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Exceptional Southwest Decor for Home, Office & Unique Gifts
How to Paint Native American Drums
As you can see from our website we offer a variety of painted drums that reflect many different images from Native American life and nature. While selecting a personal drum that is painted is easiest for most people, it can also be very fulfilling to customize a drum yourself, to get creative and express yourself on your drum in a way that pleases you.
From time to time people interested in hand drums for drumming circles as well as for rustic southwest or western home decorating ask about how to decorate their drums. Some add feathers and beads especially if the drum is purely decorative. Throughout history Native Americans have also decorated their drums with paint originally made using natural dyes from nature. In modern times advanced paints have become the medium of choice.
Painting an Indian drum is pretty straight forward. There is really no preparation necessary, but for the best finish, some people sand the hide first, but it’s not necessary. You don't have to and most people usually don't. An exception to this might be if there are patches of hair left on the hide. Most people like the look thinking it adds character but if it causes a problem it can be trimmed with a straight edge razor blade and sanded smooth with fine sand paper.
Different types of drums have different types of hides with various thicknesses. Our Tarahumara hand drums are made using goat skin rawhide and our floor and pow wow drums are made using cowhide. Rawhide is different than tanned leather. Rawhide is affected by moisture and humidity. For example if you put the drum in water, the hide will turn soft again, then when removed will dry and be rigid again. This character of rawhide plays a part in considering how to paint a hand drum. With heavy hide, it takes a lot more moisture to affect the drum than a thin goat skin rawhide drum.
It is possible to paint a drum using water based paints such a acrylic or latex but the brush strokes need to be few and light because the water in the paint will begin to soften the hide. If you apply a thick coat of water paint you will see the hide begin to sag from the moisture. When it dries completely it will be fine again. For that reason and for durability most people who choose to paint their drums choose to use oil based paint. Artist oils give you a wide range of color choices and can be thinned to give the appearance of a wash or transparent look, popular in spirit painting. Or, you can use it thicker for an opaque look like in Northwest and Eskimo drums, depending on what you want to accomplish in your design.
Some people add a finish coat of clear over the paint or wax to make the colors more vivid and to help protect the art work, but others leave the finished painting just as it is. Oil paint will also have a tendency to have a longer drying time on rawhide than on canvas and should be allowed to slowly air dry. Otherwise, painting a Native drum is basically the same as painting on other surfaces. The texture of rawhide is different but as you begin to paint and get a feel for the brush on the rawhide drum surface you will quickly see how to best control the brush to achieve the look you want and will soon realize that most techniques used in painting on other surfaces will work on rawhide as well. Remember, to have fun and enjoy painting your new drum.
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