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Colour and nature in woodland art

THUNDER BAY -- Colour matters in woodland art and that's what bringing schools back to Ringo Fiddler.
Sandy Lake First Nation's Ringo Fiddler explains the first colouring book he has produced for schools since the mid 1980s. Schools have already bought 3,000 copies of Northern Legends Colouring Book. (Jon Thompson,

THUNDER BAY -- Colour matters in woodland art and that's what bringing schools back to Ringo Fiddler.

Flipping through the pages of the first colouring book he's published in 30 years, Fiddler points out the rabbit's fur would start changing around this time of year. The background behind the moose can tell you the season.

Unlike colouring books in other art forms, the canvass tells the legend and the colour fills in the story. 

The Sandy Lake First Nation artist has already printed 3,000 copies of Northern Legends for schools and expects 15,000 more to come.

"The colours I use, my background and all that stuff came from my dreams and all my work," he says.

Fiddler's grandfather raised him on the land in Sandy Lake First Nation. Until he was 15 years old, he worked only with pencil crayons. Getting his first set of acrylic paints and being able to mix his own colours made him "the happiest man in the world."

It was those early days, he says, that exposed him to the wilderness and taught him the natural meanings to colour.

"Even back, our ancestors tell us about the animals. They'd tell us, the animals know more than we do. It tells us the seasons, what's coming up ahead. It's pretty hard to explain what I've seen with my own eyes with my grandfather."

Two loons painted in woodland style entitled "Sharing Together" was the first painting Fiddler ever sold. He wants children to follow their own dreams and that's why the back pages of every legend he depicts are left blank.

The teacher and lecturer says it's more than just connecting children with art or with culture.  It's about connecting with nature.   
"It's very important to get into art. It gets it off your mind, what's going on in this world these days," he says.

"You can hang around in the bush, look around at the colours you can use -- and you'll find those colours when you walk around in the bush. And you will see animals there, what they're doing."