Walking the “edge”

My mother is a tough Lady. She always tells us: “Don’t whine”.

Uncle Joe is a CPA. We call him “Chief Joseph” to bug him. He grins: “I’m not a Nez-percé. I’m Umatilla.”

I tease him: “Wasn’t your great-grandmother a Walla Walla?”

My aunt works two jobs, but it doesn’t matter. (Don’t whine). Plus, they have all come to the Roundup: the Umatilla, the Cayuse, the Walla Walla, even the Nez-percés, the Yakama, the Palouse and others.

This is me, wondering what the background will be? I mean, what am I looking at?

What? Monument Valley? Seriously? What are they thinking? I want to talk to the manager! Producer. Whatever.

That’s better. Me again. Get ready for the annual Roundup of the Confederate tribes of the Umatilla reservation. I will be your host today.

My mother says our people have been living here for 10,000 years. In what the white man now calls Oregon. She should know. Her name is Sacagawea, after the Shoshone woman who traveled West with Lewis and Clark.

Uncle Joe (Chief Joseph, hehe) says that Lewis and/or Clark were the first white men our people met. They were in a bad shape. We gave them food and shelter. Also a horse. An Appaloosa probably. They were “invented” around here. By the Nez-percés I think. (The author of this post adamantly refuses to draw an Appaloosa. He claims horses are wayyy to difficult to draw. ‘Sides, he already drew some in a previous post).

My cousin (right) is called Wolf necklace. He’s working his way through College. He says that Clark or Lewis, when they received the horse, wanted to trade it for something. Our chief smiled and said: “A gift is a gift. We expect nothing in exchange.” White men don’t understand zilch. I’m just being polite, my mother is close-by. She will have no cussin’.

I like my dress. So far. But the background is wrong. Monument valley? That is Navajo land. Not John Wayne’s not John Ford’s. Nor Jimmy Stewart’s or Gary Cooper’s. Navajo land. ‘Sides, there’s a highway to the left. And a diner… Spoils the view.

My land is forest and trees, and rivers and water, and prairies… Not a desert… 🌵

My mother and my aunt did our costumes for the Roundup. The old way. The blue and red beads? Takes ages to sew. (And a hell to paint, the author whines) But it’s worth it. A testimony of who we are. Are. Not were.

My aunt says there were only 250,000 left of our nations at the end of 19th century. No-one really knows how many of us there were before the white man came. We’re close to 3 millions now. We’ve come a long way.

Did I mention Uncle Joe is a CPA? He’s also the appointed CEO of the tribe’s casino in Pendleton, Oregon. Many of the 574 tribes run casinos. I find it ironic that the white man’s greed is one of the main sources of income of the tribes. 😂

Okay. The dress is all right. But why on earth did you chose this “décor”? Hey Mister? Talkin’ to you. 😉

I see. The sunset. Aren’t you colour-blind? (Ever so slightly, Dear, but the paint tubes have the colour name written on them. Helps)

Almost there.

My name is Shoni, after the WNBA player. I’m a pre-med at Oregon State. I’m too short to play basket-ball, but I’ll be the best Doc around. I hope you enjoyed the Confederate Tribes Roundup… Stay safe. 😷

Author’s note: a heartfelt thank you to Randal Collis, aka Dalo. He already inspired my sketching and painting for a previous post on Women of excellence. These are based loosely on some of the mind-blowing photos he posted of the Pendleton Roundup. Great shots. You MUST visit his post:


His work has been truly inspiring, though I’m not sure I will draw/paint so much detail in the future, the little beads are nerve-racking… Having said that working on Dalo’s photos has given me ideas for further topics… and helped my hand improve some. (Still do many mistakes. There is room for improvement.) Thank you Dalo.

And thank you all for flying Equinoxio Airways again. You’re the reason I keep posting and experimenting. Stay safe.

127 thoughts on “Walking the “edge”

    • Thank you Dear. I’m very “by the book”. First pencil. (You can erase mistakes). Then ink. Can’t make mistakes “no more”. Then colour. Allows me to change my mind along the way. Every step of the process cleanses the mind. A great therapy.
      Hope all is well with you?

