First Nations artist shares Tsimshian versions of Pokemon

Check out this mix of Japanese video game characters and the design work of the local First Nations.

Chase Gray had been interested in art since high school but didn’t really follow it until early 2021.

When his hands were having trouble crocheting, he turned to digital art. Gray, who is Musqueam and Tsimshian, took his ancestral background and mixed it with his childhood playing Pokemon on a Gameboy he got when he was six.

“I thought I was gonna screw it up, I’ll just draw a bit and see where this goes,” says Gray Vancouver is great. “I like Pokemon; always since I was a little kid.”

“I just wanted to do things that I had never seen before and thought would be cool,” he adds.

While Pokemon was the focus, there were other designs too. Some, like Digimon or Studio Ghibli pieces, are similarly inspired by pop culture. Others, like a train or a space shuttle, are still not traditional themes, but they don’t come from pop culture.

“It’s like finding topics that people my age and anyone can relate to and getting them to see them from an indigenous perspective,” says Gray.

He notes that his work is in the Tsimshian tradition (with ovids and U-shapes), although he is currently learning Salish designs (with crescents, trigons and negative spaces).

Gray has other designs, including pieces for local Pride celebrations and a design used at a Vancouver Canucks game in honor of the discovery of children’s graves on the residential school grounds; he’s also working on a new mural in downtown Vancouver. His current favorite is a circular design with a raven, an eagle, and an orca; his favorite Pokémon piece is the chandelier.

Art has now also become a business opportunity. Stickers are sold in a shop in Abbotsford that his sister-in-law works at House of Cards.

“They sell them like hot cakes,” says Gray. “It’s the perfect market.”

It went well enough that he labeled his purchase of Pokemon Snap a business edition as there is excellent reference material for Gray’s designs.

He notes that they can be difficult to keep in stock right now as the company he works with to print the stickers could be affected by the Fraser Valley floods (his own home was also hit by floods ).

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