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Klondike Tale Poster, 2011

9” x 11” Digital over pencil

Gallery entrance

Lynn Canal

Theater Wide Screen Aspect Ratio

We open with a totem at the top of a glacial valley looking down into Lynn Canal. I wanted to play up the scale of my compositions in a dynamic way. At the beginning of the story, we have a vast landscape of mountains, glaciers, sea, and ice. The totem of the five spirits is incredibly small in comparison to the land that it’s in.

When the spirits break off and get absorbed in the human world, I wanted to smash my characters up close to the camera. Not only does this give my villains more malice, but it switches the importance from the environment to the characters.

This is extremely important with the overall journey that Beaver/Swiftwater Bill takes throughout the story. It’s easy to get swallowed up in celebrity and power as the big man in town; if you take a step back, you’ll realize that you’re only just a small part in the massive picture of reality.

Eagle Awakened

The totem has been dormant for a very long time, but is suddenly awakened by the sound of chainsaws and hatchets cutting down the forest. The totem then awakens and morphs into real animals in a bursting out sort-of way. It starts with Eagle, then Wolf and Bear. Orca is the only one who has a smoke-like spirit who dissolves from the totem as he blows into the wind and re-solidifies himself as a whale below. Last is Beaver, who is most relieved to be out of the wooden casting at the bottom of the pole.

Soapy’s Pitch

Television Aspect Ratio

Soapy goes up on stage and does a lavish act where he begins by promising richness to the crowd if they buy his soap, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness, but the feel of a good heavy nugget in your pocket is paradise itself. So step up my friends, and watch me closely.” He dramatically shows them the cakes of soap he has, and in front of them shoves gold nuggets inside of the bars. He then wraps them up in beautiful bright blue paper and places the wrapped cakes into his suitcase that’s facing away from the crowd. Soapy begins the bidding at $40 per soap, and it goes up to $100. The man who “wins” the bid opens his new soap and finds gold worth $200! The crowd goes crazy! Beaver, who’s used to being at the bottom of the totem pole and treated unfairly like he’s a dumb child, sees some hope in Soapy’s plan.

Miner Study

This piece is a color and character study for both Slim-Jim and Jeff’s Parlor. I wanted a color pallet that reflected Toulouse-Lautrec and his paintings of dance halls and brothels in Paris in the 1890s.

Best Friends

Each girl who works at Jeff’s Parlor has a doll that represents her at the bar. If the doll is lying down, she’s busy upstairs with a customer. If the doll is sitting up, she is available for a new client. I wanted the dolls to show the abuse that the girls themselves hide with make-up.

Broadway Street Coffee Shop

Television Aspect Ratio

Bear and Eagle (as humans) are hanging outside a “new, hip café” on a summer morning. Bear, who’s gotten quite addicted to "Joe" and has had quite a few cups by this time, is talking rather excitedly to Eagle. Eagle is completely ignoring Bear’s praise for this coffee shop over the "old" one next door, which went up last week but is apparently out of date now. Instead, eagle is observing the Soap Gang and trying to figure out all of their little cons.

A Cheechako (Sam McGee) walks by the coffee shop down Broadway Street from the loading dock, very engrossed in the necessities of the list. Eagle overhears the ridiculous items as he walks by, "400 pounds of flour, 150 pounds of bacon, 100 pounds of sugar…"

Tent Building Studies

Skagway was built overnight and constantly changing. These studies are part of the design of the town.

Orca Drowns Men at Lake Bennett

Theater Wide Screen Aspect Ratio

The men fail to realize that Orca has disguised himself as their boat. As they are paddling out, large ice floes are knocking the sides of the wooden boat. The further they get from shore, ice builds up on the oars, making them heavy and difficult to paddle. Still, they press forward. When they get far into the middle of the lake, Orca transforms into the whale. They realize their mistake too late as they drown in the icy, dark waters. As they slide off Orca’s back, they look back and see the camp fires burning in the distance and desperately want to call out for help.

Case objects

Card Deck & Card Case

gold rush card case box with cards
Alaska State Museum, III-O-509A/B

Ice Creeper

ice cleats
Alaska State Museum, III-O-969

Mae’s Fire Dance at the Monte Carlo Theater

Wide Screen Aspect Ratio

Swiftwater has won Mae’s heart, broken off from the Soap Gang, and built his new lodge-the lavish Monte Carlo. To say that Soapy is not pleased is a gross understatement. Seething with rage and jealousy, Soapy comes in as Mae is performing her new Fire Dance. He brings her doll, making a point of his ownership over her. The sea of ambiguous figures in the audience hints at the reality of her profession. Despite appearances, the Monte Carlo is no better place for Mae.

Eagle Confronts Beaver at Eldorado Creek

Eagle flies to Beaver’s lodge on Eldorado Creek to warn him. Beaver’s “mining” production is nothing more than his usual lodge with a few more dams than before. However, he’s managed to extract many large piles of pure yellow gold, which now glisten in the sun on the shore. Eagle tries to reason with him, but Beaver is just annoyed and continues to pull gold out of his pond. Beaver feels like Eagle is making too big of a deal out of nothing and refuses to go see for himself. He won’t stop his production because for the first time ever, he feels respect.

Bonanza Creek Mine

Television Aspect Ratio

While flying over Bonanza Creek, Eagle sees a mass production gold mine. The men are all paying fees to Soapy. Hills are being blasted and creeks are being re-routed in a rollercoaster-like maze of sluice boxes. Eagle informs Orca and confides in him as to what will happen to the land. Together, they realize that this is the result of Beaver’s absence of caring for the rivers and streams. They desperately need him to remember that he’s the Water Spirit before too much damage is done and too many people die. All the spirits will need to work together to get Beaver back.

