White Calf is another in the long list of Native Americans photographed by Edward Curtis, a somewhat controversial figure so I am told by an American friend, in the second half of the 19th Century and the early part of the 20th. Interestingly there was a TV programme about him recently, which I have recorded but not yet viewed. Apparently his huge photographic archive was in danger of destruction but was rescued. This happened sometime in the 1930's.
White Calf - www.firstpeople.us/
I am intrigued by these old photographs and it is a challenge to convert them from more or less quite stark sepia images to colour. This is my latest of what is becoming quite a long line, although most of the early ones have been discarded. The Piegans or bloods, better known as the `Blackfeet', were a numerous and warlike tribe that straddled large areas of Canada and the adjacent United States. I don't know anything else about this individual, although I guess the photo was taken around 1900 and he appears quite old.
White Calf - Saunders Waterford (I think) 15" x 11" not.
Corrected Version - added 23/08/12
Added 23/08/12: In view of the critical comments I received over the original painting I have made some corrections that address the main criticism that the jawline gave him a simian appearance. It isn't perfect but does improve the overall effect, although I am conscious, as always, it could be better. I don't object to criticism, although I try not to attract too much! One thing I think the artist must be conscious of and that is not to get into thinking you are better than you actually are. In the same way that adverse criticism shouldn't depress you too much, equally don't be misled in the opposite direction.
I first made a careful but not over detailed pencil drawing. This was done earlier in the week. I first masked off many of the light areas shown in the photograph using an old brush with Pebeo Drawing Gum. After it was thoroughly dry I commenced painting. I am currently reasessing how I paint and making some changes. Here I wet the background with clear water, some of which leaked into the head. I put some diluted Sap Green (DS PO49/PG7)) and Quinacridone Coral (DS PR209) into the wet areas and let it mix and run down, with, as usual, my board at a fairly steep angle. I painted in the dark areas of the face and left hand facing side, and under the chin with various mixtures of Cadmium Red Pale, Raw Sienna, Cobalt Blue and Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48). To get the darker colours I increased the amount of blue. I tried to avoid lines of `demarcation' since many would be painted over later. The hair was mainly various mixes of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. Some magenta also got mixed in. When thoroughly dry I removed the masking fluid and carefully painted over the features, accentuating the shadow shapes. After returning home I later used Galeria Acrylic Titanium White on small highlight areas using a No.2 pointed brush then, rather more vigorously a small bristle brush on the hair. I assumed from the photograph that being quite old he certainly had greying hair.
Brushes used for the main painting were the Escoda Tajmir retractables sizes 10 and 12 plus a Rosemary retractable size 6. The Isabey retractables sizes 4 and 6 were used for the eyes.