Here is another in the series of watercolors based on Edward S Curtis’ early 20th Century black and white photographs of Native Americans. This one is of Bird Rattle, a Piegan (Blackfoot).
I know from reading the Edward Curtis Biography that his first trip outside of Washington State to photograph Native Americans was to the Blackfoot reservation in Montana. I’m not sure if this one was from that trip or if it was taken later.
I worked hard to capture the intensity of Bird Rattle’s piercing gaze, which was common in a lot of the photographs from the collection – these proud people had an astonishing intensity in their gaze – almost like they were looking into you.
All my successful Watercolor portraits now follow an established pattern.
1 – Do a few thumbnail sketches. Each one that I do looks more and more like the subject.
2 – Do a detailed sketch like the one I did of Bird Rattle for this project
3- Draw a rough sketch on the watercolor paper until you KNOW it looks like the subject. If the rough sketch is “off”, don’t start the watercolor because painting it won’t fix a bad sketch/outline.
4- Paint the watercolor using both the original photograph AND the detailed sketch as references for tone, light reflection, and shapes, facial features, hair, and clothing.