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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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Blizzardstar808 Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016
For the record, I see much more South American in the mask than Egyptian. I guess you got a lot of criticism because the critics weren't very educated on Mayan/Incan/etc culture. It's very nice it caught my eye. Very nice job.
merimask Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Professional Artisan Crafter
Thank you!  I might re-visit skin may have been too thin at the time but I did really like the design so, I should give it another shot.
Blizzardstar808 Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2016
One thing I do with my work is leave it alone for a while. Then when I see it again after time has passed I see that it was fine the way it was. It is so cool don't be too judgmental about it.
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. ;)
Gorche 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.
IvkaM Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Beautiful! love the colors!
Glori305 Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2013
Beautiful! And very much in the theme. Don't see egyptian there at all, maybe the person who said egyptian doesn't know mayan, I got mayan from the thumbnail.
Last-Verse Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
This is beautiful 8D The expression in those eyes is awesome, and I love the blue loops. The textures and those squared-off eye markings are wonderful :D
Kairillia Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2013  Student Artisan Crafter
I'm not going to lie, my first thought when I looked at this was "Egyptian". However, when I stopped to take another look after reading the title, it was clearly Mayan.

Because Egyptian culture is much more prevalent in popular culture, more people who aren't familiar with Mayan (or South American in general) art & sculpture would see the Egyptian elements - the earth tones, the prevalence of turquoise and gold, geometric design, and slotted sides (reminds one of a pharaoh's headdress) and the cat theme. However, these are also colours primarily used in South America (City of Gold, anyone?). The design elements - the square spirals, the discs, the stepping design at the top of the forehead - are all Mayan. The Jaguar itself is a huge symbol in Mayan culture.

I think it's beautiful, and thank you for reminding me of my interest in art and architecture of the Mayans. I have some research of my own to go do.
omfgitsbutter Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2013
I absolutely love this mask, I think you did a fantastic job. Art is your own protrayal of concepts and ideas, if this is how you express your love of mayan art, I think you did a great job. I do not think that it looks egyptian but it does look simliar and I suppose I can see how people would put them together. They do look similiar in ways.
LadyButtonEyes Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2013  Student Photographer
I'm an anthropology major and I've done a fair bit of research on the native cultures of both North and South America. In no way does this design look Egyptian-- I immediately saw the Mayan influence and I think you did a beautiful job at taking their traditional motifs and making them your own. There are many ignorant people out there who don't stop and consider the amount of effort and love you put into your designs before they share their unlooked-for opinions. I've been on the receiving end of it before and it's not fun. I am sorry for your tears; just remember that there are so many more of us who ADORE your work-- I know I do! :) Feel better!
How2Draw Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2013   Traditional Artist
Those critics have know idea what there talking about this mask is totally mayan. The use of the color turquoise, the hard lines you used on the face and nose, the step pyramid motif on top, and the fact that the mask is a jaguar all suggest mayan art and culture. I honestly would love to see more masks like this one. Your mask is beautiful.
spongekitty Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2013  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
I love it! I'm sorry you had such agony getting it out there. Hold firm, this mask is awesome and certainly South American!
H3LLoK66aren99 Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Dude that is totally NOT Egyptian
U did a really good job on this one, i like how elegantly simple it is
Did u visit Cancun? Or were u in said Peninsula for other reasons?
I think the only factor which may make it look a bit "Egyptian" is the jewel on his forehead :
* if you're going for Mayan (which i assume u are since you were in Yucatan which, though the Mayans mainly extended below said peninsula, still homed such culture): the Mayan's were generally a hat people, i guess you can say, they didn't really wear jewelry on their foreheads - men or women - only rather large hats shaped like all sorts of things with all kinds of patterns [the men used such]
* Aztects like birds more so jaguar's aren't exactly their thing, especially being that there aren't any around where they resided. As a matter of fact, they loved birds so much that the Mexican flag has an Eagle fighting a Snake atop a cactus in the middle of it. However, those earrings are rather Aztec, portrayed by the vivid colors and length

