Native American artist Clement Paul Janis paints bold, compelling portraits that honor his ancestral heritage. See more of his portfolio by visiting his website.
I grew up on the Crow Reservation in Montana surrounded by rich culture and traditions. I woke up to breathtaking views of the Big Horn Mountains every morning. The iconic sounds of the drum and the smells of cedar, sweetgrass and buckskin were a common occurrence to my five senses.
Many times, the sweat lodge ceremonies and the three day fast in the mountains have transported my mind to the future, creating inspiration for me.
The series I present here I call the “Honor Series.” These images reflect my interpretation of the old ways of life by looking at these things in a new light.
The drips of color in the shadows of negative space is the way I represent Wisdom, Honor and Courage. These are all exemplified by my Native American Indian ancestors in the past. These are portraits of rich historical figures who have books written about them. The legends that surround them still linger in the prairie today, although their way of life was forced to change.
My method when creating every canvas each day includes morning prayer, meditation and insight from our creator. I am a self-taught artist. I’ve learned a lot through mistakes and practice.
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In this creative state of mind, I am free to make mistakes in mixing colors, in composition, rough sketches and in the studies of our elders wearing the traditional regalia.
I work to express the wisdom held by our ancestors. This wisdom came through the greatness, understanding and appreciation of simple things such as the sunrise, sunset, water, wind, rain, and leadership, but most of all respect for Mother Earth and all the sacrifices she made through the beauty of change.
After my morning ritual of prayer and meditation, I begin a rough sketch to create both positive and negative space that interacts with one another. I see the light and shadows come to life. Form is created with highlights from old photos. I literally smell the buckskin and beadwork as the sketch comes to life.
After, I lay a burnt sienna wash over the sketch on the canvas. Now I begin to work on the puzzle of where I will place my colors. Once I get my tonal values right and have added one color and then another, I pause and light some sweetgrass to awaken my senses again.
I am grateful for another morning to tell my stories through another painting.
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