I started the entire Los Muertos Indios line because I wanted to create a native Day of the Dead “Sugar” Skull. It quickly evolved from a skull with basic symbols like feathers and buffalo tracks in contemporary colors to subjects with much more specific themes.
Most of my work is related to Northern Plains tribal designs. There is much symbology incorporated into all the images. The use of horns on any subject, for example, is not to make something look demonic, but rather to show its spiritual nature. Horns and antlers are a common theme along with symbols related to the subject. The Los Muertos Ghost Dancer is a great example of the symbology related to the Ghost Dance of the northern plains.
Although I have never practiced the Peyote Religion, I have always admired the art associated with it, and have made it a point to have as good of an understanding of it as is possible for someone who does not practice the ceremonies. While some non-native people seem disturbed that I would incorporate skulls and skeletons into traditions that are still being practiced, I have found that most natives appreciate the symbolism quite well. The use of skeleton symbols as a way to recognize that death is a constant companion and that death has not taken us yet is a common practice around the world.
My newest piece “Los Muertos Peyote Cat” is related to the peyote practices, and is a bit more northern plains than my previous peyote related work. Many people do not realize that the northern tribes have groups that practice the peyote ceremonies as well.
This piece reflects the contemporary mix of northern and southern symbols. A cat is, of course, a symbol of balance around the world. My mountain lion holds a southern military macaw fan and feathers while wearing old time northern dentalium earrings, northern beadwork and is bordered by a northern painted rawhide design. On his skull is the crescent altar that is common to both northern and southern practitioners.
When composing my digital Los Muertos pieces, I most often start with a skull and see where inspiration takes me. I had no real vision for the Peyote cat piece, other than to start with a cat skull… I think that is one reason I make digital art…Its easier for me to just see what comes out, whereas when I do physical painting, every last detail is planned out before I start painting. I will usually finish the skull before composing anything more for it, but this time I actually moved on with an incomplete skull, adding the hair and feathers to get a feel for the colors and designs.
After adding hair and feathers. I wasn’t feeling the abalone earrings as they were making him look like a chipmunk.
Building the dentalium shell earrings…
I fabricate almost everything I use in Photoshop using custom shapes, along with a few vector images and pics.
I tend to go overboard with detail that’s not usually seen on the finished piece. Here is the threadwork that I built for the base of the fan feathers. The original threadwork was 12 inches tall.
Trying to work out a good peyote button design…
Once all the elements were put together, I felt the need for a border, so I used one I was working on for another project. After I feel like something is finished, I make it into a wallpaper for my Mac, and look at it for a few days to see if anything needs adjusted. When I feel like it’s done, I can’t wait to post it!
To purchase the Los Muertos Indios “Peyote Cat” click here