Encounter with the Teton Sioux used for educational purposes
This year, my 2010 Lewis and Clark painting, Encounter with the Teton Sioux, has been used in different settings to help illustrate this chapter of American history to school-age children.
Your Life as a Private on the Lewis and Clark Expedition
Your Life as a Private on the Lewis and Clark Expedition is a new book for children from Capstone Publishing that brings to life the rigors of being part of the Corp of Discovery:
“SCRAPE! No one wants to hear that sound. The boat is hitting sandbars. You’ll have to get out and pull. In no time you’re sweaty. Your back aches. Clouds of mosquitoes and gnats stab at your skin and buzz in your ears. ‘This is no adventure,’ you grumble. ‘Just hard work.’ ~From Your Life as a Private on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, page 6.
Encounter with the Teton Sioux gave the book’s illustrator, Colleen Madden, the historical reference she needed about the fateful meeting between the Teton people and the explorers.
Living History Experiences
A few months ago, I received a call from John Hess of Living History Experiences of California asking for permission to use Encounter with the Teton Sioux in their elementary school classroom learning programs.
I was delighted to have my painting included in this endeavor. Living History Experiences is an innovative organization that seeks to make the study of history engaging for schoolchildren through the use of artifacts, hands-on activities and crafts, and character playing.
Started 10 years ago by educator and history fan Mary Hess, Living History Experiences provides a variety of programs for all age levels including:
- Colonial America
- The Revolutionary War
- Lewis and Clark
- The Civil War
To achieve their goal of bringing history to life, the organization employs the whole family. In addition to founder Mary Hess and husband John, son Eric also dons period clothing from time to time.
Living History Experiences is in the process of obtaining 501-3c certification for non-profit status.
Do you have an educational request for the licensing or use of one of my images?
Please contact me directly: Contact James Ayers Studios. I’d love to hear from you.
Affordable versions of my most popular images
I’m pleased to announce my new line of limited edition giclée prints on paper.
This collection features the same popular images from my canvas giclée line on professional-grade 320gm watercolor paper. All printing is done with archival inks and each print is signed, numbered, and accompanied by an official certificate of authenticity. Edition size for each image is 500.
Prices range from $105 to $145 and include FREE U.S. shipping. (For international orders, please contact my studio to receive a shipping quote estimate: Contact James Ayers.)
I invite you to browse my newest collection by clicking the thumbnails below.
- Always Watchful Print – Crow Warrior
An Idle Moment Print – Blackfoot
Beauty and Grace Print – Ute
Black Rock – A Two Kettle Chief Print
Calmly She Turns Print – Lakota
Civilized Warrior Print – Lakota
Ever Watchful Print – Crow
Her Husband’s Shirt print – Lakota
Keokuk, Sac and Fox Chief Print
Kiowa Cradleboard Print – Kiowa
Mahpiya Lutu Print – Red Cloud
Master of His Land print – Crow
Mato Tope Print – Four Bears
Nobility of Mind Print – Crow
Resolute Strength Print – Blackfoot
Soldier of His People Print – Mandan
Tatanka Iyotake, Sitting Bull Print
The Encounter Print – Blackfoot
The Warrior and His Winchester Print
Undaunted Leader Print – Lakota
War Party Rides print – Lakota
Warriors of the High Country Print – Ute
Watching the Storm Print – Blackfoot
COLLECTOR UPDATE: The Shortcut has been sold.
High in the Rocky Mountains, a Blackfoot warrior takes a chance with the rapids
I’m pleased to introduce my new painting, The Shortcut.
48″ x 72″
Oil on canvas
The Shortcut depicts a Blackfoot man taking a shortcut home. Deep in the forest, he is preparing to cross the river which is swift due to the spring thaw.
You can see in his eyes that he is making choices, deciding which way will offer the fewest hazards.
The warrior rides a horse with a thick winter coat. Native American ponies would get wooly and fuzzy in the cold months. The pack horse is bearing parfleche bags–hide bags painted with maps and symbols and used to carry dried meat.
The man carries a Winchester Yellowboy lever-action rifle, which began production in 1866. This model of weapon was a favorite amongst the Great Plains tribes because it was one of the first repeating rifles. The fighters and hunters could shoot with it far faster than they could notch arrows into their bows. Plains people traded and raided to acquire these valuable firearms.
