You wouldn’t know it by looking at his work, but Blake Angeconeb got a late start in painting.
Growing up, Angeconeb didn’t have an interest in art, and never took any art classes.
One afternoon, he painted a Hello Kitty with his niece and immediately felt relaxed and impressed with having created something. Now, Angeconeb, 32, is going all-in on a career in art.
When he started painting at the age of 23, he felt his work looked like that of a “little kid” but took great comfort in it.
“I find art is very relaxing for me. It was almost like medicine, the moment I started doing it, my anxiety would go away,” says Angeconeb on Face to Face.
Last year, Angeconeb quit his job to focus on painting, something he admits he didn’t tell his mom for a few weeks, but his career is picking up momentum and his parents are big supporters.
Angeconeb’s art often blends traditional Woodlands art with pop culture references like Star Wars or characters from Super Mario Bros.
Renowned Indian Group of Seven artist Norval Morriseau is a huge influence on Angeconeb and his work.
“He was the artist I really dove into and learned, going to the library and reading books about him. Searching online, just really respecting and enjoying his art,” says Angeconeb.
“That’s what I do with mine, I just try to make stuff that people enjoy and makes them feel good. That’s the best when someone will message me and say that painting made my day. Just by looking at a picture. Spreading that good medicine. Anything that can uplift and make someone feel better is the main goal with my art. And that’s what I got from Norval’s art when I saw it.”
Angeconeb, who is a member of Lac Seul First Nation in northern Ontario, often incorporates humour in his work.
“Some days, I’ll have a serious painting on the go and then I’ll do a couple of those and I just feel like I need a reset. So, I’ll do something that will be kind of fun and that the youth will like as well. That’s been a big thing too.
“If a youth sees a painting and it has something they can relate to, it might draw them into the art more and then start appreciating the art around it and where it’s coming from,” says Angeconeb who adds he often hears from teachers and students inspired by his work.
While the art, including pop culture references, garners a lot of attention, it’s the more traditional art that Angeconeb is looking to focus on.
“That’s the stuff that I really, really enjoy doing. That’s the work I take the most pride in. That’s where I want my direction, that’s where I want all of my art to go in,” says Angeconeb.
“It’s been fun having pop culture references and stuff because that’s gotten me a lot of exposure. When someone shares something on Facebook or Instagram, it’s almost like a meme, right, it goes viral because someone thinks its funny or something but I want my art to be, not like that.”
Most recently, Angeconeb has partnered with Buffy Sainte-Marie and the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund to create Paddling on Both Sides.
It’s all still pretty surreal for Angeconeb who says one year ago, he was painting a picture of Buffy Sainte-Marie and now he’s collaborating with her.