Each numbered print comes with a certificate of authenticity in your choice of high-quality watercolor paper or canvas. Paper prints are shipped rolled. Canvas prints have two finishing options: 1) Shipped rolled in a tube or 2) stretched and ready-to-hang with a gallery wrap finish. Your print will be shipped within 10 business days of purchase.
Please contact me at James Ayers studios with any questions you might have.
“There’s gold in the Black Hills!” was the rally heard throughout the West in the late 1870s. Armed and at the ready, a band of Lakota men take to the warpath to fight for their way of life. During the Black Hills Gold rush, thousands of prospectors flooded the region (the basis of the HBO series Deadwood), threatening the traditional way of life of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota peoples.
War parties were common in this era and place: bands of warriors on horseback would scout their homelands for signs of invaders or ride out for retribution or revenge. These men would have been a dramatic sight: horses, weapons, and accoutrements all designed to inspire fear and awe in their foe.
Each man carries his most trusted weapon. Included in this war party are:
In addition to the weapons meant to inflict physical pain, one of the riders has a coup stick, a staff used to inflict shame on an opponent by demonstrating the bearer’s bravery. The warrior with the coup stick would simply touch his opponent with the staff -- the implication being that the warrior was so unafraid of his foe that he could touch him and walk away.
The riders all wear of fringed leather breeches on their lower bodies. Their shirts vary from fabric shirts (acquired by trade), fringed leather shirts, or no shirt at all (a display of resilience against cold temperatures). Shirts are decorated with ermine fur, hair locks, and intricate hand beading. Headgear ranges from just a few feathers to elaborate headdresses, symbols of excellence in battle. The third rider from the left wears a split-horn buffalo headdress. The fifth rider has a full eagle feather war bonnet, with each feather earned in a successful skirmish. All the men wear leather moccasins embellished with beading.
Each warrior would decorate his horse with symbols to either give the horse improved abilities or say something about the rider himself. A circle around a horse’s eye was meant to give a horse improved eyesight. Yellow angled lines stood for speed and agility. Painted dots were particularly fierce, symbolizing hail, along the lines of raining hails upon one’s enemies. A handprint on a horse stood for having killed an enemy in hand to hand combat. Horseshoes represented the number of horses raided from enemies.
The landscape was modeled after an autumn research trip I took to the Black Hills. I loved the interplay of the brown grasses against the smokey grey sky. There are three layers of contrasting material across the whole piece: the soft wispy grass, the hard and vibrant warriors, and the dark boiling clouds. The focal point for Black Hills Warpath is the eagle feather headdress of the rider on the white horse. Notice how his head is framed by mountains on both sides to draw in your eye. I designed the vibrant colors of his headdress and war paint to contrast sharply with the moodiness of the cloudy sky. The riders move in an S-formation, adding a fluid motion to the scene. This S-pattern is repeated in the mountains to keep your eye moving through the image.