My research for this painting took me high the Rocky Mountains in the early spring of 2012. At the time, I was struck by the shadows and highlights of the light in the cold air.
I took these impressions that early spring day and emphasized them in The Shortcut. Notice the contrast of the lights and darks in the snow and stream. This interplay of light emphasizes the rider, helping to draw your focus to him.
In addition, most of the background and foreground are cool shades whereas the warrior and horses are rendered in warm tones, also to bring emphasis to the rider.
Are you interested in acquiring The Shortcut?
I am displaying The Shortcut at the 2013 Celebration of Fine Art show.
If you are interested in The Shortcut, please contact me directly: James Ayers email.
Thank you to everyone who entered the 2013 giclee poll, the results are in:
The winners are Her Husband’s Shirt, Master of His Land, War Party Rides.
Each archival-quality giclee on canvas comes numbered, signed, and with a certificate of authenticity.
Three sizes available: 20″ X 20″, 28″ X 28″, 36″ X 36″
Three sizes available: 24″ X 16″, 36″ X 24″, 45″ X 30″
Three sizes available: 20″ X 20″, 28″ X 28″, 36″ X 36″
War Party Rides features a Crow horseman on top of the hill, with the vast expanse of the Plains behind him.
Please contact my studio to purchase or if you have questions
Please use my online email form: James Ayers Studios email. I look forward to hearing from you.
Interested in seeing my other giclee offerings? Please visit my giclee page to see the rest of my Native American giclees.
Award-winning painter James Ayers shares his thoughts on how to pursue a career in fine art
I have made my living exclusively as a fine art painter since 1995—as a result, I receive many questions from people considering fine art as a career. I thought it would be helpful to share my experiences and give advice on the subject in one place.
Understand your talents
One of the most important things to realize is that if you have a passion for making art, there is a medium that will help you explore your vision.
You need to be honest about what your abilities and interests are and find a way to develop the skills you have. Explore drawing, photography, mixed media sculpture, or any of the endless mediums that allow you to express yourself. Find your specific calling.
For me, the formal art education I received at the Rhode Island School of Design was an invaluable experience. Having a structured program helped me get the fundamentals of art in a logical way and added to the achievements and awards portion of my young resume.
My advice is that if you are in a position to go to art school, then GO.
What if you are not in a position to go to school full time?
A formal art education is not the only way to learn your craft. There are plenty of successful artists who never got an art degree—but this does not mean these artists did not educate themselves. Improve your skills as much as you can: take classes and workshops from artists in your genre, at community colleges, or online. Also make sure you read and see as much artwork in all styles as you possibly can.
An investment of time in your art knowledge will never go to waste.
Find your focus
When I first started my career, I knew that I wanted to focus on portraiture and realism. I had advice from people that I trusted that I should try to be more abstract and stylized—and I tried.
What I realized was that if I wasn’t feeling it, I couldn’t paint it. I cannot emphasize this point enough: Follow your own interests and don’t let other people’s idea of what you should become dictate what you create. My belief on feedback is to listen to all of it, but filter it—don’t let the advice from others overwhelm you.
Your most judgmental critic will most likely be YOU. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t evaluate your work with a critical eye, but don’t self-censor yourself into a creative box.
In my case, once I determined that I wanted to portray historic Native American cultures, I created my own unnecessary roadblocks based on what I thought people in the Native American community might think of my work.
What helped was for me to stop assuming and get actual input. My Hopi friends in Hotevilla and Old Oraibi put my concerns to rest and encouraged me. I have never looked back since.
Create your network
It is easy to stay locked away in your studio to the exclusion of all else—but do try to resist this urge! You need to get out there: Meet people that create , appreciate , and purchase art.
How do you get in the art-world mix? Try these steps:
First, make sure you have an online portfolio of your work. Even established artists like myself use this tool extensively.
For people interested in a fine art path, get involved with as many live art events as you can. Participate in local shows, art events, and attend gallery openings.
For those of you interested in commercial art, introduce yourself to as many people in the industry as you can. If you are eligible for an internship—take it! You can get your foot in the door of an agency and see how the real world of commercial art works.
I cannot emphasize this point enough. Whatever you do, KEEP LEARNING. You need a continuous inflow of fresh inspiration to keep your brain working at a high-performing level.
Go to galleries and museums and note other artists whose work you admire. Follow those artists at exhibitions and online; for living artists, observe how they continue to innovate in their work.
