This is Billy Thomas a Caddo man named Sho-We-Tit. I was really moved by these reference photographs I found. They show a face full of character, nobility and deep feeling as if every line, every wrinkle, every lock of silver hair represents an episode in this mans life. They were taken by photographer Joseph Dixon in 1913 on an expedition intended to promote loyalty to the United States and document the "vanishing" Indian race. Dixon and his assistants presented American flags to Indian tribes across the country.
Billy would have been a young man when his tribe was forced by the government to move from their historical lands in Texas to a reservation in Oklahoma in 1859 where they were subsequently lied to, cheated and generally taken advantage of for the rest of their lives. I find it quite obscene that they were asked to drape themselves in the American flag representing the people that had done their best to commit genocide on the Indian race, and to pose for photographs probably for a small pittance which they were in no position to refuse.
So I chose to represent him without the flag, and replace it with a buckskin shirt, a bears claw necklace and Eagle feathers.
I am really pleased how this portrait has turned out, I think it may be my best pencil work to date. Often when I show a detailed piece like this one, people ask ‘How long did it take?’ Well I certainly put a lot of time into it but it’s the years of practice, the reading, the observing, the learning which has brought me to this point in time. So I should answer that it has taken All Of My Life.