      • I had an art class once. The only time I was exposed to different forms of creating like you have here. My favorite pat was the sketching, second was creating with ink dots. Lol. This was so many years ago and I stuck with my relationship with words instead.
        You are quite talented.
        I am well and safe 🙂 You?

      • Pencil is king… you can do shapes, shadows, even expressions. Ink gives “strength”, and colours? well, an entirely different perspective.
        Now ink dots? There was a French artist called Moebius who was a master at that.
        I wouldn’t say “talented”, I just had a good teacher, my mother, who was really good.
        As you are woth words. But you should try pencil and paper again. Let your hand guide you.
        Good to hear you are fine and safe. So are we. So far. With bouts of cabin fever…
        Take care my dear… 🙏🏻

  1. Are these your sketches, Brian? What inspired this work? They are superb! Back in my childhood I was pretty much obsessed with First Nations and wanted to ride a horse and live off the land just like them. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 😀 Aiva

    • Yes they are. I stopped sketching and painting for 40 years. Started again. It is a nice mind-cleansing exercise… Glad you liked them Aiva.
      One has to nurture childhood dreams. Sometimes make them true…
      How’s your second lockdown?
      Be safe.

    • Thank you Sylvia. Actually it was “Shoni”‘s mother, the first drawing. 😉 (Though my mother agreed 100%. And so do I).
      Hope all is well with you? Still in the US? Or have you managed to fly to SA?

      • What a shame. Many countries have blocked incoming flights. We decide to cancel our annual summer trip to Paris. A bit heartbreaking but there are worst things, right. Hopefully, we may all resume travelling next year. Stay safe.

  2. Love how you journal your art work for us, building a story. That link led to amazing photography, I can see why you’re inspired by his work, thank you on both counts.

  3. Dear Brian, this is a lovely post and presentation, AND a terrific story line! I adore the process and the end results. I believe you take after your mother, you have quite a talent. Wishing you continued success with your artwork, enjoy!

  4. Fantastic work ~ you went into detail I did not expect, and with water color adds to these portraits so much. As I have said before, I’ve tried my hand at drawing and it just doesn’t work with me but how I do enjoy seeing work from others. What is great, is in your posts we get to see where you started with the pencil sketches and then where you end up. It was cool to see where you made changes in your sketches from pencil to watercolor ~ made me wonder what it would feel like to go through such a process. The gift of an artist.

    All beautiful, with your second pencil sketch of Uncle Joe being my favorite starting out, but when you’ve finished the process with the water colors I’ve got two favorites, the “Sunset” with her back turned because it seems very perfect and fitting and then the last one, “Hope” – it is her look of hope you captured well. And I like the change of the flowing opening of the tipi (or teepee).

    In addition to the incredible sketches, you’ve got great commentary as well. Insightful as your words flow with the sketches, teach and give substance to the material you are creating ~ I always enjoy artists who can do this. And absolutely great you mention Shoni 🙂 She is the daughter of Rick Schimmel, younger brother of my classmate Randy Schimmel – both of them great athletes. Always enjoy flying Equinoxio Airways, and today was even better and quite a bit more fun because you were flying over my home town and sharing the history of the place and people. So yes, very cool to see this post, and I am very honored to have your talents, skills, and artistic mind take on this project and knock-it-out-of-the-park. It is good to inspire, as you have done once again, Brian. Simply Brilliant 🙂

    • Wow. Thank you Dalo, I am very honoured. Not easy to work pn a subject one knows close to nothing about. You helped a lot with your background. About the reservation. It allowed me to research. That’s where the name Shoni came. I wanted to… give substance. Real people. Even more so, people who had made a name for themselves. Funny she should be a “relation”, as my friend’s children become nephews to me…
      The colours? God! I used one of your photos from women of excellence. Then more graphic research… Then let the hand work.
      Then you change backgrounds as you must have seen. Monument valley, despite Shoni’ good-humoured bitching gave another perspective.
      Of course, none of my portraits really look like the original… Your “shoni” is really the same person as the “aunt”, mixed with another dancer.
      I wanted to end with the very young woman who smiled at you. Mine came up a bit older. But yes, she caries a message of hope…
      And finally, the changes? At the beginning I don’t spend more than 10 minutes at a time on a sketch. Then I put them on the ramp of the staircase with light coming from above. I walk by. Make a change here. A change there.
      The story came as I posted the images. One has to let the images speak for themselves. Which wasn’t easy, coz, your story – and images – were sooo good.
      Thanks my friend.
      (When’s your next post?) 😉