Speaking of online…Although the internet is an excellent tool for inspiration, there is no substitute for visiting museums in person. You need to see real art at its full size, not just screen-size representations of the art.
One of my most important inspirations was when I was viewing the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. I saw the painting Woman in a Fur Hat by Gretchen Rogers. I would literally stare at this painting for hours—absorbing the beauty in the use of light, the detail of the fur, the expression on the subject’s face. This experience helped me know that portraiture was the path I should also take—and was an experience that would not have been the same online.
Wishing you all the best in your art career
I hope my experiences have been helpful to you. Creating art is a marvelous endeavor and one that can make your working hours a joy.
Here’s to the art and beauty in your life.
Another article you might like: “Skin, Muscle, and Bones: The complicated process of painting a human hand.”
Part I: An interview with Apache model LeAnn Murphy
My paintings of historic Native American cultures offer a glimpse into yesterday: You can see what people wore, what tools and weapons they used, or what activities they undertook in their daily lives.
You might think gathering all my data for a painting means spending my time in museums or with my nose in a reference book. I conduct research, of course, but my secret to successfully representing cultures from yesterday is to draw inspiration from people of today.
To that end, I rely on both visual input from models and narrative input from stories by people who have experience with traditional lifeways.
Because the inspiration from living people is so important to my work, I’ve created this miniseries of articles to introduce my fans to some of the members of contemporary Native America that I have been fortunate enough to meet.
Meet Apache model LeAnn Murphy
LeAnn Murphy lives in Arizona and is a stay-at-home mother of three children: Colin, age four; Leah, age two; and newborn Keira Skye. LeAnn models part-time for artists at the Scottsdale Artists School, where she is in demand due to her classic beauty.
I met LeAnn after she found me on Facebook and contacted my studio to inquire about modeling opportunities. I am always looking for models with that certain “spark” in their appearance; LeAnn fit the bill perfectly.
LeAnn will be modeling for me in 2013 when I arrive in Scottsdale for the Celebration of Fine Art show.
Question: What is your heritage?
Answer: I was born on the San Carlos Apache reservation and raised in Scottsdale. I now live in Cave Creek. I have family who live on the reservation, so we visit frequently.
What can you tell me about the Apache language?There are different dialects of the Apache language; the Apache from San Carlos speak differently from people on other reservations. The language is mostly verbal. My uncle has worked with anthropologists from the University of Arizona to get it recorded.
Part of my family speaks the language and part doesn’t. I cannot speak it, though my uncle tries to teach me. My cousin who grew up on the reservation understands the words, but cannot speak much of it herself.
I would love to be able to speak Apache and want my children to be able to speak it, even though it is not a very common language. The community college on the San Carlos reservation teaches Apache occasionally; I think that’s probably the only way my kids will be able to learn to speak it.
How important is Native American culture to you?
The Apache culture IS who I am—and the older I get, the more I appreciate that.
I love learning the history of where I came from, what my people went through, and our evolution as a strong, proud people. When I was younger, that aspect of my heritage didn’t matter to me as much; I was an “urban native girl.” Now that I’m older, I want my kids to grow up to know their history, their culture, and the Apache arts.
My husband is of Irish descent, so we make sure our children see both sides of their heritage. The kids see the Irish music and dances and also go to the reservation and to pow-wows.
What are your thoughts about my work? Why do you want to model for my paintings?
Your work makes me proud of my heritage—even when I see a painting from a culture that isn’t my own. I am proud of my connection as a Native American when a see a warrior’s strong face and beautiful coloring.
When I look at your paintings, I can picture myself in that setting. I can see the whole story in my mind. That’s what brought your work to my attention in the first place.
How do you feel about me painting Native American cultures when I am not Native American myself?
I’m fine with it. American Indian cultures are beautiful I can understand why people are fascinated with them. Personally, I find the Japanese culture beautiful and I’m not Japanese! But that doesn’t mean I cannot appreciate it.
I’d like to thank LeAnn for giving me the opportunity to share her thoughts. LeAnn will be modeling for me live at the Celebration of Fine Art show this year. Please sign up for my mailing list to receive notification of when she will be at the show. You can expect finished paintings featuring LeAnn by the end of 2013.
Part II of this miniseries on the people who inspire me features Navajo Master Weaver Pamela Brown. Please click here to read more: About Navajo Master Weaver Pamela Brown.
