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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Indian Portrait Paintings

 The Fourth Painting in My New Series.

Dat so la Lee with 8 Degikup Baskets

Let's take a look at the process for this particular painting of Dat so la Lee with 8 degikup baskets and while doing so you will read a bit about the baskets too.  Painless history.

The canvas began with the same palette used for the previous 3 paintings and some of the same composition elements, the rectangle behind the head symbolizing a throne back, the stripe across the top third of the canvas an area that will hold a design from one of Dat so la Lee's baskets, and a ring of degikup baskets circling her neck.

Dat so la Lee is most famous for developing the degikup basket style that consisted of a large spherical shaped basket with a flat base and a small opening. It is estimated that she produced nearly 300 baskets in her lifetime, some taking a year to create.  Amazing.  In this particular painting I choose to represent some of her degikup baskets as well as the face of this talented woman.

After laying on some of the flesh tones I begin to concentrate on the dark and light areas of the face, all the while trying to think of anything but the fact that this is a face.  Remember, this is all new to me.

Traditionally, Washoe utilitarian baskets, or degikup, were round, watertight baskets made to hold such things as acorn mush, pine nut soup, and a drink made from wild rhubarb. 

By adding darker areas, shaded line work, the features become more obvious.

Degikup were also important in Washoe ceremonies. During the Washoe girls’ dance, food was put in degikup and given to singers in thanks for their singing; another degikup was thrown out to the dancers as a gift.  

The hair and beginnings of the head scarf go in....I needed to leave the face alone since I was nervous about overworking.

These baskets, the degikup,  were relatively simple in form and design—as were Dat so la lee’s first baskets. However, Dat so la lee transformed the shape and design of degikup, making truly aesthetic, sculptured baskets.

After painting in basic shading for her head scarf I went back to her face and had an 'ah ha' moment...thank goodness...using the same techniques I use to paint my rocks I was able to simplify, intensify, give character and depth to this face.

The Carson Valley and Lake Tahoe were home to Dat so la Lee.  Because I live and work in this area, I want to honor the early, talented women, those of the tribes that inhabited this area, the women who wove tribal history into their baskets.  This is why I am choosing to paint portraits of these women, and the first woman I have chosen to paint is Dat so la Lee, this the fourth of her and fourth in my series.

After more research about the degikup basket and Dat so la Lee's degikup baskets in particular, I painted in the base colors for the baskets making them slightly larger than they were in the original sketch.  Selecting a design from one of her baskets to place on the head scarf  repeats what was done in the first portrait.

It's the local Indian basket weavers I want to honor with portraits: Dat so la Lee, Lizzie Peters, Jennie Bryant Shaw, Tillie Snooks, Tootsie Dick, Maggie Mayo James, Lilly James, to name a few.  These women lived and worked in the late 1800's and into the early 1900's.  Their craft was traditionally handed down mother to daughter, the creation of utilitarian vessels that were spectacular in design as well as being useful in life. Because it is the women I want to honor, not the baskets, the focus in my paintings is general, not specific.  My painted baskets do not compare to the precise and intricate weave these women accomplished and I do not strive for them to do so.

Detail of the painting showing the completed scarf and the beginning of the basket designs, all inspired by actual baskets woven by Dat so la Lee.

The background stripe filled with another design from one of Dat so la Lee's baskets.

Creating these women in paint is my way of acknowledging  and honoring their lives and their craft.  

Dat so la Lee With 8 Degikup Baskets

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1 comment:

  1. A wonderful way to honor these amazing women and artists! Now I know what a degikup is! Have a great week! Kathy