      • The way you describe your method is really how one should approach life as well ~ create a foundation of a good idea/plan (and how research helps the ideas gel). Then before making any final decision (in life or art), add/delete the pieces of life that make it better in your mind, whether additions of colors and lines, or change which may appear to be subtle but can change the mood to suit your feelings. You say it well, ‘let the images speak for themselves…’ Work and a process to be proud of, thanks for sharing and creating your inspirations of beauty. Wishing you well ~ hard to believe the holiday season is before us. Take care ~ enjoy a bottle or two in celebration of your creations 🙂

      • Thank you so much. It may be too… “structured” for life decisions, though it does work for business. Or politics (?). One needs a vision first. In both. The rest comes easily. In life? I would say the Tao is a good guide: chose your path. The path or the road is infinite.
        I will drink a glass to your health and the inspiration you shared.
        Yes, Xmas around the block… A weird Xmas no doubt. Will you be coming home? Not the best of times right now, is it?
        Take care.

  5. Sunset is my favorite in all its phases but it’s a great work overall, story included.
    I could never stand the sound of the pencil against paper, be it in writing or drawing. Tough childhood because of that. 🙂

  6. You have outdone yourself here, cher Brian. Of course, I recognize your inspiration in Randall’s incredible photos. As always, I love seeing the progression from outline to rich color, and also your imagination at work with the backdrops of the teepees and Monument Valley. I’ve often wished that I could draw, but I’m really bad at it. 🙂 Hope you are having a wonderful weekend! Bises.

    • Merci ma chère. When I saw Randall’s post, I thought “I have to try my hand at this”. (I was lucky my mother was very good at it and taught me well). Week-end was quiet. But fine. Looking forward to getting the grandkids here next Friday… Biz back atcha.

  7. This actually blew me away, slowwlee, Brian. Also how you have placed these sketches, like waxing moon. From Nascent stage to color looked divinely alive. Almost between the Comics age to the modern graphic Novel works. You are a rainbow dearest Brian. So happy to see them.

    • Thank you. Documenting the process, I owe to a great friend of mine, Tiffany Choong. She does a sketch a day, taking a video.
      I am also very influenced by the Belgian-French school of comics… (Graphic novel? Hmmm. Food for thought)
      As for the rainbow, I just saw a clip for a very old song my parents played when I was a child. Khoya khoya chaand… (Lost moon or something).

  8. Nice originals here and the flow with the words was smooth – also – enjoyed the comment with your approach: ” First pencil. (You can erase mistakes). Then ink. Can’t make mistakes “no more”. Then colour. Allows me to change my mind along the way”—- nice!

    • Get a penci (HB is my fave) and a (good) piece of paper… You won’t regret it. I swear: I hadn’t drawn or painted a thing in more than 40 years. After a bit of warming-up, remembering – vaguely – proportions and perspective. just let your hand draw. It remembers what you don’t. And try to look at your subject while you draw. Try not to look at the paper…

      • Great advice and love your description! But, between writing blogs, renovating, building an eCart for my photography site, and spending some time with my partner, I don’t have any available time right now. 😦
        I haven’t read a book for months, which is tragic for me!

      • Time, time… where hast thou flown? 😉
        Books? I’ve set myself a rule a long long time ago. No matter what, I read everyday. I come back from a party at 5AM? (Not’ny more though) I’ll read one or two pages…
        Grab a book. Now. 😉

      • I started that rule very early, along with not cramming for exams the night before. The – at least – one or two page read was a break at the end of the day. Evasion to another world. Indispensable. And the night before exams? I always went to see a movie, or have dinner with a friend or the other. Waht I had not learnt before? I wouldn’t now. But I had a nice evening, a restful night of sleep, while some colleagues screwed up for lack of sleep. 😂 🛏😴

