His command over light and shadow, combined with a rich color palette, brought his scenes to life. Kent’s romantic sensibilities infused his work with a touch of nostalgia, inviting viewers to contemplate the vastness and beauty of the natural world.

Lawren Harris and Rockwell Kent

Moonlight Winter – Rockwell Kent 1940

Natural Affinities and Common Threads

Despite the differences in their styles and geographical influences, Lawren Harris and Rockwell Kent’s works reveal surprising commonalities, suggesting a natural affinity between the two painters.

Both artists shared a deep reverence for nature and sought to capture its sublime qualities. Harris and Kent depicted landscapes that inspired awe and contemplation, inviting viewers to connect with the grandeur of the natural world. Their paintings transported viewers to remote and untouched locations, offering a respite from the modern world’s hustle and bustle. They both also embraced a sense of spirituality in their work. Harris’s abstract compositions and Kent’s romanticized scenes transcended the physical realm, hinting at something greater and more profound. Whether through Harris’s simplified shapes or Kent’s ethereal lighting, both artists infused their works with a spiritual dimension, elevating the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Harris and Kent possessed a keen eye for composition. Harris’s bold lines and geometric forms provided structure and harmony to his landscapes, while Kent’s meticulous attention to detail created balanced and visually captivating scenes. Both artists had an innate ability to arrange elements within the frame, leading the viewer’s eye and creating a sense of visual poetry.

Lawren Harris and Rockwell Kent

Where Icebergs Roam Free – Brandy Saturley 2016

Lawren Harris and Rockwell Kent, despite their unique styles and influences, shared a remarkable bond through their artistic explorations of the natural world. Harris’s mystical abstractions and Kent’s romantic realism offer distinct but complementary perspectives on the power and beauty of nature. Their works elevate the landscape to a spiritual experience, where nature becomes a source of awe and contemplation. Through their mastery of composition, use of color, and ability to capture the sublime, Harris and Kent have left an indelible mark on the art world. Their legacies continue to inspire artists, like myself, to seek the inherent beauty and spirituality in the natural world and share it with audiences worldwide.

Riopelle is overrated, and why I love the abstract paintings of John Kissick

We all know Art is subjective, and each person has their own taste when it comes to the art they appreciate. However, some artists have gained a reputation that goes beyond their actual merit. One such artist in my mind is Jean-Paul Riopelle. Although he is considered a master of abstract art, I believe that his paintings are overrated. In contrast, John Kissick’s abstract paintings are stronger and more deserving of attention. Overrated Art: Riopelle vs. Kissick in this post, I will quantify my opinion on both artists and explain why I think Kissick is a better abstract painter than Riopelle.

Overrated Art: The Riopelle painting itself felt like a giant shadow hovering

I remember the first time I experienced a Jean-Paul Riopelle painting up close. It was when I walked into the home of an art collector of my work, only to be greeted by an immense Riopelle on the entry wall. The size was impressive, though the painting itself felt like a giant shadow hovering over me, it was not a welcoming experience. Further into their home, an entire room dedicated to small works by Riopelle, while less daunting, certainly not something that stirred my soul. Riopelle was a Canadian artist who became famous in the mid-20th century. He was part of the Automatistes movement, which was a group of artists who aimed to create art that was free from rational thought and conventional techniques. Riopelle’s paintings were characterized by large, bold strokes of color, often applied with a palette knife or trowel. His style was influential in the abstract expressionism movement, and he is considered one of Canada’s most important artists. However, despite his reputation, I believe that his paintings are overrated, compositions muddy and depressing.

Overrated Art: Riopelle vs. Kissick

Forestine, 1954 by Jean-Paul Riopelle

Riopelle’s paintings are flat and lack the layering and texture that can make abstract art truly engaging. While his works are visually striking, they do not offer much in terms of emotional or intellectual engagement. Riopelle’s paintings are often compared to landscapes, and while they do have a sense of space and movement, they lack the complexity and depth of a true landscape. Another reason why I think Riopelle’s paintings are overrated is that they lack originality. While he was part of a movement that aimed to break free from conventional techniques, Riopelle’s paintings feel formulaic. They are all variations on a theme, with the same bold strokes of color applied in the same way. There is no sense of experimentation or risk-taking in his work. Riopelle’s paintings feel safe and predictable, which is not what you would expect from an artist who was part of a movement that aimed to push boundaries.

Overrated Art: Riopelle vs. Kissick

Pavane 1954, by Jean-Paul Riopelle

With Kissick my heart and mind were set ablaze.

I remember the first time I encountered the paintings of John Kissick. I attended the solo exhibition of his works at the Kelowna Art Gallery in 2011, the show titled, ‘A Nervous Decade’. I remember walking into the room and for the first time really connecting to an abstract painting. There was depth, dimension, colour, and movement in these pieces. I was feeling a range of emotions, and my heart and mind were set ablaze. In contrast, John Kissick’s abstract paintings are stronger and more deserving of attention. Kissick is a contemporary Canadian artist who has been working in the field of abstract art for over 30 years. His paintings are characterized by a sense of movement and depth, with layers of color and texture that draw the viewer in. Kissick’s work is original and experimental, with each painting offering something new and unexpected.

Overrated Art: Riopelle vs. Kissick

A Nervous Decade, John Kissick, Kelowna Art Gallery 2011

One reason why Kissick’s paintings are stronger than Riopelle’s is that they offer more depth and complexity. Kissick’s paintings are not just visually striking, but they also offer an emotional and intellectual engagement. Kissick’s paintings are not just about the surface; they invite the viewer to explore the layers beneath. Another reason why Kissick’s paintings are stronger than Riopelle’s is that they are more original. While Kissick’s work is rooted in the tradition of abstract art, he takes risks and experiments with new techniques and approaches. His paintings are not formulaic; each one is unique and offers something new. Kissick’s work is unpredictable and surprising, which is what you would expect from an artist who is pushing the boundaries of the genre.

Overrated Art: Riopelle vs. Kissick

John Kissick: Groovefucker, MAR 25, 2011 – MAY 05, 2011 Berlin, Germany

In conclusion, while Jean-Paul Riopelle is considered a master of abstract art, I believe that his paintings are overrated. They lack depth and originality, and while they are visually striking, they do not offer much in terms of emotional or intellectual engagement. On the other hand, John Kissick’s abstract paintings are stronger and more deserving of attention. As a Canadian artist, I recognize the importance of both artists work to the genre of abstract painting and putting Canadian Art on the International Art scene. For my art collection, I would put my art investment dollars into an original John Kissick painting. I want to dive into his paintings and swim around for a while, that’s how much they move me.

The benefits of investing in original Canadian art.