Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Guardian Kings

A painted representation of The Guardian Kings

The Guardian Kings, according Buddhist belief, guard the four quarters of the world and protect the Buddhist law. They are said to live on the mythical Mount Meru, at the gates of the paradise of Indra, the protector of Buddhism. The Guardian Kings are acolytes of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.

Statues of the four kings

Originally, they were regarded as benevolent, but they developed into menacing warriors. They are usually shown wearing armor and helmets or crowns. The kings are said to have assisted at the birth of Gautama Buddha and to have held up the hooves of his horse when he left the palace of his father for the outside world. In Indian art, they are usually shown riding elephants, whereas in Tantrism they are often shown trampling demons.

Images from:

Information from:

The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology by Arthur Cotterell and Rachel Storm

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Anubis - Guardian of the Dead


Anubis is the Egyptian god of the dead, Mummification, Embalming, Magic and the Guardian and Guide of Lost Souls and Orphans. In addition, Anubis weighed and judged the hearts of the dead. He is also the Egyptian version of the personification of time. Anubis is depicted most commonly as a human form with a black Jackal head or just as a black Jackal.

Anubis is one of Ancient Egypt's oldest gods, but when Osiris was introduce Anubis was 'demoted' and turned into one of the sons of Osiris. Anubis is also the son of Nephthys, the wife of Set. Unlike his Step-Father/Uncle, Anubis shows compassion and dislike of cause havoc for civilization. He was quickly abandoned by both his mother and step-father. Osiris' wife Isis found him and raised him as her own and Anubis later became her guardian and helper.

Anubis was a guardian in more ways than one. As a guardian of Lost Souls and Orphans, he not only protected them from harm but guided them. Anubis protected the innocent from Ammut during the judging of the heart. He also protected his adoptive mother Isis from Set as she went about her journey to reclaim all the pieces of Osiris' body and bring him back to life.

"The Gods of Ancient Egypt -- Anubis." Egypt Travel, Tours, Vacations, Ancient Egypt from Tour Egypt. Web. 03 Dec. 2009. .


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Animals in African Folk Art

Crocodile made of recycled bug spray can, South Africa.
Folk art in its broadest sense means art derived from a people, or folk, as distinguished from the products of professional artists. A brief description of folk art is that it comes from groups of people who live within the general framework of a developed society but who are, for reasons of geographical or cultural isolation, largely cut off from the more advanced artistic productions of their time. It is the art of peasants, shepherds, sailors fisherfolks, artisans, and small trades people who live away from cultural urban centers in nations that are not heavily industrialized. Folk art is art that is produced by people who are not formally educated in art. They generally use materials that are common in everyday life. Folk artists create for the sake of creating something. In Africa, there are many folk artists. African folk art is usually created with household objects, metal objects, toys, textiles, masks, wood sculpture and more. The images that I have here are images of small sculptures that were made in South Africa of recycled products.

Cow made of recycled plastic bottle tops and can, South Africa

Most of the African folk art I have seen is bright, vibrant and full of life. Their art is reflecting their life. Most artists commonly use Coca Cola products too because of the life support they have provided for people in African countries. It is the art of expression and they make little products that they desire or want to have. It is kind of the spirit of wishful thinking.

Information from:

Images are from:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Four Animals of the Four Quadrants of the Heavens

The Han Dynasty Chinese cosmologists distinguished Four Creatures of the World and since then have become deeply rooted in Chinese mythology. These animals are the Blue Dragon, White Tiger, Red Bird(Phoenix), and the Black Tortoise. Each creature represents one of the four world directions, seasons, and "elements". Sometimes there are five animals because every once in a while the snake will be depicted with the Black Tortoise.

The Blue Dragon:
The Blue Dragon is the corresponding guardian of the East. It is also the emblem of spring, the color blue/green and the element wood. The dragon also controls rain. The dragon is often depicted with the Red Bird also known as the Phoenix. This pairing is the symbol of the imperial spouses (Dragon representing the emperor and the Phoenix is the embodiment the empresses) because of the symbolic personification of conflict and wedded bliss.