Part II: An interview with Navajo Master Weaver Pamela Brown
This article is a continuation of my miniseries to introduce you to the living people who influence my work. Here, I present a young woman who inspires me both as an artist in her own right and with her stories of traditional Navajo life.
Meet Navajo Master Weaver Pamela Brown
Pamela Brown lives in New Mexico near the Toadlena Trading Post on the Navajo Reservation. For the past 100 years, the Toadlena region has been home for to the finest Navajo weavers; the aesthetic of this area is to use natural-color wools, ultra-fine spinning, and complex geometric designs.
Pamela is considered by Navajo weaving expert Mark Winter to be a “Master Weaver”—her pictorial depictions of Navajo life are considered among the best of the best. Even more impressive is that Pamela is only in her 30s. She has a lifetime of amazing weavings yet to create.
I met Pam when I participated in a fundraiser for young Toadlena weavers. She shared with me stories of her youth—Pam told me one of her earliest memories was the sound of the loom “clacking” as she was placed next to it as a baby. This notion of the unity of family life and weaving was just the creative spark I needed to create Patterns of Tradition, a painting that shows the seamless integration of artistry, family, and environment in the traditional Navajo lifeways.
For me as an artist, Pamela helps bridge the gap in my mind between the traditional life and modern day. In addition to creating her renowned weavings, Pamela is a married mother of two young boys and is enrolled in a health education program with a goal to enter nursing school. In her spare time, she is an avid runner.
Question: The art world has an intense interest in Native American cultures. How do you feel about that?
Answer: I think interest is extremely good—I hope it continues to grow. I like to see people interested in Native American cultures.
What was your path as an artist?
I’ve been weaving since I was seven years old. I started by doing stripes and then geometrics. I just took it on myself to change the patterns and get creative.
Although you use traditional materials and methods. Your weavings are very contemporary in design. Does the public “get” your work?
Not at first—people expect to see geometric patterns and traditional symbolism; it takes explanation for people to understand the concept behind the images.
What I weave are lots of autobiographical stories and scenes that include the people around me. Most of my work shows me and my sister on the reservation and as I have met people and heard their stories, I created those too.
How do you how balance the traditional ways and modern life?
My family is extremely traditional so maintaining the old ways is not so hard for me. The biggest issue is the language barrier. I have the hardest time with speaking Navajo and it is hard for me to understand it. My boys don’t really speak it either, which is a sad thing for me. I wish we could speak more.
How do you feel of seeing historic Navajo life portrayed in my work—especially since I based one of my paintings on your memories?
I loved that painting [Patterns of Tradition] even before I knew that my story inspired it. I was excited about the whole scene with the weaver and liked seeing the traditional clothes, the hogan, and the cradleboard. It was a gratifying image for me.
How do you feel about me painting the Navajo culture when I am not Native American myself?
I don’t mind it. Actually, I think it is welcoming and inspiring to see someone trying so hard to portray as many different cultures as possible.
I’d like to thank Pamela for giving me the opportunity to share her thoughts. You can see Pamela Brown’s renowned weavings on the Toadlena Trading Post website.
Part I of this miniseries on the people who inspire me features Apache model LeAnn Murphy. Please click here to read more: About Apache model LeAnn Murphy.
Hands are one of the most complicated shapes of the human body. This article shares a bit about my technique and approach to painting hands.
I’ve received a lot of Facebook comments recently about my painting techniques, specifically my treatment of hands.
Hands are some of the most difficult and rewarding body parts to paint. They represent our ability to manipulate and change the environment around us and are our primary means of creating action.
Many artists struggle with hands. Before I went to art school, I could create hands fairly well. But after going to school, my representation of hands improved dramatically.
One of the keys for my expertise in creating hands was to learn specifically about human anatomy, including taking anatomy courses at Brown University and viewing medical cadavers so that I could see the musculature and the vascular systems.
There are more layers to the hand than you might think! You can look at charts and feel your own hands, but seeing the underlying structures was essential in my understanding.
When I compose a painting, I spend time specifically composing the hands. There is a fine balance that an artist needs to find: the hand cannot be so dynamic that it looks unnatural, nor can it be so simple that it looks fake or club-like.
I start by first defining the larger shapes and structure at a macro level, beginning with a mitt-like form. Then, I add a structure—akin to a wireframe—to define the mechanical aspects of the hand’s movements.
