Coyote Dances with the Stars

Ah, Coyote.  He’s one of the many glories of Native American folk stories and, for me, perhaps the prime glory.  He’s a lot like the fox in European folk stories, in that he can be good or bad, wise or foolish, or all of these things at American Indian Myths and Legendsonce.  In short, he’s very human, and that’s why I love him.  Now, after seemingly endless airbrushing, I’ve finally finished work on one of my favourite Coyote stories.  It’s a Cheyenne tale, and one of the places you can find it is in the fantastic American Indian Myths and Legends.

Originally I was just going to draw a few quick sketches and post them up along with a link to the text.  Then I started having trouble drawing stars – thank you to those on twitter who heeded my pained cries.  The stars in the story are living beings, so I wanted to draw them as such, rather than as big balls of gas.   But how?  I didn’t really ever figure that out, so when I wrote up my own version of the story I left the visuals out and decided instead to draw my own ideas together into one giant picture of the galaxy.  Click on the final illustration to explore it close up.  It’s quite large, as space should be, so I hope it loads okay and doesn’t reduce your monitor to smoke and exposed springs (which is what monitors are made of, right?).

Here’s Coyote Dances with the Stars.

Coyote sketch

Comments 5

  1. Claire Massey wrote:

    I really enjoyed your version of the story, thank you for putting it up. Your illustrations are beautiful and the galaxy is stunning (and only a little smoke is trickling from my screen…).

    Posted 10 Nov 2011 at 10:29 am
  2. Patricia wrote:

    Reading this was the most charming part of Friday morning. Love the illustrations. Looking forward to The Man Who Rained!

    Posted 11 Nov 2011 at 4:32 pm
  3. Summer wrote:

    I really enjoyed reading your version of the story, it was very good, but I think the drawing of the galaxy was wonderful.

    I’m doing an art exam piece, the theme of which is glass (coincidental I know). I’ve been experimenting with a lot of different media and techniques and I was wondering, since I find your drawings so unique and interesting, if you could recommend an artistic media or technique which you like. If you could I’d really appreciate your opinion. thanks (:

    Posted 11 Nov 2011 at 7:19 pm
  4. Ali wrote:

    Hey Summer, and good luck in advance with the art exam (although I’m sure you won’t need luck). Graphite sticks and smudgers are where it’s at, for me. There’s probably a technical name for smudgers, but I mean a kind of cottony/paper stick with a sharp end shaped like a pencil’s. You’ll find them next to the graphite sticks in most art shops. The great thing about them is that they can spread an even midtone and pick up less of the texture of the paper than, say, a pencil being used very lightly. They’re an easy way to get more grey areas among the sometimes too-stark blacks and whites of pencil drawing.

    I tend to draw with graphite first, then smudge, then add or pick out detail with a sharp 5B. I also use the occasional bit of chalk or oil pastel. I used quite a bit of pastel on the stars in the Coyote story because I was drawing them as negative images (so it was useful to be able to overlay shadow using a white pastel). In doing that I discovered that using a very hard pencil like a 9H on an area of dense pastel is great fun – it’s like scraping around in mud on a very very tiny scale.

    I appreciate that you’re probably getting more than you wanted here (I am a ridiculous person who can happily talk about pencils all day), but one last thing I enjoy is a very pale grey brush pen used along with charcoal. That’s how I did all of the pictures of Coyote. If you draw with the brush pen first you get a very faint but crisp image, which the inevitably scruffy charcoal complements.

    Hope this is of some use. I’m off to hang out with my graphite some more…

    Posted 15 Nov 2011 at 2:25 pm
  5. Summer wrote:

    The brush pen sounds good to me for a sharper definition. I think your “smudgers” mean tortillons or blending stumps, which sounds quite appealing as well. With the graphite, hopefully that can give me the smother transition in tones that I’ve been looking for (I mean shading pencils can only take you so far). Some really interesting options, thanks a lot this really helped. You enjoy your time with your graphite, I hope there are plenty more pictures on the way. Now all I have to do is find a half decent art shop somewhere in post-revolution Egypt. That should be an interesting endeavor :D .Thanks again.

    p.s can’t wait to read the man who rained (:

    Posted 15 Nov 2011 at 7:18 pm