Tuesday, March 22, 2011

spotted elk (big foot) portrait: next painting

spotted elk was a lakota chief who was killed as the rapid-fire hotchkiss guns of the 7th cavalry spewed grapeshot down into the valley formed by the meandering wounded knee creek in december, 1890, killing not only hundreds of lakota but also 30-50 us soldiers. historians tell us that this was all acutely precipitated by the accidental discharge of a deaf lakotan's rifle when soldiers attempted to disarm him not understanding the order (because he couldn't hear it). spotted elk's, also known as big foot,  portrait photo shown here will be the inspiration piece for this painting.  the only other photos i could find of him were of him and his wife and of his frozen corpse lying on the ground at wounded knee. this photo is interesting in that a number of observers have thought that he must have had a deformed left hand. the truth is that his hand was perfectly fine but he moved half-way through the pose  making the hand only show up where it overlapped in the two poses filmed as one. it only looks like he has a misshapen hand. i tried to reconstruct the hand as best i could in my drawing.  whether this was a good idea or not, i'm not sure. anatomically if not historically correct.

drawing for spotted elk portrait
 i didn't really realize it until i transferred it to the watercolor paper (fabriano artisico 140# cp, 16"X20") that in typical fashion i had drawn the head too large to be able to easily get the hands in the painting. to try to mitigate this i placed the head high enough to actually cut off some of the top and raised the right (our left) arm up and forward by fore-shortening it and raising his left hand a bit as well. i think that this will work out but i still am missing some of his fingers on the lower of the two hands,

since it had worked out well on the sitting bull portrait i put down an initial wash of burnt sienna, cobalt blue and alizarin crimson permanent on the face and hair and burnt sienna with just a little of the crimson on the hands.
initial wash

after this had dried i started to put in the features exactly as i did on the previous painting of sitting bull and will not reiterate the steps in narrative form here but will show the net result in both a regular view and a close-up. the tie/scarf around his neck was painted using teal blue and some ultramarine. this was finished off with quinacridone gold for the clasp. his braids that fall across his right cheek cast shadows as well and these were painted in using burnt sienna/umber following the contour of his cheek.

features and hair for spotted elk portrait

close-up of spotted elk portrait

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