How to create western/historical art using models

Artist Roger Williams of Santa Fe, Western art, art , fine art, oil painting, Hopi, Native American ,pot maker, pueblo culture
“Tradition” 40 x 30 oil on linen

I have been often been asked how I create my historical indigenous paintings. It can get very complicated and each situation or painting idea is always different. However, I would like to write this blog to impart at least one example of a painting I recently did and how I did it.

First and foremost, I come up with an Idea. These ideas come in many forms through thoughts or feelings that often are triggered by some experience, book or simply an inspiration.

In this case, I was inspired by an ancient photograph I saw in the Hopi museum in Arizona. I decided to call in one of my native models and recreate a similar image from which to paint. Because of the nature of representational art/realism of sorts, I have to have good material from which to paint. Sometimes I will paint the painting entirely from life, however, I find it more productive most of the time, to paint from a series of photographs I take.

Below, is an example of the general photo I took with a recreated costume of the period. (Manta) Personally, I like to keep my paintings true to the history I study from the given culture and period. There is always some innovation but for the most part, I choose to stay as true to history as possible.

Usually when I hire a model, I try to set up more than just one idea because of the expense and time it takes to plan modeling sessions or photoshoots.

I must mention that when I paint larger paintings, like the one featured here, “Tradition”,I almost always do a smaller study as well as sketches while the model is still posing. There were details taken of every portion of the model’s pose as shone in the detail photograph below.

I then finished the painting with the initial idea of fire light in a pueblo setting. this portion of the process was the innovative part. I have studied fire light on figures for many years so the palette was familiar.


If you have any comments, please leave them below. Any questions can be direct to my email

hopi, Roger Williams artist, art ,fine art pueblo, western art, southwest art,
General Photo of Model

Thanks for taking a look at my blog!

Detail of Model

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