I find that painting a subject that I’m drawn to, makes everything go better. I recently tried to paint a picture of a famous music conductor that I don’t know much about for a friend and have failed at that – I’ve had to set it aside for now. By contrast, I was looking at a bunch of Edward Curtis Black and White Photographs from the very early 1900s and as soon as I saw his photograph of Three Eagles, I knew I would paint a watercolor of him – I could see it in my mind’s eye well before I painted it.
I wasn’t able to find out much about Three Eagles from searching online, other than the fact that he was an associate of the great Indian Leader, Chief Joseph. Chief Joseph crossed the Yellowstone River right outside Laurel, Montana during his unsuccessful flight to Canada with his people. Since I grew up in Laurel, Montana, I’ve always found this especially interesting. There’s a spot north of town where there was a skirmish where people I knew growing up were still able to find old carbine shells and other artifacts from the original battle. Most people will remember the famous speech that Chief Joseph gave as he surrendered, just 40 miles from the Canadian Border, where he said, “From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever”. There is such resignation and clarity in that.
There is something truly majestic and ethereal in the face of Three Eagles. I hope I captured that in the paining. To me, his face is the face of a man of deep character – I hope I served him well with my effort.