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Jonathan Maxwell Beartusk



   Jonathan Beartusk, Ma' eve ése, or "Red Bird" (named after his great grandfather, Jerome Beartusk, Sr.) was born in Crow Agency, MT on Oct 14, 1973. He lives with his wife, Miriam Knows His Gun- Beartusk and son, Jonathan, Jr. one mile from the Little Bighorn Battlefield on the Crow Indian reservation in south eastern Montana.  Jonathan, blind in his right eye, is a portrait artist who uses handheld magnifying glasses and the sun to burn images into wood and stone.  The images he melts into stone are native style ledger art and landscapes.  When he first began creating artwork his intent was to get these famous historical figures out of closed books on shelves and familiarize people with images of the plains Indians, primarily Crow and Cheyenne.  Jonathan is very proud to be a representative artist at the premier northern plains Indian fine art gallery, "Prairie Edge" in Rapid City, South Dakota.  Jon also enjoys helping people to "think clean" and "go green!"  


"Portraits are my passion....Each shadow cast tells a story of a person's life."  


To burn these portraits Jon must sit in the sun burning one dot at a time, each dot takes a few seconds to burn. "Without the creators strength and guidance there is no way that I would be able to burn these images. When I sit for hours (sometimes up to twelve at a time) I endure extreme dicomfort.  My fingers,  wrists, and back get stiff and cramp up.  Even though I wear #5 welding goggles my eyes get sore and often get a mild headache after about ninety minutes.  I push myself to get through the first couple of hours and usually never take breaks because I know if I go inside and rest where it is cool in the summer or warm in the winter I probably won't go back out." 

   Jonathan feels a strong connection to his ancestors when he is creating a portrait because he  knows that they were thinking about him when they chose to endure through hardships on the plains.  They did what they had to do to survive so that he could be doing what he is doing today.  He feels a great sense of pride when he goes through physical pain to honor them, although, his pain is nothing like the pain they embraced.  Jon thanks  the Creator, that he is able to use the same sun that gave life, strength and visions to his people to burn their likenesses and share their stories with everyone today.  Jon feels honored to be able to work with the Creator on these portraits.  

   Jon has enjoyed giving presentations around Montana and Wyoming at Chief Dull Knife College in Lame Deer,  Lame Deer Elementary,  Little Bighorn College in Crow agency,  Montana State University (MSU-B) in Billings,  Hardin Primary School in Hardin,  Go Native America Tour's private museum near Buffalo, Wyoming. In the spring and summer he looks forward to giving solar pyrography classes and presentations at the Bighorn County Library and the Bighorn County Historical Museum. Jon has also been honored to give art and flute presentations and take part in annual fundraising events for P.L.U.K.- Parents Let's Unite For Kids, a non profit organization formed in 1984 by parents of children with disabilities and chronic illnesses in the state of Montana. 

   Jon has done mainly commission work for various clients in the US, the UK and the United Arab Emirates and has also had opportunities to sell artwork to people from all over the world who his businesses. Native Grounds drive thru espresso and Dance Of The Sun Gallery. He and his wife owned and operated the businesses across from the entrance to the Little Bighorn Battlefield from 2002 to 2007 closing to purue solar art full time. 

   Jon began doing portraits with pen and ink as a hobby for his family and friends until he came across an old magazine called the Mother Earth News from May,1980 ( featuring an article called, "Sun Burned Art" about a San Jose artist named, Daniel Leahy, who was burning pictures of trees onto wood using a handheld magnifying glass and the sun.  This really intrigued him because the article asked the readers who read the original article which ran in 1978 to write in to the magazine and let them know if anyone was making money using this new medium after reading their magazine.  Since this magazine was 23 years old Jon didn't think anyone had probably written in on this subject for a long time but thought he would try this medium with his portraits.  It took a great deal of trial and error before he was satisfied with his work and when he first started he only had a large lens so he couldn't do fine detail.  It wasn't until he found smaller lenses that he became obsessed with this new medium and took it from a hobby to a career!  He didn't have access to the internet and didn't know if there were any other people doing this kind of art so everything he knows he had to teach himself.  He says it has been fun because just about everybody who has seen his artwork has never heard of solar pyrography before and is completely blown away by his patience and attention to detail.  Now that he is internet saavy he has discovered a few other solar pyrographers around the world and keeps in contact with them. 

   When Jon begins a piece he's learned to start with the face because its dimensions and detail have to be precise, however, he has more artistic liberty when designing their clothing.  In the beginning his espresso customers requested portraits of their great grandparents and so on so they could purchase prints for themselves and that was how some of his original portraits had come into existance.  "I am blessed that I live and have family among the Cheyenne and the Crow people because there is so much rich history to use as subject matter." 

   "I am honored that you would come to my site to learn about my artwork and I look forward to meeting you at the Littlebighorn Battlefield where I sit many sunny days near the visitor's center.  This site is always developing and I imagine I'll be adding more to it in the future, but until then, thank you !!"