Ledger Style Paintings

A ledger art based painting series by Tatakwan

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Available as archival quality giclee printed paintings on paper & canvas.
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about the Ledger Style Painting Series
The paintings in this series are contemporary yet based directly on ‘ledger drawing’ art. This was a style of drawing popular amongst Indigenous artists in the plains regions at the turn of the century. Ledger drawing art was made in ledger books that Native people aquired from Europeans through battle or trade. These ledger books became like visual diaries, with battle exploits, romances, hunts and other significant life or cultural experiences drawn on the pages of the book. The drawings were made by both its Native owner and that person’s companions.

The practice of drawing in ledger books reached its height in the late 1800’s, yet was a continuation of traditional plains drawing styles previously rendered on hides. Ledger drawings have a simple yet elegant style in which the figures appear largely two dimensional and float in space. They often contain elements that work as ‘signifiers’ of activities or events, such a line of horseshoes representing the path of a white man’s shod horse. These drawings are not only visually energetic & lovely, they are part of the strong storytelling traditions of Native cultures. Like the ‘winter count’ drawings made on buffalo or deer hide, they were important records of the personal & communal history of the artists’ peoples.

I feel great admiration for the skills of these Native artists and a strong connection to the ledger drawing style. I also find it both enjoyable and relevant to continue this dynamic creative tradition even further, within a contemporary context and using western media. My ledger style artworks tend to be paintings saturated with vibrant color, differing from the traditional ledger drawings, which only used small touches of color. Using ledger drawing style as a female artist also creates a shift in traditional gender roles. You may read more about this in my e-book about Contemporary Native Creative Expression.

In addition to the paintings on this page, both my painting series A Few of My Favorite Things and Ekwa Buffalo are heavily influenced by ledger style art. Not all the figures in these series are ‘flat’ like those in ledger art, but they all float in space, alone or with other elements. Some of my figures float in empty space and some in more contemporary fields of color or pattern. In either situation they are not anchored to any ground or environment. This creates a heightened focus on them, and gives the subjects an certain ethereal, symbolic and poignant quality.

I also used ledger style art in an early performance art work Red Carpet, in which I created and wore a dress called the Mixed-Blood Buffalo Ball Gown. This taffeta ballgown was hand-painted so that it is half red & half white. Many small red ledger style buffalo bound across the white half of the dress.  For the performance I wore the dress while hand-painting the same small red buffalo as graffiti and a mural in the city of Toronto. See images and read more about Red Carpet/Mixed-Blood Buffalo Ball Gown here.

In addition to my other ledger style paintings, I’ve recently I’ve reworked the original hand-painted templates for the Buffalo Ball Gown and created a digitally rendered  Ledger-Style Red Buffalo Mural. It is available as a large-scale, limited edition giclee printed painting on canvas or paper.