Artist profile: Ancient Egypt – introduction

Every month, I profile an artist that inspires my own art, in several segments.

Nefertari (1298-1235 BCE)
wall painting of Nefertari (1298-1235 BCE)

My first artist isn’t one artist, but millions. I’m talking about three thousand years’ worth of mostly-unknown artists who labored in workshops, palaces, and tombs to create that instantly-recognizable, gorgeous style.

Why was it so consistent? Because there was a standard style – a canon that artists followed- which changed little over time. Artists may have experimented on their own, but the canon reigned supreme for state-sponsored projects. Egypt was also free from outside rule for almost all of those three millennia.

I can’t remember when I first discovered Ancient Egypt. I was very young, though. It is probably what inspired me to draw all those eyes that I mentioned in my second post.

When I was a kid, I loved everything about Ancient Egypt: art, clothes, makeup, architecture, reverence for animals. I read lots of books about Egypt and I even memorized an alphabet of hieroglyphics when I was in third grade.

If I may be so bold, I’ll wager that my love of the Ancient Egyptian standard art style heavily influenced my affection for manga and anime. (Especially how everyone looks the same – BAM!)

What I love about Ancient Egyptian style

  • use of line
  • attention to detail
  • graceful human figures
  • realistic animals (c. 1400 BCE) – I mean, just look at that. There are butterflies.
  • emphasis on eyes
  • fairly similar depiction of men and women
  • depiction of domestic tasks and non-noble people
  • human-animal hybrid entities (always interesting, sometimes hilarious)
  • extreme use of symbols
  • overall vibrancy

How it’s affected my style

You probably won’t see a direct influence in my artwork unless I’m drawing something Egyptian, but that list of things above definitely affects my art. I always emphasize eyes and lines (to the exclusion of other things, sometimes), and I will spend hours perfecting some tiny detail that most people won’t even pay attention to. I try very hard to make my people look graceful, I prefer to draw animals realistically, and my people are often androgynous. I don’t know about vibrancy, though – I feel the Egyptian vibrancy comes through with color, and I usually don’t use color. Other artists that I like, especially Alphonse Mucha, exhibit some of these Ancient Egyptian characteristics.

Other parts in the Ancient Egyptian artist profile series
Visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art
Breaking the Standard (the Amarna Period)



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