Once I have this foundation in place, I can draw lines from each junction of the metacarpals and then create directional angles from the knuckles. This step is important to help properly define the hand. The nature of the hand is to be dynamic and the digits have to move correctly or the viewer will know something is “off”, even if they cannot identify the problem explicitly.
After creating proper angles, I focus on what I want the hand to do with the rest of the composition: how the shapes of the hands interact with the other shapes of the painting, focus on the negative space created by the four fingers and one thumb, etc.
Only after completing this analysis do I start working on any detail such as skin, veins, or muscles.
When I add details to the hands is when I focus on the visible gender differences in the hands. Male hands have greater size, bulk, and strength than a woman’s hands with much more dramatic ligaments.
With my female portrayals, I try to strike a balance between strength and femininity.
As with all people who inhabited the West in the 19th century, the women I paint had to work to survive. Between toting water, weaving baskets, and sewing garments, these women developed strong, tanned hands.
The challenge for me as an artist is make the female hands look realistic and sturdy without making them look too rugged and masculine.
Examples of hands in my paintings
I hope you have enjoyed this brief view into my technique and thought processes for creating realistic hands.
If you would like to see more examples of hands in my paintings, please visit my Sold Work page where you can view hundreds of thumbnails of my work. From there, you can click on any piece that catches your eye and see the painting in detail.
Interested in reading more about how I compose my paintings? Please visit the James Ayers Painting Process page.
UPDATE: Polling is now closed!
By popular demand, my 2013 giclees are:
Thank you everyone for your input.
I need your help deciding which images to pick for my 2013 giclee line–and enter to win a free giclee print!
It’s time for me to decide on what prints are to be included in my 2013 giclee line. I wanted to get the input from my friends and fans to help me choose. I’ve narrowed down the selections to:
- Her Husband’s Shirt, Lakota
- Knight of the Great Plains, Blackfeet
- Master of His Land, Crow
- Show of Splendor, Crow
- Superior Stature, Lakota
- The Noble One, Crow
- War Party Rides, Lakota
Let me know what you think. Enter my 2013 giclee poll below.
Please enter your contact information below to enter the drawing for a first-run giclee print.
After voting in the poll, enter the drawing for a first-run print of one of the winning, new 2013 giclees.
Polling will close and the drawing will be held on November 11th, 2012. The winner will be contacted and will have one week to respond. I will handle shipping costs.
Thank you for participating in this poll and contest. I value your input and am offering this drawing as a way to say “thank you” for your continued interest in my work.
COLLECTOR UPDATE: Boundless Warriors has been sold.
Springtime in the Rockies
I’m pleased to introduce Boundless Warriors, a painting that depicts two Ute warriors in the high country in springtime.
I created this painting after my early April, 2012 research trip. I wanted to capture that fleeting time in early spring, where there is plenty of snow on the mountains and the first wildflowers of the season are blooming.
Ute warriors detail
Boundless Warriors is a vibrant scene of young Ute warriors descending from the highlands.
The first man rides a horse decorated with coup marks–these would have been to count coup that the horse and warrior shared together.
The warrior carries his shield–shields such as this were unique to the owner: each man earned his own guiding symbols and protective medicine during his vision quest ceremony.
Shields are an entire field of study in archeology with debate as to the meaning of the symbols. Since shields are such individual expressions, I took liberties with this one by adding blue and orange colorations to represent the earth and the sky, decorating it with eagle and hawk feathers, and adding strips of red trade cloth.
The second man wears red leggings and an orange shirt. He rides a horse adorned with red circles painted around his eyes (to give the animal good eyesight).
Boundless Warriors was created on the diagonal to give the piece forward movement as the riders come down the grassy slope.
A more subtle – but still important – design component is the triangle formed by the brown horse’s nose, the spear, and the tail of the white horse. This shape helps move your eye into and across the scene.
In terms of color, notice the how the red circle around the horse’s eye makes a sharp focal point by bringing a splash of color to the otherwise cool tones in that part of the painting. Similarly, the second rider’s red leggings continue to draw your eye in.
This painting was inspired by my early April, 2011 research trip up into the Colorado highlands. There is a specific look to the mountains in the springtime just before the snow melt, and I knew that I had only a brief amount of time to document just the scene I wanted.
In addition to the mountains and grassland, I also used images from a local riding stable to capture the horses in motion. You can see the reference images below.
If you are interested in Boundless Warriors, please contact my studio: James Ayers Studios email.