West Coast Native Art

Assembled by Hendrick Horsthuis

Historical / Cultural Significance

Northwest Coast societies did not pass their culture through written language as they did not have written words like most cultures. Rather, their culture and heritage was shared with future generations through the use of imagery and oral tradition. Deeply embedded in native art is historical meaning and contect which tells a story of a time and place in native history.

Principles and Elements of Design

The key elements of First Nations art are line, color, and form. The lines used are bold and strong and not jagged. Through the use of smooth and curving lines, clear boundaries and shapes are created. In addition, form line changes constantly, in both thickness and direction. Bold contrasting colors are used in Native art which allows the areas of color to be obvious and clear. Traditionally, the colors used in northwest coast art are black and red with black being the primary color of the form line.

A distinct element in First Nations art is form. The basic components in NWC art: ovoid, inner ovoid, U-form, split U-form, and the S-form. The combination of these forms, combined with anatomical features, are used to form various animals such as killer whales, sea lions, and eagles.

For more Northwest and West Coast Native art ideas you can link to...


Komokwa, Masks, Killer Whales

Kwakiutl Masks

Tsimshian Art


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