Joshua Watts is an artist living and working in Victoria, BC. Josh has received two Emerging Artist Scholarships from YVR Art Foundation (2016, 2019) and has worked with renowned First Nations artists Ray Natraoro, the late Chief Beau Dick, Wayne Alfred and Corey Bulpitt. In 2016, Josh mentored with carver Ray Natraoro to create a feast bowl with Eagle iconography; In 2019, Josh expanded his practice into figurative carving under the mentorship and guidance of sculptor Linda Lindsay.
Since receiving his first YVRAF award in 2016, Josh has taken on a variety of projects including large-scale community based projects such as planning and carving a 21-foot totem pole in Lake Cowichan, the painting of a dance screen, and a longhouse front for his community.
Josh’s website and a selection of his artistic projects can be viewed here.
You have received two YVR Art Foundation Emerging Artist Scholarships. What did you use your awards to do?
I received my first award in 2016 and worked with Ray Natraoro. I wanted to focus on creating art at a higher level, and to improve my fundamental skills as a Northwest Coast Artist. I received my second award in 2019 and decided to focus on elevating the knowledge and skills I had as an artist, and wanted to expand my practice by taking on a new medium, one that is not particularly known in Northwest Coast art. I mentored with figurative sculptor Linda Lindsay to create a figurative sculpture of Bukwus, a mythological figure known in Northwest Coast First Nations as a wild man possessed beyond his own control searching for souls to make his own.
How did your career or practice evolve since receiving your first award in 2016?
After receiving my first award in 2016, I gained a lot of exposure within my community. I was commissioned to carve a totem pole, paint a house front and create other installations that are publicly accessible – which then led to more opportunity for me within the region. The first award through the Foundation provided me with the opportunity to showcase my skills and continue to improve as an artist.
You decided to expand your practice into figurative sculpture. How was it to transition into a new medium?
Clay sculpting requires a lot of time and the piece I made took much longer than I anticipated, longer than most projects I have previously done! With dedicated mentorship under Linda, I was able to overcome any obstacles specific to the medium and learned the correct way to work through them. I really have so much appreciation for Linda for sharing her time with me and going above and beyond to cover the many important techniques of working with clay medium like armature building, proportioning of the human body, maquette making, among others.
Do you have any current and/or recent projects that you are working on that you would like to share?
I am currently working in the territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht people and carving a seagoing canoe with Joe Martin, Valeen Jules and Ryan Sabbas, and before this project I recently completed a three-year cultural revitalization project with the Lake Cowichan First Nation. Since completing my last Scholarship, I’ve started printmaking and working in silkscreen and I’ve also started an independent project to create a large body of contemporary Indigenous artwork that centres around cultural relevancy and context! I’ll be doing this project with support from the First People’s Cultural Council.