As they say, if I had a piece of dark chocolate for every time that someone has said to me “but I can’t draw” when I ask them to sketch their ideas, or capture some content visually, I’d be as big as an elephant. When I saw this article about Crazy Horse’s drawings of his battles, and the “language of images” I thought “here is a story I can tell back when people say they can’t draw.” There is power in images, no matter how simple or refined.
At first glance, the drawings may look childish. But as Picasso has pointed out, a drawing’s intelligence isn’t simply a matter of academic technique. Under McLaughlin’s masterful guidance, we come to recognize that, in fact, the drawings in this book exhibit extraordinary intelligence of observation. Every detail is telling, whether it’s a dragonfly painted on a shield or the way war paint was applied to the horses.
As McLaughlin explains, these drawings are as rich and informative as any Euro-American literary text, although they speak in the language of images rather than letters, and shape reality within parameters set by a very different cultural framework. It’s a remarkable lesson in the importance of examining something very closely, of learning to look at images in new ways.
The image from the ledgerbook appears in A Lakota War Book from the Little Bighorn: The Pictographic “Autobiography of Half Moon,” by Castle McLaughlin (2013). Houghton Library Studies 4, Houghton Library of the Harvard Library and Peabody Museum Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.