At the beginning of 2017 I started working with Dr. Jenny Kahn on an illustration project for the Service de la Culture et du Patrimoine (Culture and Heritage Service, Tahiti). This project involved the creation of several large reconstructions and site maps for interpretive trail signs in the Opunohu Valley (on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia). I have been an Archaeological Illustrator far longer than a painter- I really enjoy the scientific aspect of illustration and feel there is great importance in furthering education and interest in the study of our past!

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New interpretive panels installed on the hiking trails in the Opunohu Valley, Moorea

The Opunohu Valley is home to an expansive complex of religious and political sanctuaries, temples (marae), council platforms and various housing and agricultural terraces of the early Eastern Polynesians. The interpretive signs were installed alongside reconstructed houses and together they serve to provide a small glimpse into what daily life might have looked like when the site was inhabited.

illustration_des_champs_de_taro-3eaf6Agricultural Terraces (growing Taro root) – Image Copyright Service de la Culture et du Patrimoine 2017

My job was to work with Dr. Kahn to utilize her data collected through archaeological excavations, historical records and collaboration with the indigenous Polynesians of Moorea. While I visited the site in 2012 we primarily used recent photographs of exact locations to give a real sense of perspective to the reconstructions. A lot of the sites are very overgrown so I relied on ‘artistic license’ to imagine what things might have looked like when the area was in use and cleared of dense vegetation! We wanted everything in the reconstructions to be historically accurate: from the placement of wall stones to the surrounding trees, foodstuffs, cooking utensils, the people and their clothing.

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Upper and middle-status house sites: kava ceremony (left) and breadfruit fermentation pits (right) – Images Copyright Service de la Culture et du Patrimoine 2017

The first step was to take all the elements and create a rough sketch laying out the perspective and features to be included in the drawings (see below). Next I began the full scale colorized digital illustration. Using Adobe Illustrator I worked from the background in, blocking out shapes and then adding layers of details. Then I started adding small objects and elements such as stones, earth ovens, animals, etc. Next came the people which were the hardest and most important for me. I was heavily inspired by historical photos from early European voyages to the islands but I also looked to modern day Tahitians for some additional facial angles and body positions. While the intention was to showcase their working lives I wanted the people to exude the relaxed atmosphere that is so prevalent in the islands. Accurately portraying them was a challenge and I can only hope that I did respectfully honor the Tahitian people and their heritage.

171B_progress_sampleStages of illustrating a lower-status house site: earth oven and food storage pit – Image Copyright Service de la Culture et du Patrimoine 2017

I had a lot of fun creating these reconstructions and I look forward to future endeavors that help illuminate our global heritage and bring love and appreciation for all cultures past and present. For more information on this project visit the Service de la Culture et du Patrimoine (Culture and Heritage Service, Tahiti) website.

If you are interested in collaborating on a future project please email me or visit my Archaeological Illustration webpage

Image Copyright Service de la Culture et du Patrimoine 2017

Image Copyright Service de la Culture et du Patrimoine 2017


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