Full Moon over Whiskey Flats, 1990
Jim Robb was born in Quebec City in 1933. He and his family moved to Montreal 6 years later where he resided until the lure of the north pried him away. It was 1955. It was off to the Yukon Territory. Working various jobs over the next 5 years eventually led Jim to his true passion, that of gathering, recording and promoting Yukon history.
His earliest work was primarily done on rawhide moosehide. The hide would be stretched into all kinds of different shapes, most often by Annie and Harry Silverfox along with their son Billy, and drawn in pastel and charcoal. Harry was originally from Big Salmon village on the Yukon River. In the 40's he moved into the Whitehorse area with the building of the Alaska Highway. He brought with him all the old skills--which included making snowshoes, bows and arrows, skin scrapers--skills which allowed his people to survive for many centuries in the Yukon bush. His knowledge and friendship led Jim to become the first person to use the insides of snowshoes as frames. Jim was credited as being the first person to use the inside of the snowshoe as a frame for the hide.
Dawson City, the summer of 61, saw Jim beginning to use pen, ink, watercolour and photography as his mediums of choice. In 1971 he started writing a column for the Whitehorse Star which primarily dealt with the life of historical buildings and 'Yukon characters'. The column was illustrated with his drawings and photographs and was titled 'The Colourful 5%'.
Over the years Jim has had 3 books published, and yes, 'they are read in all the better cabins'. They are comprised of short stories, photographs and drawings mostly about interesting and colourful Yukon personalities, the 'Colourful 5%'. In 1975, well known anthropologist Julie Cruickshank, with Jim's participation, put out a book on the Yukon's First Nation peoples.
Today Jim is busier than ever with a number of projects on the go. One is putting together a book on his artistic life. A compilation of stories, artwork and photographs. A second project is a collaberation with another artist to create a cartoon story. Also in the works is a film about a certain aspect and little known part of the Klondike Gold Rush. Amidst all this Jim continues working in pen, ink and watercolour, producing prints and tapestries of historic Canada.
In recognition of Jim Robb's magnificant contribution of gathering and preserving Yukon history he was awarded Canada's highest honor "The Order of Canada" in 2003.