All of the above has been provided by memory so it is possible i have made some descriptive errors :P

one thing is for certain though, that mask is NOT Egyptian
Egyptians didn't wear those kinds of colors, the kinds of jewelry, ur jaguar would be much more - whats the appropriate word? - square and crisp as opposed to real and soft. I call bs on the "trolls" who dare insult you unknowing of history's truth.
Luusan Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2013
I think this is my new favorite of all your masks.. i've always dreamed of a Mayan Jaguar mask.. This is most lovely. I knew what it was before reading the title or description. <3
masker-of-disguise Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
I think it looks fantastic!
HeartMisu Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
I could tell IMMEDIATELY it was Mayan inspired! It reminded me instantly of "The Road to El Dorado". It's gorgeous. I'd love to have something like this, the geometric patterns are so Mayan-esque.
lonewylfe Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2013
Add me to your list of supporters, and the list of people who knew immediately what it was based off of. I personally think it looks pretty awesome, and very much your style. And I'm still insanely jealous that you get to travel to do your research ;)

(I don't know who your critics are, but they're idiots. Even my backwoods southern "edumacated" husband immediately knew it was based off South American masks)
MightyMaynes Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
The only "Egyptian" aspect I can see someone might spot is the alternating stripes on the edges being seen as similar to a pharoes headress... But other than that I see this little puppy screaming Mayan, and something a lot of people forget is how eerily similar Egyptian and Mayan culture were. Both cultures built pyramids after all. The stepped design of the forhead accent clearly denotes mayan inspiration, the 2 earring pieces were an inspired decision as the massive size is VERY mayan, and is common to be seen on hundreds of carvings, as for the cheek design I love it as it combines mayan architechture and the mayans favorite animal. What I'd love to see is a black design with greyish spots, now that would be intimidating. ;) Dear lady, do not dispair, for you have nailed it! I've been a long time viewer and lover of your work and find it amazing!
merimask Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
I do agree with you re; the stripes. When I started seeing people respond with "Egyptian!" I realized that the stripes were probably a bad idea. I was cramming all these colors and patterns together but I forgot how iconic bright stripes are, and for too many people I think "stripes of color in a headdress + blackened eyes = Egyptian".

If I were ever to do this design again (and honestly I don't feel like it anymore. It's already infuriating enough to see hundreds of "Bioshock!" comments on every damned rabbit mask I make...even though my rabbits don't have a ~single thing~ to do with any video game)...but yeah, if I ever do it again I'm going to have to leave the panels alone. Maybe a piped edge, but no stripes.
lisagems Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
I don't see Egyptian in that at all. The Mayan influences are quite clear. Clearly the people who said they looked Egyptian didn't know Mayan.
desertpriestess Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013
This looks NOTHING like an Egyptian mask.
I am from the southwest and my community is influenced by far south culture. I don't know who your critics are, but they do not know squat.

I think you did great. The colors and the line designs are wonderful. You really shouldn't let people get you down. If you want to make an addition to make it a bit more Mayan, add feathers to the top. Remember the Mayans and Aztec culture had elaborate head dresses. If you want a thought, look up mayan/aztec priest pictures. Many had feathered head dresses.
SparklersOasis Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013
I absolutely love the organic curves of the leather with the sharp lines of the design. I also love the colors. Lovely!
HyenaTeeth Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
My first thought on seeing this was Road to el Dorado (not that it came from the movie, just as an art-relation that jumped easily to mind), which was definitely Mayan inspired. It's quite beautiful and obviously well-researched, and it is very clearly Mayan for someone familiar with the culture/style.

The unfortunate thing is many people a) don't know much Mayan culture and b) have built-in pattern recognition that will tend to throw "things that seem similar" into the same category if they don't have a prior reference. In other words, you've done a lot of Egyptian stuff, and this obviously isn't Japanese, French or high fantasy, so the "uneducated" will probably throw it into the category that contains some other gold-and-turquoise themes (I haven't seen the previous one, so I don't know what's what there).

I've been through similar issues. For instance, my favorite cosplay is Victor from the Wolverine: Origins movie. It wasn't a popular movie and Victor was an even-less popular character, so I often have to deal with "are you a werewolf?" or "are you a vampire?" or "are you (insert anime character I've never heard of here)?" on a regular basis. No matter how carefully I refine the costume (which is, admittedly less distinctive than Mayan artwork), or how carefully I play the character, I will still get these questions because Victor is not nearly as well known as Twilight, Buffy, Angel, Tenshi Roku Whatever-else-there-is.

