Pictograph Process

     For Paula, creating authentic pictographs using the methods employed by her ancestors begins by obtaining red earth (red ocher). For a traditional artist like Paula, this requires strict observance of ancient Native protocols prior to harvesting the red pigment.

     These observances vary somewhat depending on the tribe and its traditions, and the details may differ however they usually include the use of American Indian ‘medicines,’ or what ethnographers refer to as Native botanicals.


Harvesting Red Earth using a digging stick.

Red Earth chunks with typical sacred botanicals.

Making red paint: A. Animal fat, B. Aloe leaves, C. Prickly Pear Cactus, D. Grinding Bowl, E. Grinding stones, F. Red Earth chunks, and G. Wooden 'sifting' board.

     After harvesting red earth, depending on the raw materials, the pigment may have to be dried, sifted, heated, crushed, or ground.

     It is then stored in tightly sealed containers to keep it dry. Pictograph paint (pigment and binder), is usually made fresh, in small batches.

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