Lone riders traversing the vast expanse of the high plains desert; the chance encounter; a billow of clouds shadowing the eternal stone monuments of Canyon DeChelly; serenity and enchantment. These are all themes commonly depicted by Teddy Draper with his pastel technique.
The transition of an individual's preconceived notions of nature to more natural and universal imagery begins the moment they set foot on the Navajo Reservation. The ability to see and feel images differently happens with first hand exposure to the Navajo philosophy to Walk In Beauty in the most spiritual of places on earth; Canyon DeChelly, Arizona.
Teddy Draper, Jr. was born on October 3, 1949, and is the son of a former United States Marine Corps Navajo Code-talker who had served in the South Pacific during World War II. He is a member of the Navajo Nation and calls Canyon DeChelly and Canyon Del Muerto "home". His maternal clan is Naashgali Dine'e, paternal clan is Ashiihi, maternal grandfather's clan is todicheeni, and paternal grandfather's clan is tohahelini.
Teddy works mainly in pastels, a medium for which he is very well known. He employs an individual technique that has been constantly refined and improved upon for the past thirty-five years, incorporating under painting pastel in order to achieve the highest brilliance, dimension, and resonance of color in this medium. He attributes his present style to a feeling for "unseen colors." The refinement process is "like aging a good wine, you find you've got more color, style, and feelings." Although he refuses to reveal any secrets of the technique, he says its most important feature is having a fairly hard finish while maintaining the softness of the pastel. He admits that this technique is accomplished by using an undercoating of white. In recent years Draper has conducted workshops and seminars instructing artists in his technique.
"The opportunity for an artist is nothing short of a revelation" and is graciously offered by Draper in his "Exquisite Excursions" artists workshops. Here one experiences not only Ted Draper's expertise in pastels, oils, and watercolors, but his commitment to Walk In Beauty, spiritually understanding that it is a life path; one of respect and coexistence with all life and a thread that connects the images on Earth with the entire universe. Ted Draper's workshop is unique in that one is exposed to the total art form, not just in visual arts, but in music, literature, film and observations of life that would only be revealed in a setting interpreted by an individual committed to a tradition.
Draper states that the most welcome surprises in his career came in 1986 at the Gallup Inter-tribal Ceremonial arts competition where he took 'best in category rosette' as well as a blue ribbon in the oil painting division, and again in 1988 when he received a blue ribbon for the best miniature oil painting at the Santa Fe Indian Market. These are just a few in the long list of first place ribbons he has received, a list that includes best miniature at the Navajo Nation Fair in 1986, 1987, and 1988; best watercolors at the Navajo Nation Fair in 1986 and 1987 and also at the Gallup Area Arts Council Fair in 1984. Draper's pastels won blue ribbons at the Gallup Area Arts Council Fair in 1984 and 1985, the Navajo Nation Fair in 1986 and 1987, and the New Mexico State Fair in 1988.
Draper studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, Illinois, and at the Navajo Community College in Many Farms, Arizona, where one of his instructors was Clifford Beck, the noted Navajo pastel artist.
Ted Draper, Jr. has served on the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial Board, The Fine Arts Showcase and Indian Market during the Navajo Nation Fair, and is presently serving on the advisory board of the Pueblo Grande's Museum annual Indian Market as well as the Board of Directors with the Navajo Arts and Humanities Council.
Draper currently resides in Chinle, Arizona with his wife Ophelia and their two children, Terrence and Tawny. Chinle is located in Northeastern Arizona at the mouth of Canyon DeChelly, a National Monument which Teddy lives, breathes, and paints. In this community on the Navajo reservation Draper devotes his free time and efforts to the Chinle Youth Athletic Club; a volunteer drug and alcohol awareness group which helps to provide organized and supervised athletic competitions as an alternative to substance abuse. As a basketball coach he spends his time during the winter months traveling the Southwest with his teams for games and tournament competitions.
Draper and his wife Ophelia Garcia are internationally known for their turquoise, silver, and gold jewelry. He frequently travels the United States exhibiting his work, and has achieved international acclaim touring Germany, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. He has been a consultant and appeared on "Treasures of the Southwest" hosted by Bob Eubanks, and was featured on the Learning Channel's segment "Understanding Beauty".
Galleries and Dealers handling Draper's work:
Amerindian Arts, Indianapolis, IN
DeChelly Gallery, Chinle, AZ
Copyright 2004-2005, Chet Staley-Amerindian Arts
Based on interviews and written material provided by the artist. Edited by Chet Staley. Reprint by permission only.