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In Comparison: Your Drawing Sucks

art, Howling Wolf, John Taylor, Treaty Signing, Medicine Creek Lodge 

What can be learned from one event captured by two artists?


Today’s calling is to examine two drawings from the same event: The Treaty Signing at Medicine Creek Lodge.

In 1867, the Treaty Signing at Medicine Creek Lodge was a name given to three treaty signings between the United States government and various Native American tribes.

The gist of the agreement was to get the Native American tribes to relocate from the Southern U.S. plains–to reservations– to keep whitey from having to flex his mighty “manifest destiny” muscle.  Care to guess how the proposed peace accord would end?

It was 1867, so yeah–if you presumed that the agreement never amounted to much and the Fightin’ Caucasians would rely on a God-given right to shoot their thundersticks with reckless thuggery into non-white hued folks to get the land they covet–well, sadly you are correct.  Really, the “treaty” ended up being much ado about nothing, except broken agreements and death, but the series of horrific events did provide artistic opportunity.

With the background information serving as a sad reminder, time to move along.  Let’s cheer up by learning the significance and basics of understanding comparative artistic analysis.   The primary purpose is to illustrate the power of perspective.

The two works on the Treaty Signing at Medicine Creek Lodge feature John Taylor and Howling Wolf:

John Taylor:

Taylor drawing
John Taylor.   Treaty Signing at Medicine Creek Lodge.  1867.


Howling Wolf:

howling wolf drawing
Howling Wolf.  Treaty Signing at Medicine Creek Lodge.  1875-1878.


At first glance, the “non-art” viewer may conclude that John Taylor’s rendering of the “Signing” kicks Howling Wolf’s pathetic picture’s ass.   Some may mutter, “Seriously, bro–what the f*ck?   Looks like a drawing by a 3rd grader with a fondness for enhanced shrubbery, or is that…walking bushes? Regardless, your drawing is terrible.”

Sure, the green is abundant, and maybe it is meant to be the “Swamp Thing” or something.   Notwithstanding, all must admit, the pony is sweet work.  Howling Wolf can draw some horses, fo’ sho.’

Here’s the thing about art–it’s complicated.  Therefore, one must understand that when comparing artistic merit or value, an acquired eye for details becomes crucial.  The ability to take a “deeper look” is what the art lovers in the world attempt to do as it sparks dialogue (could be internal, external, or both).  Such dialogue can entertain a solo mind or a group*** but:

***Note: Depending on where a person lives in the world, sorta determines the likelihood of having friends that wish to discuss appreciative works with you.  It is rare to find an art enthusiast outside of a major city or in and around art galleries.  That is important to know because most folks that “discover” their love for creative compositions will find it to be a mostly solo endeavor.   

Now a gift to the aspiring or yet to discover their inner connoisseur, enjoy a crash course in artistic evaluations.   

First, let’s start with a simple philosophy–like beauty, art is in the eye of the beholder.  Therefore, how one “sees”, a given work is what truly matters.  One must also realize that art evaluation, like most things in life, takes practice.  It is a personal skill or talent.  The joy comes from the challenge to the mind, the eyes, and the senses to increase the ability that will enhance the surrounding world.

The above pictures are commonly used to teach and evaluate beginners to the artistic world.  In other words, one can assess the images yourself and then compare your thoughts with a billion people (probably a billion, maybe less) by a mere Google search.

The key to evaluating John Taylor vs. Howling Wolf is in how the two artists differ in visual representation, content, and form.  In comparing the two pictures, it must be noted that the only commonality between the two is the intention to portray the same historical event.

Next, a brief examination of their differences.

John Taylor offers a form of work based on realism and appears more visually representational or accurate within the cultural context compared to the Howling Wolf’s portrayal.  All that means–is John Taylor’s version looks more life-like and is more customarily accepted as an artistic depiction.

Yet, Taylor’s work has a significant flaw (compared to Howling Wolf), and that is his picture offers a limited (think outsider) view and oversimplifies the Treaty Signing.  Taylor gives just a straightforward black/white narrative, especially when compared to Howling Wolf’s recollection of the same historical experience.

Howling Wolf’s output is classified as a more “abstract” piece, which merely suggests–his drawing may not look as visually pleasing.  But what Howling Wolf’s illustration lacks in aesthetics it makes up for in content.  Despite Howling Wolf drawing the picture many years later, while in a prison camp, he still is able to better recreate a birds-eye view that adds a more specific context to the Treaty Signing.

For instance, Wolf highlights the diversity of the people, both by affiliation and gender, while providing a better understanding of the landscape.  Plus, he even inserted a cute pony.

All can agree that the pony is cute, right?

Ultimately, Howling Wolf offers greater insight into the size and magnitude of the Treaty Signing than Taylor’s contribution–one just has to look “deeper” to discover the obvious superiority.

In summation, although Taylor’s realism may appear more representational it lacks in content to understand the Treaty Signing when compared to Howling Wolf’s more abstract piece.  Or one can plainly say Taylor’s design might be prettier, but it is not nearly as detailed oriented as Howling Wolf’s view.


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