The Red Bird (Phoenix):
The Red Bird is the directional guardian of the South. It is symbolic representation of the season Summer, the color red, the element of fire and the virtue of knowledge. The Red Bird also had to the power to make seeds grow into large trees. It appears only in times of good fortune singing its enchanting song.

The Black Tortoise:
The Black Tortoise is the figure of the North. It is also the symbol of the season winter, the color black, and the element water. It is also the embodiment of longevity, wisdom, and faith. It is often depicted with the snake because it is believed that their union engendered the universe.

The White Tiger:
The White Tiger is the symbol of the West. It is also the emblem of the season fall, the color white, the element metal, the wind, and the virtues of righteousness and observation. The Tiger is also the motif of a protector. The Chinese considered the Tiger the king of all the animals and lord of the mountains. It is also known as the Chinese god of war.


Schumacher, Mark. "Four Guardians of the Four Compass Directions." Onmark Productions. Mark Schumacher. Web. 15 Nov. 2009. .

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blackfoot Tribe Narrative Story

All American Indian Tribes have different takes on the the creation/origin story. Some are similar while others are quite different. Most American Indian Narratives were painted on to leather or weaved into a blanket like the example below.

The Hopi Tribe Origin Story Narrated on Leather

Unfortunately, I was unable to find one for one of the Blackfoot tribe origin story is How Napi (the Old Man) and A-pe'si (Coyote) Made People. To read the full version of the story please click the link above.

Old Man (Napi or Na-pe)

In this origin story, the Blackfoot tell how Old Man (Napi or Na-pe) created men out of clay bones, Buffalo blood, tendons, skin, and fat and clay. As Old Man created the bones for the men, he found some that he had made that were broken, crooked, or too small. So he discarded all the bad bones into a pile outside his lodge and just left them there while he and the men enjoyed smoking and hunting. Then one day A-pe'si (Coyote) came along and told Old Man that he should make more men out of the pile of discarded bones because the men that Old Man had already made were poor handiwork. Old Man and Coyote worked together but when the "men" were done they did not look like the other men that Old Man created. Old Man figured it had something to with A-pe'si interrupting him as he was creating them. Old Man breathe smoke into the "men" faces and when they came a life they began to talk amongst themselves. Old Man named them women. This was how Man and Woman were made.

"Native Languages of the Americas: Blackfeet Indian Legends and Traditional Stories." Native Languages of the Americas. Web. 11 Nov. 2009. .


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Narrative in Art

The Two Fridas by Frida Kahlo, a painting displaying her idea of her marriage.

When I hear the word narrative I instantly think of the imagery in a painting or piece that clearly tells a personal story. And when I think of very personal, depressing stories I think of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Frida Kahlo portrayed many aspects of her life in her art. She lived a very hard and painful life. When she was younger she was a victim in a terrible bus crash which left her debilitated for life. In the wreck a metal poled stabbed through her body, breaking the back and severing many organs. Her reproductive organs were most effected by the trauma, which she had issues with through life because she could never have children.
A Frida Kahlo painting that portrays her emotional struggle with her miscarriage.

All of her paintings are very morbid, but truthful. She displays her life to the best of her ability no matter how graphic or gruesome it is. She is a very respected Mexican artist, as well as her husband, Diego Rivera.

Images from:

Adornment of Ta Moko

Western water-color painting of Ta Moko on a Maori man.

Ta Moko is the adornment of designs in ink on the Maori of New Zealand faces. The designs on their faces are the story of their life on their face. The signature of their name comes from this design. The Maori sign legal documents with this design. These markings are also the symbols of their social status and family history. Each person has their own unique Maori.
Interpretation of Ta Moko in Western culture, usually called "tribal"

I do have tattoos of my own and got them for my own personal reasons. After learning about the Maori's Ta Moko, I find it very offensive for a person of Western culture to get a ignorant knock off of the Ta Moko, which is usually referred to as "tribal" tattoos. It is offensive because the Ta Moko is personal and historical to the person who adorns them, and people who generally receive a tribal tattoo are ill-educated about the subject and the real meaning of tattoos like that.

Ta Moko is the art of life engraved into the skin of the Maori who wear every curve, line, or design with deep pride.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Body Adornments of the Surma

The Surma are a pastoral people from Ethiopia. They have several forms of body adornment that they practice. These adornments range from gauging the ears to exceptionally detailed face and body painting. One of the more extreme forms of body adornment practiced by the Surmas is body scarification which is a process by which tiny cuts are used to etch designs and patterns into the skin and as the cuts begin to scar the designs become a permanent feature of the skin Another unusual adornment custom is lip plates or lip plugs that are done mainly by the women of the Surmas. Women insert large clay plates into their bottom lips. The larger the plate the more desirable the woman and the higher her dowry is.

An example of scarification.

A young Surma woman with a lip plate and gauged earlobes.

"Body Art: A Means for Self Expression." African Conservancy. Web. 2 Nov. 2009. .
Os, Joseph V. "Vanishing Cultures of Ethiopia's Omo Valley." Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris. Web. 2 Nov. 2009. .


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

After Life

When I think of after life and the different aspects and beliefs of it from different religions or cultures, I usually think of the Egyptians' practices. Recently, I have been reading a book on religion, and came across the chapter on Egyptians. The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt ranked themselves on a level with the gods. When the Egyptians discovered the art of mummification (preservation of the dead body), the claims of invincibly by the Pharaohs appeared to be proved. So it was only fitting that in death they were treated royally as they had been in life. All that was needed was a palace for the immortal king, which is why they built extravagant tombs.

On the trip to SLAM we saw the coffins of mummified corpses. The art that adorned these beautiful coffins was breathtaking. The hieroglyphics, being art themselves, tell the stories of the life of the one who is dead. They were put in tombs surrounded by their worldly possessions. Golds and bright colors all over tell the story of the life in the after life.

Even their pets were put in their tombs with them. Cats were so revered in Ancient Egypt that they were mummified in the manner of kings. In the end of it all, Egyptians were ready with all their possessions and riches to travel with them to after life.

Information from:
The History of Religion by Karen Farrington

Images from:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Canopic Jars of Ancient Eygpt

These elegant jars can have an unsettling effect on some people because of what they were used for. Canopic Jars are used to hold the stomach, liver, lungs, and the intestines of embalmed person. Each internal part was protected by a different goddess while each jar was topped with a god's head that represented a cardinal direction. The god Hapi (the baboon), who represents the north, is accompanied by the goddess Nephthys in protecting the lungs. The South is represented by the god Imseti (human-headed) whose companion is the goddess Isis and they protect the liver. The god Duamutef (the Jackal), represents the east, is accompanied by the goddess Neith in the responsiblity of protecting the stomach. Last but not least is the god Qebehsenuef (falcon), represents the west, and his companion the goddess Selket that protect the intestines.
A weathered set of Canopic Jars.

Each jar lid is intricately carved and sometimes painted or trimmed in gold. Most are adorned with hieroglyphics. Canopic jars were normally made of calcite(also known as Egyptian Alabaster), limestone, or clay. However, calcite is the most prized material used. Canopic jars or vases are another example of the rule "form follows function". Canopic jars are normally stored in Canopic Chest that are just as artistically carved and inscribed.

King Tut's canopic jar set in its canopic chest.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Trip to SLAM

Above is my personal photo I took while at SLAM,
and the photo below is an image of the same sculpture from www.
Guanyin is a Buddhist deity. This sculpture was made in China during the 11th century in the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127). It is made of wood, gesso, and pigment with gilding.

Throughout the St. Louis Art Museum I found many other cultures' art to be astounding, but there was nothing that really hit me until I walked through the Asian collection. This piece is Guanyin lounging. It really effected me because it was so powerful, yet really delicately made.

The material in which it was made from alone was the most influential part of it. I took the wood as being very natural, and Guanyin being carved from nature its self was amazing. It tied into the religion in that one can meditate to become one with nature, so essentially, this is personafying it.

Another thing that really hit me was that he was up high on a pedestal. I liked it because it was the highest piece in the room so aestically caused it to be more demandive of attention and it really drew your eye to it. It also symbolizes a transcending effect towards heaven and after life.

Finally, the thing that was most appealing about it to me was the pigment was still shining through the centuries old wood. The colors were still very bright and vivid for the wood being so old and going through so much. The colors made the gesture of the lounging Guanyin move and relax.

Ink Scroll Drawings

As an artist, I concentrate mostly with two-dimensional work which includes drawing and painting.  There was one work of art at the St. Louis Art Museum, which put me in awe and amazement.  It was a large ink drawing on a scroll by Wan Shanglin from China in 1797.  His brushwork is a combination of washes and dry strokes that reflect a personal style as well as a tradition of monochrome ink painting in China.  For this scroll with long narrow proportions, the painting interweaves masterful brushstrokes to gradually build layers of ink wash and texture into a silvery landscape.

The contrast of lights and darks in this ink drawing is minimal.  The white of the paper is shown through in some spots but there are dark ink ares throughout the whole piece which overall gives it a sense of having contrast.  These large ink drawings consist of mountains on the upper half, trees and small houses in the middle portion and rocks and usually a river in the lower portion.  The brushstrokes seem so minimal but it is highly detailed.  The control it takes to make single brushstrokes and to individualize the types of strokes for the mountain side, for trees and shrubbery, for water, for little huts each takes precision.  One can also tell the atmosphere of the drawing.  The mountains seem to be lighter while the trees and rocks on the bottom which are closer to the viewer are darker.  Along with a very detailed landscape ink drawing, the boarder surrounding the drawing is made up of a silvery lace which acts as a frame and has a large wooden rod at the bottom of the paper to keep it steady.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

8th CenturyTang Dynasty Horse

This unglazed earthenware piece was created sometime in the 8th century during the Tang Dynasty. The artist is unknown. It is obvious that the horse depicted in the earthenware is not from China because of its long legs, slender head, and tall build and was most likely imported from the countries in the west. Western horses were called Celestial horses and were coveted by people in the Tang Dynasty as were arts depicting these muscular and swift beasts.

The elegant yet powerful curves form the arc in the neck. The long, stiff vertical lines of the front legs suggest a tension and energy so life-like that it appears that at any moment the horse may rear up on its back legs. The horse's head pulled of to the side with laid back ears and open mouth. The sculpted saddle is so well-made that it appears to drape and fall like an actual cloth and leather saddle. The unglazed earthenware is combined with horse hair for the tail creates a life-like multimedia project.

This piece can be found at the St. Louis Art Museum.

Friday, October 9, 2009

False Discord

When looking at non-western art, someone with a western frame of mind should keep an open mind. It is especially apparent in Indian art that preconceived ideas can cause confusion. One has to remember that symbols in non-western art do not necessarily mean the same thing has they do in western art. Fire in Indian art is a great example of this cause of confusion. As a western viewer, fire would seem to be a destructive force often associated with the devil. In Indian art it seems to have a much different connotation. Not only are there symbols that change between cultures, but some items are often used as symbols that are not usually used in western cultures. The lotus is featured in Buddhist art with some different meanings. "The roots of a lotus are in the mud, the stem grows up through the water, and the heavily scented flower lies above the water, basking in the sunlight. This pattern of growth signifies the progress of the soul from the primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of experience, and into the bright sunshine of enlightenment." (Exotic India). I feel most western viewers would not see that being the meaning behind a lotus. The point of this post is to remind everyone to keep an open mind when viewing a different culture's art. Do not immediately apply your own culture's ideas and traditions to another culture's art. It takes some research to get a better understanding of another culture's art.

For Indian art this page has a lot of good information on symbols.

Nkisi Nkondi

Discord is the tension caused by a lack of agreement among persons, groups, or things. When I first looked at a Nkisi nkondi (hunter figure) of the Kongo in Africa, I immediately felt tension. My first thought was that some person must really dislike another. After reading, I found that this was a half truth. The figures or "hunters" are wooden statues with nails, glass and other sharp objects driven into the body. It turns out that hunters are used with the help of a priest to punish wrongdoers in the African Kongo. A person will go to a priest and ask them to unleash the power of the nkisi nkondi. the person will swear an oath and drive a sharp object into the statue binding themselves to the spiritual forces within. Nails are usually not driven into the face or cavity of the stomach where magical ingredients are stored to attract spirits. The spirits of the hunter will track down the wrongdoer and bring justice upon them. The number of protruding objects and open holes show how often a particular hunter has been used. The result is a physical manifestation of tension between people in a culture. The harsh metals and glass clashing with the smoothly sculpted wood cause physical dicord in the viewer.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Structure In Japanese Garden in Missouri Botanical Gardens

Yesterday I visited the Missouri Botanical Gardens on a trip to St. Louis with my drawing class. I wanted to share my experience there and talk about the structure of the Japanese garden. It was the most interesting and the one I felt most strongly about.
I spent most of my time there because it was very quiet and tranquil. I sat on a stone with a classmate and sketched a beautiful stone sculpture of a Japanese structure. It was a tower of some kind that was tucked back in a quiet, dark little corner of the garden in which only a stone trail lead out to. The sculpture only had splashes of light draped across giving it small subtle hints of shadow. It was a rigid temple with windows through each side. I sketched only have of the piece while I spent the rest of my time taking in the environment-sounds of the fountains and waterfalls, smells of the Japanese pine and cherry blossoms.
The Japanese Garden is named Seiwa-en, which means the garden of pure, clear harmony and peace. There is a 4-acre lake in the garden full of bridges, fountains, and streams. The lake is surrounded by dry gravel gardens that are raked into beautiful patterns.
I thoroughly enjoyed feeding the Japanese koi and the ducks that call the Japanese Garden home. Overall, the experience was very relaxing and I know I fully understand their culture and their love and appreciation for nature and everything that it entails. I feel that the environment that they created soothes and relaxes everyone who walks through it, sits in it, or breathes it in.

Images and information came from the Missouri Botanical Gardens webiste:

Monday, October 5, 2009


One characteristic of Chinese art is the extent to which it reflects the class structure.  Up to 221 BCE, the arts were produced by anonymous craftsman for the royal and feudal courts. Bronze sculptures were regulated by the court and could only be done by workshops which were approved to do so. During the Han dynasty landowners and merchants became patrons summoning paintings, calligraphy, poetry, music, and sculptures which enabled the educated of the lower class and the elite amateur artists to arise.  Scholarly amateurs concentrated on visual arts which became a tradition and was admired by other amateurs and gentlemen.  During the Chinese revolution, scholarly art and artists were looked down upon and the work of anonymous artists before 900 CE (Tang Dynasty) were emphasized again. The work of Chinese artist has been in a transformation from craftsman who were commissioned to do work, the artists coming out of workshops, and the scholarly were allowed to create artwork.  The structure of art has also gone from doing work for the royal and feudal courts to work consisting of visual arts and also music.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chinese Structures

Structure is defined as the action of building : construction, : something (as a building) that is constructed. Most times when people think of structure they refer to the old, or ancient as some people prefer to call it, buildings. What I would like to talk about is the bifference between modern and ancient chinese structres.

These picures are examples of ancient chinese structure. In these pictures you can see how the chinese decorated and spent alot of time on the detail of the roof. Not many people know why the chinese made building the way they did because chinese architecture is the least studied of the world's great architectural traditions from the west. The ancient buildins seem to really love the u shape for the roofs. Every picture of ancient chinese architecure has had the u shape roof.

These pictures are some examples of modern chinese srtuctres. They are completely different from the ancient buildings that I have seen. They almost seem as if they are futuristic. They seem to go beyond the normal modern buildings we have here in America and expand to a more advance composition.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Chinese Structure

When one hears the word "Structure" the image of a building of some kind or a naturally occurring form is what automatically forms in their mental vision. In Chinese architecture, just like Chinese art, structure or organization within a form is key. Balance also prevails in the architecture of China as well as Chinese Art. The bi-lateral symmetry of Chinese architecture represents the balance that is personified throughout artistic history of China. Numerology became a huge influence in Chinese archtitecture thus several buildings are based on the number 9. The Forbidden City is said to have 9,999 rooms.

A picture of the front stairway of the Forbidden City.

A diagram of a Siheyuan in Beijing that demonstrates the bi-lateral symmetry found in most ancient Chinese buildings.

"Chinese Architecture." Wikipedia. Web. 28 Sept. 2009. .
"Chinese Architecture." ThinkQuest. Web. 28 Sept. 2009. .

Friday, September 25, 2009

Indian Art Influence in Fashion

Being a person whose art is influenced greatly by fashion and my own designs, I wanted to talk about the transcending influence of Indian art to their own fashion as well as fashion around the world. In most countries fashion and textiles are an art form that many aspire to create or wear. From clothing of ancient times to the fashion on the modern run, India has much influence on color, patterns embroidery, and styles of clothing.

The patterns and floral motifs were first recognized in the architecture of the mosques in India. Indian design of clothing began with the influence of the art on the walls in the building in which they worship.

Close up of floral motifs and geometrical patterns, Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, Qutb Complex, New Delhi, India

Side sanctuary of Taj Mahal masjid, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. Full o f floral patterns and geometric shapes in architecture. Also note the vibrant colors.

Through the influence of pattern of Indian art, the population of people began to repeat it in their attire. As seen in examples below of natives of India in today's society.

Photo from a wedding in India
And here is an example of the influence spreading to the run way and Hollywood in Western societies. Here is a website that will lead you to a gallery of actresses in Hollywood who are in Indian influenced attire.

In all Indian culture has transcended from the ancient architecture to modern society's clothing.

Images from:

last images I want to be seen are on the website that I have written in the above paragraph.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Discord in Art

"Savage State" by Thomas Cole

"Desolation" by Thomas Cole

Kali Standing on Shiva

There are many examples of artwork which include the idea of Discord. Discord being a disagreement or lack of harmony between persons or things.  One work of art consists of Kali standing on top of the body of Shiva.  Shiva is the creator and destroyer and Kali is often related to war along with time and change.  Pictured above is an illustration of Kali standing on the body of Shiva.  Ironically, Shiva showed up to stop the aggression of Kali and in the end, Kali calmed down.  It's ironic because Shiva is a creator and destroyer and she stopped Kali from destroying.  These two different aspects of destroying and creating would be considered discord.  Kali is often shown as a black figure referring to death while Shiva is often a lighter color and covered in white ash which also shows discord.

In western art, Thomas Cole did a series of five paintings called "The Course of the Empire."  This series shows the growth and fall of a made up city.  The series consists of "The Savage State, The Arcadian State, The Consummation of Empire, The Destruction of Empire, and Desolation."  This series depicts how the rise and fall of man occurs or the creation then destruction of human power which relates to Kali and Shiva.    

Friday, September 18, 2009

Discord in the story of Ganesha

Life of Ganesha Tapestry

In the dictionary the definition of discord is the lack of agreement between things. In music, it can mean without harmony or noise and racket. When thinking of disharmony or disagreement in literal terms, I think of the story of Ganesha. He was the son of Parvati and Shiva, and was outside protecting their palace when his father had returned from a long trip, did not recognize his son and knocked his head off. Parvati was so upset, and taking discord in its literal meaning, had a disagreement with Shiva. She made Shiva bring Ganesha back to life and replace his head. The closest animal around was the elephant, so that's what Shiva used for Ganesha's head. The image below is an image of baby Ganesha with his mother Parvati after his tragedy. Ganesha himself is a definition for discord. His head, being that of an elephant, does not agree with the rest of his body, which is that of a man.

Images from: