Regan Ferris and Her Woodland Art
By Roxann Shapwaykeesic
Even though Regan Ferris (only distantly related to local artist John Ferris) is only in her early 20s, she’s already facilitating workshops to inspire and help others to paint in the Woodland style. She’s been working in partnership with Neechee Studios, and has guided other workshops around Thunder Bay over the last few years. “I love being able to share art and talk about art with others. I try to share as much knowledge as I’ve gained throughout the years and pass it on,” Ferris says.
Ferris moved to Thunder Bay from her home community of Constance Lake First Nation when her parents pursued their post-secondary education. She tells the story of how her mom had an assignment in her Aboriginal advocacy class and brought home a large canvas, paints and prints of Indigenous artists Roy Thomas and Norval Morrisseau. “I would come home and sit by her while she worked on the artwork. I remember being so intrigued and curious about what she was doing. I loved the style of it, and how vibrant the colours were,” Ferris says. With globs of paint shared by her mother, Ferris started painting at the age of 11. Through her parents’ encouragement and support she soon received her own large canvases to work with. “As I got older, I started to put more stories behind my artwork,” she says. “When I was around 15, I started to become more traditional and do ceremony, so some of my artwork includes teachings that I’ve learned along the way.” Her paintings have messages about issues she’s seen as well. “A story I painted was called Off Balance Systems. I painted it about the education system and how unfair the systems are,” Ferris says. The title refers to the lack of resources and inequalities in the educational system for people who live in northern reserves versus those who live in the city—people just can’t get as good of an education in the north, and struggle in high school compared to those from the city.“When I was 16 a lot of issues people would go through were [related to] substance abuse,” Ferris adds. “So I did a painting of a fish in a bear. It was a symbolization of how people would be consumed by their addictions.”
To inspire artists, Ferris encourages people to just paint. “It doesn’t matter who sees or likes your artwork. Just keep painting for yourself,” she says.
Regan Ferris is also available for commissions. To view more of her work, follow her on Instagram @onewho_opensdoors.