The Ojibwe artist Roy Thomas resided in Thunder Bay until his untimely death in 2004. Roy was born in 1949 in the deep forest along Pagwachuan Lake, near Caramat in the district of Greenstone Ontario. Roy and his family were forced to settle at Long Lac #58 First Nation in the late 1950’s.
Roy was basically a self-taught artist. He was raised mainly by his grandparents who told him stories. Roy could see these stories and he would use his pointing finger on his grandmother’s back to draw. Grandmother seeing this in her grandson continued to tell him stories. Later the pointing finger was replaced with charcoal from the wood stove and it would move on too other materials when it was affordable. Roy was always guided by the memories of his grandparents and Elders who taught him what to paint.
Roy was taught to have respect for the elements in life and to learn from and respect his Elders. His grandparents named him Ahndek (Crow) after he rescued and cared for an orphaned crow when he was a small boy. The crow monogram accompanies his signature.
Critically acclaimed as one of the most brilliant and prolific members of the Woodland School that began in the early 1960’s, the work of Roy Thomas depicts reflections of the traditional teachings that were such a big part of his life.
“Roy was a very spiritual man. Being raised by grandparents and raised mainly in the bush, he had these wonderful teachings … how to look at things differently…Roy loved life; he never ever forgot where he came from…Never forgot his roots.”
- Louise Thomas
“I am born an Ahnisnabae (People of the Land) artist. I know how to paint, the spirit of art and our Elders teach me what to paint.
It is not how I paint; it is what I paint that’s important. It is easier to paint experience than knowledge.
The spirit of art teaches me that the paintbrush comes from the hair of an animal and the handle of the paintbrush comes from the tree.
I would like to acknowledge my relatives for their wisdom of invention of the art material.
Being an artist completes my purpose in life, I am forever grateful."
– Roy Thomas
Miigwetch! (Thank You!)
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