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Submitted on
April 8, 2013
Image Size
597 KB


6,035 (1 today)
671 (who?)

Camera Data

Shutter Speed
10/2500 second
Focal Length
5 mm
ISO Speed
Date Taken
Apr 7, 2013, 5:50:15 PM
Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0 Windows
Mayan Jaguar mask #1 by merimask Mayan Jaguar mask #1 by merimask
I spent the weekend crying about this mask. I am not kidding.

Mayan Jaguar #1. I made this mask in such a happy haze after returning from the Yucatan peninsula, full of ideas for a Jaguar Warrior mask. I was promptly shot down by critics who said it looked "Egyptian". This broke my heart, because I already make Egyptian motif designs and that was definitely NOT what I was going for.

It's really hard to walk that fine line between being original and appropriating outright, when I'm trying to do a mask "in the style of". My usual trick is to spend a load of time looking at examples of a certain motif. A trip to the Egyptian wing at the Met or (in this case) a trip to a few Mayan sites. Then, after I've thought about it for a while, I do my sketches with NONE of that source material handy. So that I'm just doing an impression of the motifs that I saw. Usually this means my own style comes through.

With culturally iconic pieces I try to get it "right". I went to Japan, saw hundreds of kitsune masks and statues, thought abot it, then came home and drew my own version. I like it when my Japanese friends like my kitsune masks. Sure they're not like the masks from Japan but they're still recognizable as kitsune. But people are already confused and misinformed regarding "connections" between ancient Egypt and the Mayans...I can't add to that hot mess.

I tried to make a "more Mayan" version of the design (whatever the hell that means) by copying directly from existing headdresses (just to shut the critics up)...and failed miserably. It's just not my style to copy. I hate it. Six sketches, three patterns and one prototype in the garbage, and I had myself a good cry and said "That's it, not making this Mayan Jaguar". Lightning struck and the design I drew was the design above...and that was it. Couldn't make it happen again. Sometimes it's like that.

For all the critics out there...some links to show you what Mayan headdresses look like. No two are alike!! I saw ~hundreds~ carved in the walls of Chichen Itza's temples...each one was different. A common theme seemed to be disks at the sides with looping, hanging panels, so that's what I was going for. Here are some examples of what I'm talking about if you're a doubter:

And yes I know I could just add feathers to the top, probably...but I didn't WANT to because this is a jaguar, primarily, and I wanted his outline to be feline and not birdlike.

Also, eye markings on a cat do NOT mean it is a cheetah. My house cat has black eye markings. He is not a cheetah. The black markings on my jaguar's face are inspired by traditional squared spiral face paint, and blackened eyes, as seen here:

So after a weekend of having my heart broken by people claiming "it looks like an Egyptian cheetah!!" I gave up. This entry is my last and only attempt to explain where I was coming from when I made this. I will only offer this mask as a commission, because I just can not deal with all the stupid.

One good thing; when your work is being attacked, you find out really fast who your friends are. Roland is a good friend, who says (wisely) that if the artist researches a concept and SAYS it is South American…it’s South American dammit! So I’m giving him this mask for being a defender of the arts and an all around great person. Good things come to people who are kind and have open hearts.

Trolls get nothing.
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Rigo34 Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2014
Do you sell any of your masks? This is beautiful.
d3b45er Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2013
This is stunning. I don't know balls about art but I could tell right away that this was "Mayan" and not "Egyptian."
MochaLlama Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
If it makes you feel any better I actually studied South American anthropology at university and this is certainly more Mayan/South American to me then it is Egyptian/African. 

- I know it is a little late now but a good South American resource to get Jaguar impressions would be from the La Tolita culture (they aren't as well documented as the Mayans/Aztecs but they were very into the Jaguar motif/design).
danaan-dewyk Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2013
This mask is stunning! I think it's actually one of my favorites of your masks.
I just read your description, and (while I can't be sure of this because I don't know the backgrounds of these folks) all I can figure is that the people who are saying it looks Egyptian haven't actually seen much Mayan art. To me this looks super Mayan, and both the Mayan-ness and your style come through beautifully!
Alyssa-Ravenwood Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
This mask is gorgeous. Caught my eye right away. I'm a big fan of MesoAmerican Art. I love the nose, the forehead, the cheeks - you captured the style in a lovely way. You are an artist and don't have to explain yourself to anyone. You are also human and I know that rude unthoughtful criticisms sting. All critics can create is criticism. You are a great artist. You create beautiful works of art that give joy to people and add beauty to the world.
merimask Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
Thanks so much hon. :) It's been a while and I'm mostly over fact I try not to even read the entry because in retrospect its like so many people here said; I can't please everyone all the time. I only get upset when it's a cultural piece ( people can interpret my other stuff any way they like, all day long). I blame my background in archeology and anthropology. ;)
Gato-DeVerasocci Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2013  Student Photographer
I really like your masks, their great
HeavyGravity Featured By Owner May 8, 2013
One more thing, don't worry about your work being totally accurate unless that is what your trying to do. It's art, you have the right to interpret it how you see it through your eyes. If others like what they see, then good on them if they don't they can move on. Your work speaks for itself, I freakin love it. Screw the haters.
HeavyGravity Featured By Owner May 8, 2013
I just wanted to say, if your being "attacked" for any reason about your work, especially if it's friends, their not your friends, their just jealous wannabes. Anybody else is just jealous of your very skilled work. As much as it hurts, try to ignore it. Your work is right up there with the best, it is some of the best. I'm jealous, but i'll get over it. I hope you don't stop and just keep getting and making better. This is some of the best leather work let alone art I've seen on here. Just keep doing what your doing. And be a positive person, the rest will come out in the wash. BTW, as much as I love all your masks, this Jaguar mask is just rockin. You do sell these?
CuSmith Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2013
Great expression, very serious.
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