Doug Cranmer

Artist Photo - Doug Cranmer

Artist Photo – Doug Cranmer

Doug Cranmer (1927 – 2006)
Pacific Northwest Coast, Canada

Doug Cranmer was a Kwakwaka’wakw carver and artist whose early formal instruction in traditional art came at the hand of Chief Mungo Martin in the mid 1950’s. Thus, Cranmer was one of the first in a long line of contemporary artists to be inspired and instructed by the man many people claim was responsible for the resurgence of Northwest Coast Art. In the late 1950’s, Cranmer and Haida artist Bill Reid worked together on a major project together at the University of British Columbia. The two men carved several totem poles and constructed two houses in the Haida style for a permanent exhibit celebrating Northwest Coast monumental sculpture and architecture.

During his association with Reid, Cranmer expanded his understanding of Kwakwaka’wakw two-dimensional design to include the northern variations as expressed by Tsimshian, Tlingit, Heiltsuk, and Haida artistic traditions. By 1960, Cranmer was well established as an independent artist and he produced major sculptural works in his own tribal style for both a local and international clientele.


Cranmer’s increasing use of two-dimensional design to express and interpret traditional myths culminated in a major work in 1971 depicting a ‘Namgis’ (Nimpkish) origin legend. Carved in low relief on a five-foot by ten-foot cedar panel, it features Halibut and Thunderbird transforming into humans. Significant in this work is the use of formline design elements to depict clouds, trees, water and rocks. These stylized natural forms anticipate Cranmer’s fascination with the potential to produce truly abstract paintings using the principles of Northwest Coast formline design.

In the mid 1970’s, Cranmer launched a series of abstract paintings on mahogany plywood. His experiments challenged even the most daring innovations attempted by his traditional and contemporary artistic mentors. These fluid formline designs were often so abstract that Cranmer refused to give them titles or to suggest that they in any way represented identifiable natural or supernatural beings.

Art Work

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