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Phippen Show Preview: Allure of the Flute


UPDATE: Allure of the Flute has been sold.

Allure of The Flute, depicts a Crow warrior, adorned with red coup symbols, as he plays a traditional wooden flute. As I painted, I imagined the contrast of the powerful warrior with this gentle, haunting instrument.


There are three important compositional elements of this painting:

Study Sketch for

Study Sketch for "Allure of The Flute"

Element # 1: Contour and lighting



Chiaroscuro is the art world term for dramatic contrasts between light and dark for dramatic effect. As you can see in Allure of the Flute, I used this technique to focus the viewer’s eye on the warrior’s face and back.

This contrast of light and dark around the profile also brings the warrior to the forefront and suggests the appearance of a fire glowing in the background.

Element # 2: Use of opposing angles, diagonal lines, and contrast

Opposing angles, diagonal lines, and contrast

Opposing angles, diagonal lines, and contrast



Can you see the triangles formed by the forearms and flute and another triangle between his back and underarm? These angles increase the painting’s visual interest while the “T” effect of the arms and flute create a focal point that helps move the eye through the painting.

With all this movement through the painting, I used a simple, muted background to offer a negative space where your eyes can rest.

Element # 3 Other visual interest

Besides the foci of this painting previously discussed, I also included other active elements to help enrich the visual experience of the work:

  • Color in the beads , earrings, and coup markings around the forearms
  • Texture of the hawk feathers against the flowing black hair
  • Sinewy musculature of the warrior’s arms, hands, and back

Flute player thematic elements

Attractive to women

In my research, I have read that men who played the flute were considered by the Plains peoples to have “elk medicine,” as the elk make similar, high-pitched whistling sounds in their mating call.

Native American flute from my research collection

Native American flute from my research collection

Someone adept at playing the flute was able to tap into that “medicine.” Thus, the player of the flute was considered attractive to the opposite sex since the sound of the flute had powers to lure women.

This warrior takes full advantage of his status by wearing colors and adornment with peacock-like showiness. In the vernacular of today, he was on top of his game: he looked attractive to women while also playing a hypnotic, alluring song which had power to draw the females closer.

Allure of the Flute available for pre-sale before the Phippen Art Show

I will be bringing Allure of the Flute with me to the Phippen Museum Western Art Show and Sale, May 28 – 30, 2011, but I am offering it for pre-sale now.

If you would like to add Allure of the Flute to your collection before it is shown to the buying public, please contact my studio: James Ayers Studios.

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