Stunning Native American portraits, by Kirby Sattler

Using an extremely thin brush, the main focus is now on the eyes - the most essential part of the painting. 

That last line needs repeating - "the most essential part of the painting." These are paintings, not photographs, and they are truly fantastic.

As this precise work is demanding and tiring, the work must alternate channeling the soul of the subject through the eyes, and other less involving details such as feathers, "models" for which are temporarily taped to the canvas.
The background and landscape elements are sketched as rough outlines. 
Out of all the stages of painting a portrait, this stage is the most crucial. This is when the painting's future is being investigated. 

If Kirby decides that he did not portray the emotion he envisioned, he will destroy the canvas (via).

I came across Mr. Sattler because, in my junior English class, we're studying Native American mythology. The other day, we used these paintings to discuss the inherited worldview of the various Native American people, which, although varied, tends to agree upon a few basic truths: mankind is subject and responsible to Nature. In many of their mythological stories, it is Nature - not the heavenly beings - that bring and sustain life. So it is Nature that they respect, worship, and honor. 

Their intricate headdresses are an extension and manifestation of their beliefs, their answers to the essential questions of life: what is the role of God, the role of Man, and the purpose of Life?

So we studied their faces.


This activity was the product of a hopeful new adventure in my teaching - Art Starts. It's a new theory and practice that stems from Gene Roddenberry's quote, "All art is an attempt to answer the question, 'What is it all about?'"

Not only do I fully agree with this statement, absorbing its truth into the classroom has provided me (and us) a powerful foundation to begin the school year, a sure rudder to guide each discussion, and an answer to the repeated question, "Why are we doing this? Is this important?"

"Because," I tell them, "Someone is giving you their answer to the greatest question we can ever ask, and if we aren't careful, we might begin to believe it. Whether we want to or not."


This methodology is in its infancy stage, so as of now there isn't much to write or produce, but I hope to share more as the year continues. 

But as of now, only two weeks in, I'm loving. So do the students because, whether they've been able to articulated it or not, deep down, they agree with Lyndon B. Johnson: "Art is a nation's most precious heritage. For it is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves and to others the inner vision which guides us as a nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish." 

What better place to dissect, discuss, and interact with art than a classroom?


You can see more of Kirby Sattler's ridiculous art at his website.


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