Les Mawakeesick

Leslie Randoph Mawakeesick was born and raised by a single mother in Sandy Lake, a small reserve in northwestern Ontario but grew up in Winnipeg. He was to learn to paint at the age of 14. At first glance Les Mawakeesick may not look like an accomplished artist, but when he plays piano there is no denying his talent. The self taught musician learned to play in high school. He also learned to paint on his own at 14, by reading native art books.” As a 14 year old I started drawing these teepees and stick men. “His inspiration came from his grandfather; who would tell him sacred legends and spiritual stories. “If I don’t paint everyday I feel unjustified,” said Mawakeesick.

He has the power to paint the dark images that lie behind everybody’s soul and mind. Les Mawakeesick has sold many of the pictograph paintings in Mexico, Switzerland, and most parts of Canada.In the past two decades Mawakeesick has lived in a number of cities, including Vancouver, Ottawa and Calgary. He calls himself a “native gypsy,” admittedly drifting from city to city, painting wherever he can. “I just jump from one business establishment to another and I just find any table where I can paint on,” he said.

But the now 40-year-old native artist also struggles with an alcohol addiction. It’s landed him in hospital numerous times over the years. “I started drinking when I was like 11. I’m surprised I’m still alive, actually,” said Mawakeesick.  Mawakeesick doesn’t have a place of his own. He stays with his half-sister some days, other days he stays with friends. Wherever he finds himself living, Mawakeesick carries art supplies in his pocket. He doesn’t consider himself homeless. To him, home is wherever he rests his head. Mawakeesick doesn’t dream of owning his own art gallery. He just wants to sell enough of his paintings to get by.

Mawakeesick sells his paintings across Winnipeg by going door to door, from business to business, looking for someone who’ll buy his work.