      • Sounds so relaxing and organised!
        Exams are the only time in which I suffer major panic attacks. Sit there for the first 20 minutes starting at the exam, sweating profusely! Oh, I lie, when I was ‘mad’ to play the piano at Eisteddfod, I suffered from panic attacks. My grandmother used to give me a nip of whisky (aged 9) to calm the nerves before I went on stage. Can’t remember whether I mentioned this before. 😉

      • No you hadn’t. Piano is marvelous but nerve-racking. Hmmm. Music? Drawing and painting? Plus boat building? And photography? You’re a woman of many talents.
        Your grandmother would probably go to jail now, but she did the right thing… Bless her.
        Do you still play? What or who do you prefer?
        Daughter #2 has taken up the piano again recently. She plays Satie now…

      • Nahhh, just like to try a few different things – variety and all that…try everything once and regret nothing.

        Pianoforte exams are extremely nerve-racking and I reached 7th grade with 5th grade Musicianship. My aunt (the witch) used to teach me and made me increase my practice for each grade I achieved. So at 7th grade, expected me to practice 7 hours each day + go to high school + study for my HSC. Silly women once made the mistake of telling me that if I ever failed an exam, she would never teach me again, What was a girl to do? I failed 7th grade of course!
        As my mother’s sister, this was the only way out – she took the enjoyment out of the instrument. I loved to play Rock but wasn’t allowed until I finished my classical practice.

        Nope, rarely play and especially living on a boat for 21 years – a little hard. Not sure I can still read music.

        My grandmother was funny in that respect, it was our little secret. 😉 It did calm my nerves so that my knees no longer shook before going up on stage!

      • A great story. You should write it down. To word. I can imagine the difficulty of having a piano on a sailing boat…
        You can probably teach yourself to read again. I took piano when I was a kid. then dropped it. When the girls came we hired a piano teacher for them. One day I looked at one of their music sheets. All I could remember was where the C was. So I started deciphering again. after a while I could play Karl Maria von Weber… Not well, but reasonable… try it.

      • Maybe one day… 😉
        Ha, ha, you made me laugh with that comment.
        I’m sure I could remember stuff if I tried – it was drilled into me so must be there somewhere.
        Wow, that’s impressive! I have a small electric keyboard, which I should salvage from the garage…

      • Ha! I don’t rehab a house or two. I don’t build boats. I ain’t workin’ no more. (Sold my shares in my company, and I don’t do any consulting any more…) I have plenty of time… Sort of…

      • Oh, and about exams, fortunately we don’t have to go through that again. I was fortunate to go through the French Preparatory class system, 2-3 years after high school before College. Cramming every day Monday to Sunday for 2 years. Then present the exams. I applied to 6 schools. One week per school. After that you pass a jury exam. The jurors can ask you anything about the programme. Or outside. You have 15 minutes to prepare.
        After that, anything was a piece of cake.

      • Yes, I do remember. It is useful and used to pay well here in Brisbane, but because of COVID, I notice that salaries have decreased substantially and employers are rolling 2 job descriptions/titles into one pay.

      • Oops. There are two ways to look at it: one: companies will always find a way to “screw” you. Two: many, many businesses have taken a beating. Difficult.

      • Could be a good idea, until things stabilize. I hear ‘Murricans will start vaccinating tomorrow. Let’s see when doses reach our respective shores… Be good Nilla.

  9. Thanks for inviting me to take a look. Your illustrations are a great match to the introductions to the people, and it was fun to watch your process. One comment: to add a qualifier that the 574 are the only US Federally “recognized” tribes. There are many, many more surviving tribes in this country. The process to become recognized is complicated and difficult for many tribes to manage, but they are working on it as we speak, and hopefully the number will continue to grow. ❤

      • I just took a look. Those are great images and now I see where you got the inspiration. My favourite photo is the one at the bottom: the Indian with a camera. I’m all about smashing stereotypes and images like this do a lot to remind people that Indians are not ancient history, or mystical, or whatever hoo haw they come up with. Indians are modern, and exist today, right next to us, and they use cameras (and computers, and smartphones, ha ha).

      • It is one of my favourite photos too. Dallo is a great photograph. And that work in particular has inspired both the drawings/paintings and the text. When I thought about drawing based on his pix, I asked him some background. Who what where. Actually it’s his second post that inspires drawings for me…

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