Artist, Professor, and Instructor of Tlingit form line art, Lance Twitchell introduces the class first with the spiritual and cultural context

Yes, I took an evening of form line instruction.  Yes, even though I have been drawing formline for nearly 40 years, I felt like I could use some FORM-al  instruction.  I learned a bit from the instructor, Lance Twitchell.  I learned a few techniques that I had never though of using AND I learned that I am not too bad of a designer, and that I could use some more assistance and inspiration.  After all these years, it’s fun taking a class in which you know almost as much as the instructor!  Lol.


Approximately 18 students, many of them just beginners, in the form line class sponsored by Sealaska Heritage Institute

A few years ago, Sealaska Heritage Institute took it upon themselves to begin teaching form line classes after Haida Artist Robert Davidson told the audience in attendance at the Sealaska Juried Art Competition that “the Tlingit people didn’t have very good artists who mastered the form line art.”  (I had heard complaints from other well-accomplished Tlingit artists about Robert’s statement.  I laughed at the absurdity, though at the same time I know that all of us will continually better ourselves at the formline art.  Even so, did Robert realize his statement was a slap in the face to several Tlingit artists who have been working as long as he or nearly as long, like Nathan Jackson, Preston Singletary, Israel Shotridge, Rick and Mick Beasley, the Chilton brothers, etc.?)


Students were given the task of choosing a design aspect of the carved bentwood box shown on the screen to replicate as best as they could on their drawing paper

I don’t know if Robert realized how he was saying these things may have caused a ruckus for the locals though nevertheless, SHI decided it was high time they do something about educating the Tlingit artists no matter where they were in their careers as designer/artists.


Lance provided a list of the various form line definitions created by Bill Holm and Bill Reid over 40 years ago

Lance Twitchell added some very good aspects to the one-night instruction plan:  the design terms in Tlingit language!  I felt Lance did a fine job of leading the students carefully step-by-step.  Though the part I enjoyed the best about his presentation was his acknowledgement of all the artists who had gone before and the spiritual representation of the art. — Being self-taught in Tlingit form line design, I appreciate the fact that SHI has taken the initiative to conduct classes throughout Southeast Alaska.  If we had these classes 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago, I would have taken them…and that’s why I had the privilege to finally attend one!  Thank you Sealaska Heritage Institute!

Tlingit Names in Formline

Tlingit Names in Formline