Wolf, Bear, Beaver, Eagle, Orca Line-Up

The five spirits each have three transformations: animal, totem , and human (except Orca, who becomes a wind spirit.)

  • Wolf
  • Bear
  • Beaver
  • Eagle
  • Orca

Human Transformation Line-UP: Wolf, Bear, Swiftwater Bill (Beaver), Eagle, Orca

This is a historical-fiction piece and the truth is bent to best serve the story. The cast of characters are a mixture of culture, legend, poetry, and history.


Wolf is the guardian of time, tradition, reflection of the past, and the Afterlife. He feels overwhelmed and tired with the amount of corruption that is leading to selfish deaths caused by the people. It is his job to govern the consequences of the people’s actions in the Afterlife.


A loveable character who sees the good in everyone and befriends Sam McGee. Perhaps going through a mid-life crisis, Bear feels like the human world is the breakthrough he has been waiting for. He’s absolutely fascinated with man’s inventions, particularly coffee, to which he’s become highly addicted. Coffee only elevates his sudden insightful awakenings, which people would probably listen to if only he talked slow enough for them to understand. Everything is exciting to him, making him unpredictable.

Swiftwater Bill (Beaver)

Beaver’s alter-ego in human form. He becomes so absorbed in popularity and success that he forgets who he is. Without Beaver, the totem is incomplete. The other spirits realize that he not only controlled the harmony of the waterways, but he also brought out a feeling of faith and hope to the land. Because of his neglect of his true identity, the land and other spirits are put into grave danger.


He is the leader and most powerful of the spirits, keeping all of nature unified. He is heavily involved with both the spirit and human worlds. Realizing that the humans have come to stay, he seeks to strike a balance between the two. Eagle works the hardest to change Swiftwater back to Beaver, understanding the damage the land is taking in his absence.


He is the shaman and realizes the true danger in taking on the human form. He chooses instead to be a wind spirit.

Case objects

Gold sack

leather pouch with draw string, Alaska State Museum 93-3-81

Head lamp

Alaska State Museum, 2007-11-104


Gold Rush,
Alaska State Museum, III-O-118

Pick head from Tredwell

donated by Robert Reece,
Alaska State Museum UA/UC D-11

Gold mining pan

Klondike Gold Rush,
Alaska State Museum 75-16-23

Fire Dance Studies 1

Historically, it was Klondike Kate who performed the Fire Dance at the Monte Carlo in Dawson. It involved 200 yards of fiery chiffon that she kept airborne throughout her number. But for the sake of my story, I gave the roll to my heroine, Mae Field.

Fire Dance Studies 2

Fire Dance Studies 3

Klondike Character Line-Up: Dangerous Dan McGrew, Madam Burnet, Jefferson “Soapy” Smith, Mae Field, Klondike Kate, Slim-Jim Foster

This is a historical fiction piece and the truth is bent to best serve the story. The cast of characters are a mixture of culture, legend, poetry, and history.

Dangerous Dan McGrew

As the second of Soapy’s sidekicks, he held a top rank with Slim-Jim. His job is being in charge of the Chilkoot Trail. Dan has an on/off relationship with Klondike Kate.

Madam Burnet

The Madam of the house works directly from the orders of Soapy. Always looking for new recruits for her own gain, she is ruthless in who or how she gets new girls.
She’s 65, old, and bitter. Like Mae, she’s probably been in the business since she was a very young teenager. Now a very portly and borderline-ugly woman, Madam Burnet hardly ever “works.” For the most part, (when not on stage) she likes to stick to recruiting and managing. She fails to see the sin in what she does because she knows no other way of life and has grown to believe that it’s the best way for girls who are uncared for to survive.

Jefferson “Soapy” Smith

Known as the “Uncrowned King of Skagway,” Soapy can have a very suave, sophisticated, and generous character, which he uses to feed the greed of his gang members to keep them loyal…a true Lucifer in disguise. He is like a circus performer with a costume and prop closet that can imitate all walks of life. He can appear as a compassionate man, doing acts “in the name of God,” with a “good” person and steer them away from the riffraff of Skagway into another one of his many innocent-looking traps.
He’s completely controlling, forcing his rule over Skagway, the Chilkoot Trail, and above all, Mae. Soapy is obsessive, jealous, and greedy with all of his “possessions.”
He gets his nickname by selling expensive bars of soap, claiming that real gold may be inside. Of course, there never is.

Mae Field

Soapy’s girlfriend and star of Jeff’s Parlor. She desperately wants out of the dance hall lifestyle and sees some hope in Swiftwater’s success. She soon hooks up with him behind Soapy’s back. Mae admires Swiftwater for his gentle heart and looks to him to save her. He illuminates truths for her, revealing that she can take control of her own life and be the person she so desperately wants to be.

Klondike Kate

Mae’s best friend and performer at Jeff’s Parlor. Although Kate “chose” to work at Jeff’s Parlor, her reasoning is that her husband died back home, leaving her with nothing. She has high hopes of the dance hall being just a temporary situation while gold fever is thick in the Klondike. Her personality is sweet and usually genuine, but the men who keep her cloaked in diamonds are her favorite.

Slim-Jim Foster

He was Soapy’s right-hand man until Swiftwater (Beaver) came into the picture. He’s highly jealous and plots with Dan McGrew to get his spot back in the gang. He’s in charge of the gambling dins and saloons in Skagway. He goes by plenty of aliases, which include: J.H., W.F., W.E., etc…Dan always makes fun of him for this…does he forget? Or is he trying to hide his phony disguise? What does it stand for? Not even Slim knows.

Mae Field Portrait

This is a cleaned-up version of Mae which is part of her model packet for animation.

Madam Burnet Study

I did this speed sketch in less than 5 minutes and I think I captured the ugliness of her character. When I blew it up, I loved how her mascara looked like tarantulas.