Don't mess with a soprano  

13 moons guide artist

Clint George is a First Nation man of the land, a rebel, tattooist, archer, metal artist, husband, father and teacher. 

He was born, raised and schooled in Penticton. 

He uses his art, a product of his heritage, to tell the ancient stories of his people and some stories of his own. 

Today, his art is big and metal. It wasn’t always that way. It started with beads and pencils.

Clint gives credit for his artistic abilities to his mom and dad. 

“Mom and dad were artists. Mom could bead anything and dad could sketch, work with metal and customize old cars.”

Clint spent many hours beading with his mom and is still learning from his dad.

He also spent many hours his elders in the mountains learning archery and to how to hunt.

It is not surprising that he won first place for a drawing of a realistic owl in third grade. What is surprising is that he competed against high school age children.

Clint the rebel started in high school. The more he was told he couldn’t, the more he became convinced he could. He taught himself how to tattoo. It took two years, but he opened his own tattoo shop, Level 13. He was only 19.

“Why the number 13?” I asked. 

Clint said it is a significant number dealing with the 13 moons of their culture. Life changes every 13 years. An elder advised him that it was a fortunate number for him.

The elder’s prediction was correct. The next 16 years were very successful, but turbulent. “I had too much success, too much money, too much partying,” Clint said. 

Luckily, his passion for this art form was all encompassing.

“Did you know that no one knows how tattooing was started?” he asked. “I made sure my apprentices understood the history and the mystery about its beginnings. I wanted them to respect the art.”

He’s passionate when he described the responsibility of being allowed to change a person’s body-temple. It was a spiritual journey. Something to be honoured. He feels a connection, even today, with those he has tattooed. 

He left tattooing when the rebel in him was convinced that it had become too mainstream. 

He felt a big change was needed. This change was two-fold. One was planned; the other an accident.

He went back to his roots for this first change. The rebel in him found a voice as a council member of his band. 

He has worked for eight years trying to help bring change for his people. He is very proud of their Outma Salix W Cultural School, a place where children can learn the traditions, culture and language of his people.

“My daughter speaks our language better than me because of this school.”

The second change, working with metal, emerged as an accident.

Clint found a pile of metal bars in his dad’s metal-working shop. In his mind, he saw an arrow in that pile of scrap metal. He started to melt this steel into an arrow. 

As the heat intensified, the arrow became blue and stayed that way when it cooled. He covered the arrow with a coat of clear paint to protect it from rusting. A woman came into the shop and offered him $150 for it.

A new business was born.

Soon, he was making and selling arrows, traditional shields, and spears.

A commission to do an outdoor sculpture using native cultural guides changed his art. It became bigger and inspired by his people’s stories. 

This first outdoor sculpture, at the Westbank First Nation Health and Wellness Centre, depicts Ogopogo, Sen’klip (coyote), the trickster, teacher Kilawna and the lake.

The rebel in him isn’t as loud as it was. Teaching has become a force in his life. He enjoys teaching people to hunt and survive in the mountains. He works closely with the Penticton School District giving presentations on how to hunt and gather.

I like to ask about scary or funny moments. Clint’s scariest moment was in 2017. He had won the B.C. Archery Championship for the compound bow and was invited to be on the World Traditional Archery Team for a competition in South Korea. 

“I was competing, when, suddenly, North Korean jets came over the hill and flew extremely low over the heads of everyone — 500,000 people went completely still.

“That what frightening, and I had recovered from that, but the next day, air raid sirens started blaring. I was ready to swim home,” he said. 

You won’t find him on a web page nor at an art show. He sells his works too quickly, but he does have a Facebook site, Clint George Art.

He is building three huge sculptures for the Pelmewash Parkway Trail in Lake Country to be dedicated in late October.

He loves what he does, but knows most people don’t understand the mind of an artist. He describes his artist mind as “a wall of TVs, perhaps a hundred, all turned on at once. Every TV has a new story to build.”

Lucky for us, he is not likely to run out of stories to portray in metal any time soon. 


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About the Author

Sue Skinner is a singer of opera and musical theatre, a choral conductor and a teacher/coach of voice. 

She has travelled the world, learned many languages, seen every little town in Alberta and supported herself with music all her life.

She has sung at weddings, funerals, musicals, operettas, opera, with symphonies, guitars, jazz groups, rock bands and at play schools. 

Skinner has taken two choirs to Carnegie Hall, sung around the world, and teaches for Wentworth Music on Zoom.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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