So, I feel you, and I hope this doesn't deter you from trying to expand further into this art style and maybe try different animals/approaches. It sounds like Roland has the right idea, though I tend to think this mask looks plenty Mayan.
elizame Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013  Student Writer
Very Mayan, very jaguar. Very interesting. I hope more Mayan things come out of this. It's a good new route to traverse, expanding your repertoire. Excellent job.
kianahsaro Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013
For what it's worth (hoping my words have -some-), I think you did very well. I can see the Mayan influence, as well as how you incorporated it with modern materials and your own twist. It works well, and I hope you end up doing another, despite all the tears this one caused!
Sakumbi Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013
I for one don't think it looks Egyptian, I have no problem seeing the Mayan in it. The colors, the angles. Excellent!
ZaeavYeelell Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Just saying - I've BEEN to the Yucatan Penninsula, spent half a month down there among the ruins. As someone who has been there and seen those carvings, this mask was immediately recognizable as Mayan-influenced. The rest of those schmoes can go look it up.
ChiObsidian Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013   Digital Artist
Please don't get mad at me for saying this, but I also agree that it looks like a cheetah. But, I love cheetahs, and thats what originally brought me here to begin with! Why not leave a little room for interpretation? :)

But I can also see the obvious mayan influences here. It definately made me think of Tezcatlipoca.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that no matter what, with the exception of maybe photorealism and fan art, everyone will see your art a certain way! Don't let it get you down. As long as you feel you accomplished what you set out to do and are happy with it, let the critics see what they want.
EstrangeloEdessa Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I don't think the problem is that you "failed" to make a mask that looks Mayan, but the fact that most people don't recognize Mayan-looking things right away. Ancient Egyptian culture is just more well-known. I know if I had seen this mask without a title or explanation, I wouldn't have recognized it as Mayan right away. But that would be my fault, not yours.

Obviously you've done the research, more than I have. And if you say it's South American, then absolutely it is South American!

And I think the mask is very beautiful.
Ceasarex-the-mage Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013  Student General Artist
I like it!
curiouser-etc Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013
Wow. This looks amazing! I've certainly never seen anything like it. Absolutely beautiful.
Koeskull Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This is amazing. You shouldn't care so much about what they think.. You went to places and got inspired by that art, and gave it some of your style. Who are they to tell you it's not what you intended, when you know it is?
JVs-Luck Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Awesome mask! Just one question though, is there a string that ties the mask in place, or can you just wear it like that?

Also, it's nice to see more "authentic-inspired" (not sure if someone will find this description debatable) artwork in the Mayan/Aztec/Mesoamerican culture. I probably don't go around much anyway, lol; regardless, it's nice to see it's getting attention :D
Treyos Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Well, honestly, I wouldn't have pegged it as Mayan. Of course, I wouldn't have pegged those headdresses you linked as Mayan, either. ;P It's never been a culture I've investigated very much. Odds are high that most of the people who mistook it for Egyptian are in the same boat (or a slightly leakier one which involves knowing nothing about Mayans OR Egyptians). Don't take public ignorance as being your fault, there's nothing you can do about it and it's waaaaaaay too massive a problem for any one person to bear. The ones that just replied with "oh, okay, I didn't know that" were just honestly mistaken, and the ones that took offense to your explanation... well, if they think they know better than the creator, then they need to get over themselves.

Relax! Don't let it bother you so much! ... Why, yes, I do frequently make absurdly improbable requests. Why do you ask? ;)
KuroroCure Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
It's a beautiful mask. I really don't get why people would say anything about it like that though, it looks like a Mayan Jaguar to me. It's all in how the artist interprets things, and you obviously researched enough. People don't think before they speak (or type for that matter).
dollphinwing Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
I think this definitely looks Mayan, I don't really think Egypt at all when I see this. Plus it's a beautiful mask :D
addababe Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013  Student Digital Artist
this. looks. amazing! i think it looks pretty mayan :meow:
if it's what you like doing, keep making masks! nice work!
AngelicAcid Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013
Honestly when I first saw this in the little preview I got the appearance of an Aztec/Mayan look I don't think it looks Egyptian at all. But anywho I love your work and if I could afford it I would probably own so many of your masks. I think you're extremely talented and I love the way that you look for new ideas and some of the things that you create and the way you make them blow my mind because I've tried to work with leather and it is not an easy task.
NightSpriter Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013
I love viewing all your new styles of masks, and I have to say this is one of my favorites because of the bright bold colors on the side :D
It's great after seeing your different styles of wolf masks, cat masks, dragon masks, etc, that you've created such a unique mask. Excellent work ;)
jvrsta Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2013
Oh Christ, you produced a beautiful mask here. People who don't make masks can be awful picky about work they don't do. Good Job.
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Submitted on
April 8, 2013
Image Size
597 KB


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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