Native American Indian Art


In 1673, explorers discovered an American Indian painting of a mythical bird, the Piasa (pronounced pie-a-saw) located by the Mississippi River not far from Alton, Illinois. It was believed that this bird devoured  people of an Indian village. Some Indian warriors eventually killed it with poisoned arrows. The painting was to commemorate their bravery. Although the original painting eroded away, a reproduction of the original has been painted in the same place.

Drawings of mythical birds called thunderbirds have been found in numerous places. It was believed that it brought rain and good vegetation. It was also believed that lightning came out of its mouth thunder was caused from flapping its wings.

American Indians artists used animal symbols when decorating their pots so show their connection with nature. They also created pictographs (drawings) as well  as petroglyphs (etchings on rock).

Since no one has seen a Piasa Bird or Thunderbird, you can use your imagination on how they should look.

     Make thumbnail sketches of bird outlines - these outlines can represent real or imaginary birds. When you have decided which is your best bird drawing, draw your selected bird outline larger on drawing paper.

* They’re stylized and not realistic…..maybe not even real at all

     Draw straight and/or curved lines inside the body of your bird dividing the area for the wings, tail feathers, neck and legs. Remember to draw lightly at first - makes it easier to erase if you need to change a line.

* Your bird might designs on their feathers or

they might have more feathers than a typical bird.





The Piasa Bird & The Thunderbird


     The bird you’re drawing is in the style of Native American Indians folklore. Don’t forget about the colors we on the previous page. Also, include geometric shapes and patterns such as stair-step, zig-zag, or even checkerboard.


Your Assignment

     Carefully fill in your drawing with colored pencil.

* Be imaginative with color placement

* Click on the color wheel for ideas!




Other Birds

Just decoration?

Don’t take things at face value. Designs that stranger might see as just decoration on American Indian artwork actually might be significantly important symbols to the Native artists. Below are some of the symbols you could find along with colors often used by the artists.

Click on the color wheel for ideas and inspirations!