How Blake Angeconeb Came from Art Obscurity to Become a Household Name
By Michael Charlebois
Blake Angeconeb never wanted to be an artist.
In fact, just ten years ago, the now 32-year-old had yet to put his name to any piece of art. Now he’s gained popularity for his pop culture/Woodland style crossover and is collaborating with some of the biggest names in the industry.
“I didn’t truly appreciate art, or even notice it growing up,” Angeconeb says. “One day, I decided to paint with my little niece to pass the time. We painted Hello Kitty. The whole process of going through and making something, that’s when I got hooked.”
Angecomb says his inspiration comes from a mix of traditional Woodland icons like Norval Morrisseau and Carl Ray, and more modern artists like American David Choe and Fort William First Nation artist Christian Chapman. He first started working on his art as a means of relaxing after finishing his day job. Gradually, his portfolio started to build and he began to sell his work. In 2020, he quit his job and decided to pursue art full time. “I told myself if I make a certain amount of money in a year then I’m going to do it,” he says—a decision in which Angeconeb says he had so much doubt about, he didn’t tell his parents for a number of weeks.
His decision appears to be paying off. Angeconeb’s work has been featured in the Globe and Mail and appeared on a Jagmeet Singh Twitch stream. He also delivered the resonating visual for Canadaland’s Return to Thunder Bay podcast. His Instagram page, which features over 300 posts mostly related to his art, is flooded with references from Drake to The Simpsons and everything in between. “I think it resonated with a lot of people,” he says. “You don’t need to like art so much to connect with a cartoon character you grew up with.”
Although Angeconeb continues to fuse pop culture references into his work, he says his next chapter will be to focus on more traditional pieces. “I guess long-term […] my goal is to get into galleries and more upscale art.”
If collaborating with Indigenous art icon Buffy Sainte-Marie is any indication, Angeconeb is well on his way to becoming one in his own right. “Last year I actually did a painting of her because she’s an icon and I look up to her,” he says. “A year later I’m working alongside her. […] It’s just crazy. It doesn’t feel real still.”
To see more of Blake Angeconeb’s art, find him on Instagram @blakeangeconeb; check out Paddling on Both Sides—the film he created with Buffy Sainte-Marie for the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund.