Friday, December 27, 2013

Portrait of an Official

Profile of young Qing Dynasty official
The color and material of the sphere in the hat finial indicates an official's rank.1 An opaque blue hat knob indicates an official of the 4th rank.

You can see why I decided to portray an official in informal uniform instead of ceremonial or formal dress. ;-) It's much less work, lol. Hats for formal occasions have a hat spike instead of a hat knob,2 and hat quills differentiated status according to color - blue quills for 6th rank and below, peacock quills for 5th rank and above,3 - and the number of 'eyes' in the peacock feathers.4 Formal uniform also required rank badges.5 The ceremonial6 necklace of 108 beads was worn by civil officials of 5th rank and higher, and military officers of 4th rank and above.7

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Portrait of a Courtier

Profile of young Mughal courtier
Influenced by the art and design of Mughal India. Lattice background is inspired by the stone latticework designs of India.

Costume references used are 18th century Mughal era paintings. I originally wanted to have the character facing right, but realized that the left side of the garment had more detail than the right, so I decided to save myself some trouble.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Skull modification around the world

Arawe skull lengthening in Papua New Guinea  Mangbetu skull elongation in DRC
Head binding on Arawe infant Mangbetu infant with head binding
The scifi illustration Through the Gate was inspired by elegant Mangbetu head shapes and hair-styles.

A (non-exhaustive) list of cultures that practiced head shaping for aesthetic or social reasons:

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dawn of the Eagle

Eagle robot with boy pilot
Inspired by giant mecha anime and the soapstone eagles from the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, a royal city active in the 11th-14th centuries. Robot design influenced by the African fish eagle.

Many thanks to the kind friends who assisted with modeling and critique.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Jaguar Dreaming

Portrait of Jaguar
I've decided that my tiger needed some company. :-) This is the 2nd piece in the Wild Cat Portrait series.

Jaguars in the mythology of the Americas:

Get this jaguar as:

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bird-like thunder spirits on both sides of the Pacific

Bird-like deities or monsters associated with thunder occur in a diverse range of cultures:

CultureThunder BirdDescription
AnishinaabeAnimikiigAnimikiig ("thunderers", singular animikii)1, are immense birds whose beating wings cause thunder.2
LakotaWakinyanThese Thunder Beings manifest as Thunderbirds, enormous creatures whose voice is thunder and whose eyes flash lightning.3 Wakinyan Tanka, the Great Thunderbird. has children, the smaller thunderbirds, whose calls are the small rolling thunders that follow the loud thunderclap of the Wakinyan Tanka.4
QuileuteTistilalThis giant whale-snatching bird's yellow feathers are lightning and its flapping wings are thunder.5
MakahTatoosh6This thunder-and lightning-deity is a humanoid giant who dons the head, wings and feathers of a great bird when he goes whale-hunting. He ties lightning-fish around his waist and throws them to make lightning.7
ChineseLei GongThis Daoist deity, 'Thunder Duke', is described in the ancient book Classic of the Mountains and Seas as "having the body of a phoenix and the head of a human." He makes thunder with a drum and mallet, while his wife 'Lightning Mother' creates lightning with her flashing mirrors.8

More cultures with thunderbird myths:

Friday, May 31, 2013

Ndlulamithi Redux

female pilot standing in front of mecha elephant
Inspired by the late Ndlulamithi, a famous large elephant whose name means "taller than the trees" in the Tsonga language. (See Kruger National Park - The Magnificent Seven.)

Additional influences: Japanese giant mecha comics and anime. :-)

Many thanks to the kind friends who helped with modeling and critique :-)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

2012 Retrospective

Been thinking of reworking last year's "The Djinn's Tune" for a while. Got the idea of adding butterflies after a long walk along some waterways. Went back to look up the species of butterfly that lived in Mali. Choose the Hypolimnas misippus as a reference. No claims made as to accuracy. Artistic license taken with color. ;-)
Genie on sandy river bank
2012 version
Woman changing back into fox
Latest version

Sunday, March 31, 2013


male cyborg standing in front of rows of monitors
Character's hairstyle influenced Peul (Fulani) hairstyles from the Malian period costume movie Yeelen. Clothing inspired by (but not intended to be an authentic representation of) attire of some nomadic Fulani.

The Fulani, a widely dispersed ethnic group, are among the many ethnic groups inhabiting the city of Timbuktu.1 A center of scholarship from the 13th-17th century,2 Timbuktu presently has more than 2 dozen libraries of medieval manuscripts.3

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Facial tattoos from Africa, Asia and the Americas

Got sidetracked into this topic while doing research for the previous illustration. :-)

Wodaabe woman in Niger (detail from photo taken by Dan Lundberg)
Other African ethnic groups that practice facial tattooing include the Bini (Edo) of Nigeria,1 the Tsemai of Ethiopia,2 and the Amazigh people (Berbers) of North Africa.3

Atayal woman from Taiwan (View image in Digital Museum of Taiwanese Indigenous Peoples)
Other Austronesians that practice the art of facial tattooing include the Kalinga of the Philippines,4 the Ukit of Malaysia,5 and the Maori of New Zealand.6

Mohave woman in the United States (View full size image on Fort Mohave Indian Tribe site)
Other peoples in the Americas who practice facial tattooing include the Kayabi of Brazil,7 the Aleuts of the US,8 and the Mats├ęs of Peru.9

Thursday, January 31, 2013


female robot standing in front of circuit board
Combining influences from Japanese cyborg comics and the metalwork of Fula (Peul) people, and circuit boards I ripped out of (old, non-functioning) computer accessories.

Hairstyle, costume and accessories inspired by (but not claiming to be an authentic representation of) Fulani clothing, facial tattoos and jewelry. The Fulani, a widely dispersed ethnic group, are by no means homogeneous in terms of dress styles. Fashions vary according to geography, as different Fulani communities absorb influences from other ethnic groups around them.

Many thanks to the kind friends who helped with modeling and critique :-)