Tuesday, 4 February 2014


Geronimo was the famous or infamous Chiricahua Apache leader who terrorized the South-West of America and large tracts of Northern Mexico during the mid to late period of the 19th century. His band were (officially) the last hostiles to surrender in 1881. Immediately following the surrender they and their families were bundled on a train and exiled to Florida. Eventually he was rehabilitated and lived out the last stages of his life as something of a celebrity. This study was painted from a photograph taken during the latter period. Some Apaches allied with Geronimo never surrendered and took refuge in the wild and largely uninhabited Sierra Madre mountains of Northern Mexico. There were reports of incidents as late as the 1920s and I suppose it is possible remnants still remain to this day. 

My setup with guide photo 

 Contour drawing graphite mechanical Pentel pencil 07 2B 

I first made a careful contour drawing ensuring everything, eyes, nose, mouth were in the right place and to scale. The two things that struck me about this photo were the hard, piercing eyes and the steel trap of a mouth, although less daunting than in his hostile days. 

Geronimo - Waterford 16" x 12" High White Not 140lbs (300gsm) 

I first painted the eyes, then the nose followed by the mouth. In order to get the skin colour fairly dark I used Translucent Brown (Scminke PBr41) as the main component instead of Cadmium Red. Cadmium Red also featured as a secondary colour with very small amounts of Raw Sienna.To darken I used Cobalt Blue Deep.(Rowney PB72). When painting the face I didn't stop at the boundaries but continued into the hair. I tried to harmonize the whole avoiding cutouts and painted mostly wet in wet. The hat colours are Ultramarine Blue,  Translucent Brown and Raw Umber, again mainly wet in wet. Overall I avoided too `pretty' an approach and adopted the `be slightly crude' advice of Charles Reid. I'm happy with the result.

Brushes were the usual Isabeys and the Da Vinci Artissimo 44.


Caroline said...

"re-rehabilitated"? Actually, I am questioning the "rehabilitated". Not sure what re-re means. He was made acceptable to the conquering Americans?

I have enjoyed your blog and your paintings for a long time just have not felt I could comment on the paintings.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Caroline re-re was a typo and I've corrected it. Yes he was rehabilitated in the eyes of many Americans - probably not those who suffered when he was on the warpath. Many westerners wanted him hanged or worse but he became a celebrity in later life appearing in Wild West shows and other events. I have a lot of sympathy for the Amerindians in the way they were treated but they were not the peace loving mystics as portrayed in films like `Dances with Wolves'. Read `Scalp Dance' by Thomas Goodrich.

Caroline said...

Nor were the Indians the only scalpers.

Peter Ward said...

No they were not as there were some very disreputable elements who migrated West, many to escape justice. The West was a lawless and dangerous place. The Wild Frontier by William M Osborn is about atrocities on all sides from 1607 to 1890. It is an interesting read if hard to stomach.