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Pitaloosie Saila

Pitaloosie Saila is an illustrator and printmaker based out of Kinngait, NU. She is a prolific artist having produced over 1,450 drawings and 165 prints in her lifetime [1]. Saila was born on the southwest coast of Baffin Island in 1942 in her family’s camp, near Kinngait. She began drawing around 1965 creating works that are both realistic like Camp Kitchen (2007) and more surreal such as Woman and Snowbird II (2005).

Saila tends to focus on people, in particular women, as well as various different species of birds found in the Arctic [2]. The detail and use of shading in her work creates texture and depth within her images, which creates contrast with the bold one or two tone backgrounds [3]. While the colours of her earlier works are generally more subdued tones her more recent pieces utilize a brighter palette. In particular, Saila’s artistic techniques emphasize the expressions of the face, conveying vivid impressions of memories from childhood. Saila has said that she grounds her drawings of people in her knowledge of traditional Inuit ways of life and of how she remembers her relatives used to live [4]. Saila has commented that while her artwork may have gained much popularity in the South, she doesn’t perceive the fame as having made a significant impact on her life [5].

Saila’s works have been featured nationally and internationally in over 150 group and solo exhibitions. Her most recent solo exhibition, A Personal Journey is at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in Winnipeg, MB from October 2017 to May 2018. Her art has been included in the Cape Dorset Annual Print Collection since 1968. Her print Fisherman’s Dream (1971) was reproduced on the 1977 Canadian 12-cent stamp and her lithograph In the Hills (1985) was chosen to represent the Northwest Territories in the National Parks of Canada centennial celebration. In 2004, Pitaloosie and her husband Pauta Saila were appointed to the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts. Her works are held in numerous major artistic institutions throughout Canada and the United States, including the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of History.



Amnesty International selected the drawing Mother and Child to use for their 1990 Christmas cards
1985: The litograph In the Hills represented the Northwest Territories in the centennial of the National Parks of Canada
1983: The print Arctic Madonna was selected for a UNICEF greeting card


[1] Jen Doerksen, “Pretty in Print: Inuit printmaker Pitaloosie Salia's "A Personal Journey" showcased at the WAG,” The Manitoban, November 1, 2017, http://www.themanitoban.com/2017/11/pretty-in-print/32658/.  
[2] “Pitaloosie Saila,” Canadian Art online, April 2016, http://canadianart.ca/exhibitions/pitaloosie-saila/.
[3] “Pitaloosie Saila,” Canadian Art, 2016. 
[4] “Pitaloosie Saila”, Dorset Fine Arts, accessed November 10, 2017, http://www.dorsetfinearts.com/pitaloosie-saila.
[5] Sharon Van Raalte and Pitaloosie Saila, “People & Places: Pitaloosie Saila Talks About Old Age, Her First Drawing, White People and Other Things,” Inuit Art Quarterly 2, no. 3 (Summer 1987): 12.