Sunday, 21 April 2013

Sitting Bull

I have painted this famous Indian previously, at least twice, and this version in some respects is not quite such a good likeness but I feel better in other ways.

Sitting Bull . Waterford 16" x 12" 140lb Not

Sitting Bull  (1831 - 1890) was a leader and medicine man of the Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux, a division of the most numerous and deadly of the plains Indians, although others like the Comanches, Kiowas and Cheyenne were almost equally feared. After the defeat of Custer in 1876 the Sioux could not compete with the huge numbers of troops deployed against them. In 1877 due to this enormous pressure Sitting Bull and his followers fled into Canada, where they were allowed to remain as long as they promised to be peaceful. Eventually in 1881 he and the bulk of his supporters feeling very homesick- although smaller numbers remained in Canada -  were persuaded to return across the border and live on a reservation. 

Sitting Bull never accepted reservation life in a land where the huge influx of white people was changing things forever. He took part in a touring Circus with Buffalo Bill Cody but remained recalcitrant,and when the  despair of the Indians resulted in the Ghost Dance religious movement was considered a dangerous influence. The decision was taken to arrest and imprison him. In December 1890 reservation Indian police were sent to arrest him but he and his followers resisted, resulting  in several  deaths, including Sitting Bull and some of the police. To this day some Sioux believe he was deliberately murdered. The best book I know on Sitting Bull is `The Lance and The Shield' subtitled `The Life and Times of Sitting Bull' by Robert M. Utley, Ballantine Books, New York 1994. 

My initial approach was to make a careful drawing using a Pentel 07 mechanical pencil with a 2B lead. I took careful measurements from the guide photograph  to get the proportions correct and everything, eyes, nose, mouth, in the right places. If the old masters could use all sorts of aids to ensure accuracy why not I? I don't see any reason to wear a hair shirt.

I then painted the face and features starting with the eyes, nose and mouth. I used a mix of Cadmium Red Light, a little Raw Sienna plus Cobalt Blue to darken and also Schminke Translucent Brown (PBr41) to try and get the right skin colour. I played around with these colours and mostly mixed on the paper. Prior to painting I put on small amounts of masking fluid for the highlights around the eyes. Make sure you allow the fluid to dry before attempting to paint. When painting the face I incorporated the underside of the hat brim with similar colours darkened, using various mixtures of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. I then painted the hair using the same Ultramarine/Burnt Sienna mix and carried this down into the neck area and top of his clothing. I then painted the hat using diluted Raw Umber, Ultramarine Violet and possibly  some Raw Sienna.I can't remember exactly (!). I'm never able to complete things in the `first try for a finish' mode so did further work on the right facing side of the face and finished off the features. The background has heavily diluted Sap Green, Cerulean and Ultramarine Violet. I think that's it. My usual brushes, all Isabey except the Da Vinci Artissimo 44.


Ray Maclachlan said...

The light on the face is very good Peter. A spot of red somewhere? Probably not.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Ray. There is a spot of red in the corner of the right facing eye.

Brenda George said...

I love your Indian painting, I remember having an Indian period in my paintings back in the 70s and still love the challenge of Indian faces.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for kind comments Brenda.