Burma Banteng – Cattle and Aloe in Bagan

April 14, 2014 § 7 Comments

The second contender for the Thailand Burma Flora Fauna print series is complete! Today, I’d like to share some thoughts about that image, and also say thank you to everyone who has been reaching out to me after I post these updates. I appreciate all of your support and kind feedback with this project!

Burma Banteng, Cattle and Aloe in Bagan, 2014

Burma Banteng, Cattle and Aloe in Bagan, 2014

This image is a night scene illustrating the Burma Banteng, a species of wild cattle found across Southeast Asia. One of my goals for this project was to allow first hand experience to inform this body of work, which I feel it already has, tenfold.

Included in this image are a number of specific plants and trees, human-made structures, and other visuals I witnessed during my travels. Talk about “refilling the wellspring”, so to speak…

Travel sketchbook page from Bagan, Burma.

Travel sketchbook page from Bagan, Burma.

Bagan sketchbook detail with banteng calf.

Bagan sketchbook detail of a banteng calf and an ancient pagoda.

Thumbnail drawings worked out slight variations of the composition.

Working out variations of the composition using thumbnail drawings.

Why choose something as mundane as cattle? 

One – As part of my rubric for the series, I determined that it would be too predictable to only represent animals that were exotic or endangered species. I wanted some animals that were thriving, and at least one type that lived among human beings. Like the elephant, cattle have had a complex role in the development of civilization over several millennia, and I wanted to honor that role.

A thin Bali cow, Bagan.

A thin banteng, Bagan.

Two – Banteng, or tembadau, are one of the animals that really stood out to me while I was in Burma. We saw so many different breeds being herded among the ruins in Bagan. Some were wilder looking varieties– buff colored oxen with wavy viking-like horns. But I found that the Bali cattle (domesticated banteng) were the most visually striking with their humps, floppy ears, and large, peaceful doe eyes. 

Here's looking at you, cow.

Here’s looking at you, cow.

Bagan was easily one of the most incredible places I have ever been, and I was surprised at how arid upper Burma is. Think: dusty red earth, dry stream beds, and a thriving variety of plants and trees acclimated to a desert climate. In the image, I included toddy palms, eucalyptus, and acacia trees, as well as cactus and aloe vera plants among the ruins of the temples.

Also, while we were in Bagan the Orion constellation was prominent in the night time sky, and the crescent moon would lay flat on its back in a way that appeared unusual to me. I wanted to remember these details so I included them in the print design.

A temple in Bagan, early sunset hours.

A temple in Bagan, early sunset hours.

Bagan – Bagan was the ancient capital city of what would later become Burma. Between the 11th and 13th century thousands of temples, monasteries and stupas were constructed there, of which there are still over 2,200 pagodas left today.

Sunset, Bagan - The Bagan plain spans an area approximately 40 square miles!

Sunset over Bagan. The Bagan plain spans an area of approximately 40 square miles!

A couple of weeks ago I participated in local Mae Sot NGO Kick-Start Art’s annual auction. It raises funds for the organization by asking local artists to make pieces inspired by an artwork made by one of the school children attending its art programs.

I chose two kids’ pieces that humored me– one depicting a joyful banana and another of a sad mosquito. For which to accompany them (and to keep within the logic of the original artwork) I made images of a morose banana and a happy mosquito. It was a lot of fun, and both sold for a good cause.

One of my works for a charity auction depicting a morose banana.  We have fun...

One of my works for a charity auction depicting a morose banana. We have fun…

Currently, I’m busy at work on the fourth and fifth Flora Fauna images. The third image design is complete, but I am giving it a few days for touching up before I share it.

Thank you for reading and for your support!

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§ 7 Responses to Burma Banteng – Cattle and Aloe in Bagan

  • Liza Paizis says:

    I cannot wait to see more beautiful prints from this amazing experience Mike! I have so enjoyed reading all your posts about your Thai – Burma adventure :)

  • Reblogged this on Martha Keim-St. Louis' blog and commented:
    like this work a lot

  • jackbaumgartner says:

    Mikey, those pagodas are really intense features in a landscape. I like them especially in the moonlit vision of your print design. And as usual, I am grateful to see your sketchbook pages. I could easily pass the time looking at your drawings. Good work so far. Will you wait until you are home to start cutting blocks?

    • Mike Schultz Paintings says:

      Yeah, pagodas are everywhere in Burma, some in the most unusual places… Like, we’d be on a bus going through the mountains and I would catch a momentarily glimpse of some far off and remote mountaintop temple on a ridge across the valley. Who built it? And do monks still live there? Do people still go there? Some of them are just crumbling back into the earth.

      Thank you for the note about the drawings! I look forward to sharing them with you in person someday. It would be great to come visit you all this year.

      I am debating about how to make the actual prints. I am not entirely convinced that I want to make them as linocuts, and may opt to do them as letterpress, as I can get the same lines as whatever the final draw is, without losing anything in the translation. I want as much detail as I can get and remember the sorrows we had over my shallow cuts in the blocks gets slowly filled with ink. Would love to speak with you about it and get your perspective on it. And yes, all that work will be done in Portland. For now, all day everyday, drawing!

  • That print at the top is spectacular and the drawings are marvelous. I am traveling through your posts. Such a great air of naturalism and wonder. Thank you for this.

    • Mike Schultz Paintings says:

      Thank you so much for the kind comment, Steven. It has definitely been a fruitful trip so far, and I have seen some amazing sights that have fed back into my work. :) Thanks again.

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