Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hidatsa Shield Figure Beans

Prismacolor colored pencil on Strathmore charcoal paper, "Golden Brown"

One of my Christmas presents from my daughter was a fabulous selection of vegetable garden seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange. (If you're into gardening, you must check out their website; you can also order one of these catalogs that I just received—isn't that cover gorgeous?)

Among my seeds was this packet of Hidatsa Shield Figure Beans. That name had me intrigued right off the bat, and the photo on the front of the packet sealed the deal. So, I did a little bit of research: The markings on the beans are supposedly reminiscent of the painted shields of the Hidatsa tribe who raised corn, squash, beans, and sunflowers in the Missouri River Valley of North Dakota. I looked for an image that supported this theory, but didn't see anything strikingly similar, but I'll keep sleuthing. Shield Figure beans are described in the fascinating Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden (1987) which you can read more about here.

As for my drawing, it was lots of fun, but I'd forgotten that the charcoal paper needs a lighter touch than I gave it, I'm afraid. Here's how I set up my little "models" on my drawing table. I just stuck them on a piece of foam core with this Quake-Hold museum putty that I use all of the time when positioning the things that I'm drawing. (And yes, when you live in earthquake country, you do also use this stuff to secure valuables in case of The Big One.)

While working on this drawing, I had to get out one of my favorite picture books, the exquisite A Seed is Sleepy. Sylvia Long's amazing illustrations could keep my entertained for hours. They've also collaborated on A Butterfly is Patient, A Rock is Lively, and the stunningly beautiful, An Egg is Quiet. I simply adore these books.

Well, it's getting warmer here in the Bay Area, but we're experiencing quite a drought this winter (this is our rainy season); the plants in my yard don't know what season it is. Here's hoping that Mother Nature gets some rain on its way in time to set the scene for my seed planting!

Update: I've just realized that this week's topic on Illustration Friday is "beginning". What's more of a beginning than some seeds? (Okay, we could get into the which-came-first conundrum but we won't...)


  1. These are lovely. I love Sylvia Long's work too.
    This weather! I would love to plant some new things, but with a mandatory 20% reduction in water use, I figure maybe now is not the best time ...

  2. Hi Sarah, your seeds fit perfectly with Illustration Fridays topic. Beautiful illustration as always, works really nicely on the coloured paper too.