Johnny Pootoogook

Johnny was born in the hospital in Iqaluit and has lived his entire life in Cape Dorset. His father, the internationally acclaimed graphic artist and sculptor Kananginak Pootoogook has had a tremendous impact on Johnny as an artist. In 1991, Johnny began creating both drawings and sculptures. Johnny says he learned to draw when he attended a seminar that his father taught at the local co-op. Although he is a self-taught carver, Johnny learned a lot by watching his father carve. The artist whose work he admires most is his father’s, but Johnny admits, “I don’t think I have ever liked at anyone else’s art [in the community]”. Johnny began carving when he was 14 years old. Although Johnny could recall a childhood memory in which he “finished” a carving of a beluga whale that his father had started for him, he did not begin carving seriously until 1991.

At the time of our interview, Johnny liked to carve inuksuit (traditional Inuit land markers) or polar bears, and he worked at carving every other day. Johnny takes great pride in his work and believes that Inuit art is important for “expressing [Inuit] life.” Johnny feels that the key to good carving is to take “…more time and effort. I think my carvings are slightly different [from other people’s carving] because of the time taken on them. I try to have more details in my work and I try to get stone that looks like what I want to carve.”


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