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Mixing tradition with pop culture: Vancouver artist reimagines Pokémon with Tsimshian style (IMAGES)

Check out this mix of Japanese video game characters and local First Nations' design work.

Chase Gray had been interested in art since high school, but hadn't pursued it too seriously until the beginning of 2021.

When his hands started causing problems while crocheting, he turned to digital art. Gray, who's Musqueam and Tsimshian, took his ancestral background and mixed it with his childhood when he would play Pokemon on a Gameboy he got when he was six.

"I was like screw it, I'm just going to draw for a bit and see where that goes," Gray tells Vancouver is Awesome. "I like Pokemon; always have since I was a little kid."

"I just wanted to do things I'd never seen before that I thought would be cool," he adds.

While Pokemon have been a focus, there have been other designs too. Some, like Digimon or Studio Ghibli pieces, are similarly inspired by pop culture. Others, like a train or space shuttle, are still non-traditional subject matters while not coming from pop culture.

"It's like finding subject matter that people my age and everybody would find relatable and making them see it from an indigenous perspective," Gray says.

He notes his work is in the Tsimshian tradition (with ovoids and u-shapes), though he is learning Salish designs right now (with crescents, trigons and negative space).

Gray has other designs well, including pieces for local Pride celebrations and a design used at a Vancouver Canucks' game in honour of the discovery of children's graves at residential school's grounds; he's also working on a new mural in downtown Vancouver. His favourite recent piece is a circular design with a raven, eagle and orca; his favourite Pokemon piece is the chandelure.

The art has turned into a business opportunity as well, now. Stickers are sold at an Abbotsford store his sister-in-law works at called House of Cards.

"They sell them like hotcakes," Gray says. "It's the perfect market."

It's been going well enough he's calling his purchase of Pokemon Snap a business expense since it has excellent reference material for Gray's designs.

He notes that keeping them in stock right now may be difficult as the company he works with to print the stickers may have been affected by the floodwaters in the Fraser Valley (his own home was hit by highwaters as well).


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