Learning by Designing Pacific Northwest Coast Native Indian Art, Volume 2

Raven Publishing Inc.

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By Jim Gilbert and Karin Clark

  • Learn by designing Pacific Northwest Coast native formline art with this comprehensive guide book (a companion book to Volume 1).
  • Plan out traditional formline drawings and create meaningful, original designs.
  • Save hours of researching online with well-researched cultural background information and regional art-style comparisons.
  • Beginner to expert, find something for everyone!  
  • Make it easy with step-by-step, clear, concise directions and detailed illustrations.
  • Meet your curriculum expectations beautifully, with history and applied design techniques, if you're a teacher.
  • Feel confident in respectful content. Our books have been vetted and recommended for accuracy and respectful tone by First Nations artists, educators, and community members.



“Volume 2 continues to the be a helpful resource for budding artists and a worthy addition to the bookshelf of any Northwest Coast artist."

— Andy Everson, Comox First Nations Artist/Anthropologist. Comox, B.C.

Learning by Designing Pacific Northwest Coast Native Indian Art, Volume 2 is a very thorough, well-researched book that will be of great value to anyone interested in learning more about Northwest Coast First Nations art. The design terminology is straightforward, well explained, and easy to understand. Especially valuable is the separation and consistent identification of different coastal styles: Northern, Mid-coast, ‘west coast,’ and southern coast. This clearly denotes these divergent individual traditions and credits these regions and First Nations with their unique historical design contributions.

— Steve Brown, Author/Artist, Former Curator of Native American Art, Seattle Art Museum. Seattle, Washington.


“I am even more impressed with this volume than the last. It offers so many new tools and insights that allow one to create imaginative and lively designs that incorporate the numerous elements of the art form. The carver in me got really excited at what I found … The patters are beautiful and the combinations almost endless.

— F. (Bill) Judt, relief carver, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.


“There is so much information packed into this extremely well-written and exhaustively researched second volume, I found myself reading many pages twice, just to make sure that I had absorbed all of the fascinating text … Kudos to Karin Clark and the late Jim Gilbert, whose tireless efforts and endless research have resulted in two classic volumes which are surely destined to find their way as valued additions to libraries, schools, cultural institutions and other places of learning throughout North America.

— Reg Ashwell, Freelance writer and Northwest Coast art dealer and collector, Vancouver Island, British Columbia



  • This companion manual to Volume 1 puts First Nations Northwest Coast art into deeper cultural context, providing indigenous philosophy, knowledge, and skills foundation, a code of ethics, and interviews with First Nations community members Ruth Cook, George Cook, Nella Nelson, and Wedlidi Speck, as well as some aspects of historical context and a description of the Potlatch.
  • A full colour, 16-page creation story with 20 designs is included.
  • Additional topics include contemporary design evolution with 50 examples, 20 designs to draw and paint, and a Quick Reference Chart containing over 100 designs.
  • Volume 2 was first published in 2002 and reprinted in 2007 and 2017. It has sold over 15,000 copies to date.


