Pitseolak Ashoona made more than eight thousand drawings in her lifetime, and over half of them feature various species of birds of her Arctic homeland. There is a close connection between birds and Inuit women, who traditionally hunt them or forage for their eggs. For Pitseolak, this connection seemed even greater and much more personal, since her first name means “sea pigeon” in Inuktitut. She spoke of once watching geese migrate south from Netsilik, where her husband, Ashoona, had passed away, to Cape Dorset, remarking that the birds brought her a sense of comfort because they had flown over her husband’s grave.
As a self-taught artist, Pitseolak developed her style through careful practice and experimentation. Among the formal elements of art, she showed in particular an affinity for line, carefully tracing the shapes before building them up with colour. Festive Bird was created during her most prolific period of art production in the 1970s, when she drew almost daily. It showcases her mastery of line and her ability to create a flattened, still image that is nonetheless bursting with spontaneity and energy.