Ledger Art by Catherine Castle

from Catherine Castle

I’ve discovered a new art form which I have claimed for my own artistic purposes — Ledger Art.

Ledger Art is an adaptation of Plains Indian hide painting that developed as buffalo hides became sparse.

Before the Plains tribes were forced onto reservations, they had a tradition of painting their personal stories on buffalo hides, shields, tipis, and clothing. The men usually painted representational pictures of life happenings. The women painted abstract, geometrical designs. After the Indians were forced onto reservations and buffalo hides became scarce Caddo and Indian Plains artists, began painting and drawing on paper, canvas, and muslin. Ledger art, also called warrior art, is traditionally done by men, and drawn in one-dimensional outlines and filled in with bright colors. As used ledger pages and other written-upon materials were passed to the Indian artists, they began to draw over the written words, not wasting any materials they could use as canvases.

In recent years Ledger Art has had a resurgence. Contemporary ledger artists, male and female, still draw and paint on antique ledger paper when they can find it, but they have added other sources of paper, including old maps, sheet music, railroad tickets, and other documents as their canvases. Often artists create juxtapositions between the paper’s content and what they have drawn. Many contemporary artists still use the flat, one-dimensional style of drawing. Others have begun to create more three-dimensional art on ledger canvases.

After reading about Ledger Art in one of my Native American magazines, I was captivated by the art samples I saw. I went on an internet search and found more examples. I’ve included a couple of links so you can see this fantastic work. I especially love Dolores Purdy Corcoran’s ledger art. You can view it here.

More of this work is available at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

Although contemporary ledger artists often use ledger art to honor pre-reservation culture or comment on, or poke fun at the world around them, I found a new use for ledger art. Using my poetry, I have begun to create my own form of Ledger Art, placing hand-drawn images, or computer images of pictures I’ve taken or drawn, on top of the poems, which I place on blue-lined notebook paper. I haven’t access to antique ledger paper, although I have been on the hunt for it when I’m antiquing.

At first I struggled with using a form of art that claims to be an exclusively American Indian art form. Then it occurred to me I have Choctaw blood in my ancestry. I’m a little bit Indian. I can also draw those one-dimensional figures, and using my poems I can create my own ledger paper. Once I got that notion in my head there was no stopping the creative juices. I stayed up late several nights as the ideas for poem-related ledger art, and ledger art written on my own music compositions flowed from my brain. Granted, I might not have the artistic skills of some of the contemporary ledger artists today, and most of what I create will never see the inside of an art gallery, but what I’m creating is in the spirit of the art form, since many of the poems I’m planning on using have a relationship to things that have happened in my life and my family’s life. I think it will make a nice legacy for my daughter to have one day.

The only thing I need now is a few more hundred hours a week to create everything I want to write, draw, and compose. Ah, being an artist is such a problem. 

Have you ever seen Ledger Art? What do you think about this art form?

Here’s a peek at my award-winning romantic comedy with a touch of drama A Groom for Mama for your reading pleasure.

One date for every medical test—that’s the deal. Allison, however, gets more than she bargains for. She gets a Groom for Mama.

Beverly Walters is dying, and before she goes she has one wish—to find a groom for her daughter. To get the deed done, Mama enlists the dating service of Jack Somerset, Allison’s former boyfriend.

The last thing corporate-climbing Allison wants is a husband. Furious with Mama’s meddling, and a bit more interested in Jack than she wants to admit, Allison agrees to the scheme as long as Mama promises to search for a cure for her terminal illness.

A cross-country trip from Nevada to Ohio ensues, with a string of disastrous dates along the way, as the trio hunts for treatment and A Groom For Mama.

With a sweep of his hand, Jack spread the photos out on the table in front of Allison and Beverly. “Here’s a few I just grabbed from the database. Any of them interesting?” He studied Allison’s reaction. She didn’t bat an eyelash as she scanned the men’s pictures. Then, without warning, she scooped them up and shoved them at him.

“I told Mama I wasn’t going to do this. It’s a stupid idea.”

“I’ll admit it’s not the ‘some enchanted evening, see a stranger across the room’ romantic way to find a husband, but it’s not totally unacceptable. Several of the couples my company has brought together have married.”

“And lived happily ever after?” she retorted.

“It’s a new company, Allison. I don’t have the stats yet.” He pushed the photos across the table. “Just take a peek. What harm can it do?”

Beverly grabbed the photo of a particularly handsome man. “How about this one? His coloring complements yours. You’d have beautiful children.”

Mama!” Allison snatched the photo away. “We’re not going to discuss my possible, yet unlikely, progeny in front of Jack.”

A flash of Allison kissing this guy flew through his head. He grabbed the photo from her. “He’s not your type anyway.”

“And just how do you know?” she asked.

“I dated you, remember? You ditched me for some suave, corporate hotshot. At least it’s what you said.”
“Allison!” Beverly exclaimed. “You never told me that.”

Allison shot him a fierce scowl. “I’m not comfortable discussing my love life with you, Mama. Besides, what’s done and over with should be buried . . . in the past.” She picked up another photo. “What about him? Or him and him?” She pointed to two nerdy-looking fellows. “They seem corporate.”

Mama leaned over and checked out the pictures Allison had indicated. “Too ugly,” she said. “He’s got to be handsome. Like Jack. I want to know my grandbabies will be as beautiful as you two.”

He grinned. “Thanks for the compliment, but I know I’m not your daughter’s type.” He laid a sheet of paper on the counter. “Fill this out. Then I can get a better idea of what you want in a husband.”

“I don’t want—”

“I know,” he interjected. “But, for your mom’s sake, just pretend you do.”

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Multi-award-winning author Catherine Castle has been writing all her life. A former freelance writer, she has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit (under her real name) in the Christian and secular market. Now she writes sweet and inspirational romance. Her debut inspirational romantic suspense, The Nun and the Narc, from Soul Mate Publishing, has garnered multiple contests finals and wins.

Catherine loves writing, reading, traveling, singing, watching movies, and the theatre. In the winter she loves to quilt and has a lot of UFOs (unfinished objects) in her sewing case. In the summer her favorite place to be is in her garden. She’s passionate about gardening and even won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club.

Learn more about Catherine Castle on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to check out Catherine’s Amazon author page and her Goodreads page. You can also find Catherine on Stitches Thru Time and the SMP authors blog site.


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6 responses to “Ledger Art by Catherine Castle

  1. I will have to visit the museum when it is safe to travel again!

  2. Linda Lee Greene

    This is an interesting post for which I thank you. I enjoy anything about Native Americans.

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