    Table of Contents


    About the Authors




    Overview of Learning by Designing

    Building on a First Nations Foundation

    Traditional First Nations Code of Ethics

    Twelve Principles of Aboriginal Philosophy

    First Nations Knowledge and Skills Foundation

    Four Worlds Colour Section

    Aboriginal Art within a Cultural Context

    Talking with one contemporary First Nations Family

    Ruth Cook

    George Cook

    Nella Nelson

    Wedlidi Speck

    Introduction to Design


    Evolution and Formation of Design Shapes

    Evolution of the Ovoid - The Salmon Egg/Salmon Head Theory

    Two-Dimensional Design Styles

    Semi-Realistic Design Styles

    Extended and Rearranged Design Styles

    Myth Interpretation /Reading a Rearranged Design

    Reading a Two-Dimensional Design

    Overlapping - Depth and Perspective

    Perspective - Birds Wings and Tails

    The Elements - Rain, Clouds, Snow, Water, Ocean

    Trees and Coastal Islands

    Painting and Colours

    Basketry Designs - Geometric, Decorative, Animal, Woven or Painted

    Decorated Garments

    Decorative Garments - Button and Applique

    Contemporary Garments

    Culture & Art Style Regions of the Pacific Northwest Coast

    Map: Four Major Art Style Regions of the Pacific Northwest Coast

    Full Designs in the Style of the Four Art Areas

    North Coast Designs




    Killer Whale


    Mid Coast Designs




    Killer Whale


    South Coast Designs




    Killer Whale


    West Coast of Vancouver Island Designs




    Killer Whale


    Summary Chart

    Quick Reference Charts






    Mythological Creatures

    Natural Elements and Heavenly Bodies

    Sea Creatures


    Appendix A: Some Aspects of History of the Coastal First Peoples

    Appendix B: The Potlatch





    About the Authors

    Karin Clark, M.Ed. - Writer/teacher/artist Karin Clark has had over 35 years’ experience working with children and adults. Most of this time has been spent learning and teaching with British Columbia’s First Nations in public and private schools, colleges, art classes, aboriginal/social studies courses, and university teacher education programs.

    With a primary focus on building bridges of understanding among cultures, Karin has written and published books that highlight and appreciate the varied and rich cultures of the NWPC indigenous peoples as well as how to draw, paint and carve in the artistic styles of the Pacific Northwest Coast First Nations.

    In her first book, Learning by Doing Northwest Coast Native Indian Art, co-authored with Jim Gilbert, she used her experiences and training in special and cultural education to produce an easy-to-follow, beginners’ skill development curriculum designed to foster respect for First Nations culture through art.

    Karin spends her work time evaluating teaching/learning strategies and materials, creating curriculum material, writing story books and readers, and using frameworks to create First Nations language programs. She creates material and workshops to: enhance self-esteem and motivation; create Native Indian art; learn and teach using the Cognitive Education Method’s (CEM) 6 keys to success; identify and explore personal learning styles and strategies; identify, strengthen, and remediate thinking skills and strategies; train instructors, paraprofessionals, and curriculum developers; and design flyers and brochures.

    In writing Learning by Designing Pacific Northwest Coast Native Indian Art Volume 1 and Volume 2 and Learning by Doing Northwest Coast Native Indian Art with Jim, Karin has been able to use all her skills and experience to create useful resources for artists, students, teachers, and collectors.

    Jim Gilbert, B.A. - Jim Gilbert, B.A.

    April 8, 1932 - November 14, 2000

    Jim was trained under a traditional Kwagulth art apprenticeship with the Hunt family of Victoria. He worked with and for master carver, Tony Hunt Sr., learned the basics from master carver, Henry Hunt, and felt privileged to have danced at Henry's funeral potlatch.

    Tony Hunt Sr. praised Learning by Designing Pacific Northwest Coast Native Indian Art, Volume 1:

     “This book provides valuable information about the complex variations of Northwest Coast designs. It is well researched and all artists should benefit from this information. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK. Congratulations.” - Chief Tony Hunt Mupin Kim - Klah Kwa Tzee Four Times Chief/Big Copper - Kwagulth Master Carver and Artist.  Tsaxis/Victoria, B.C. 

    Jim was a versatile and award-winning artist in both traditional and contemporary styles. Over the years, Jim was commissioned by a number of First Nations communities to produce carvings and silver jewellery to be used for ceremonial activities.

    For thirty years, Jim was an active artist working mainly in the art form of the Pacific Northwest Coast First Nations. He worked in most coastal aboriginal art styles with artistic production ranging from original graphics, limited and open edition prints, carvings in wood, ivory, bone and stone, to hand engraved and sculptured jewellery pieces in silver and gold. 

    Jim was raised in Brentwood Bay on the Saanich Inlet. His early fishing and hunting partners were local and travelling Indigenous people. That, along with the influence of his father, Harry Gilbert (1898 - 1967), who painted and carved in the Native style, ensured Jim's lifelong affinity to the culture.

    In Learning by Designing Pacific Northwest Coast Native Indian Art, Volume 1 and Volume 2, companions for the previously published Learning by Doing Northwest Coast Native Indian Art, Jim shared his passion and respect for the art form and passed on his own training, understanding, skill, and experience with traditional art apprenticeship methods. His experience teaching First Nations art in Victoria schools gave him an understanding of effective methods of passing on artistic knowledge and skills to larger groups of students. 

    Jim used his artistic skills to create over fifteen hundred original illustrations for both volumes of Learning by Designing. His qualifications as a biologist, teacher, artist and author made him uniquely suited to be involved in the production of this extensive working guide and reference book. 

    Jim's desire was to pass on his knowledge and appreciation for Pacific Northwest Coast Native art. In his own words, "It is important to me to pass on what I have learned and to make others aware of the value of the finest and most sophisticated art form ever developed by an aboriginal people."