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Prints of the flora/fauna of Thailand + Burma, designed as part of a workshop with an arts and crafts studio on the Thai-Burma border.
169 backers pledged $8,410 to help bring this project to life.

Design No. 4 – The Great Eastern Egret Over Inle Lake

Posted by Mike Schultz (Creator)
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The fourth design for the Thailand Burma Flora Fauna series is complete! Today, I’d like to talk about the process behind the making-of this image, as well as share some photographs from Inle Lake, where the scene is set.

The Great Eastern Egret Over Inle Lake, 2014
The Great Eastern Egret Over Inle Lake, 2014

The Print - This print design features the Great Eastern Egret flying over Inle Lake (pronounced in-lay), located in Upper Burma. It is the last print to focus on a flying creature as a main character, and I’m already busy at work on the final four designs that star some pretty stellar and unique mammals.

The Characters - Inspired directly by my own experience, this design was cobbled together from my sketches, photographs, and memories of Inle Lake. The elements include a fisherman on his wooden boat, smoke rising from a burning fire high upon the mountain (upper left), fog and mist rolling between the mountains, a flock of egrets in the sky, fisherman and farmers’ houses on stilts among the floating gardens of Inle Lake, and a mountaintop monastery.

Working on a preparatory drawing for an earlier version featuring light, cascading hills.
Working on a preparatory drawing for an earlier version featuring light, cascading hills.

Why an egret? – While varieties of egrets can be a common sight in the US (often seen along the coastlines of Oregon and California) I was struck by the elegance and majesty of these birds against the idyllic backdrop of Inle Lake. It’s no wonder that herons have been a staple character in the canon of Japanese printmaking. The sight made an impression on me, and I felt that it was something that I wanted to remember and honor.

Great Eastern Egret, sunset. Inle Lake, Burma
Great Eastern Egret, sunset. Inle Lake, Burma
A fisherman pulls in his net from Inle Lake.
A fisherman pulls in his net from Inle Lake.
Everywhere we went in Burma was the ever present burning of fields, forests, grasslands, and brush debris. Because of this and the unregulated pollution from vehicles and cities, the air quality across SE Asia is very poor.
Everywhere we went in Burma was the ever present burning of fields, forests, grasslands, and brush debris. Because of this and the unregulated pollution from vehicles and cities, the air quality across SE Asia is very poor.
Asleep? No, just a bright sun. The two men behind me have a boat filled with mud dredged up from the canal- an essential chore to keep the waterways around the lake flowing.
Asleep? No, just a bright sun. The two men behind me have a boat filled with mud dredged up from the canal- an essential chore to keep the waterways around the lake flowing.

Egrets and Herons, Storks and Cranes – What’s the difference? - From what I have read, egrets are essentially a type of heron, but are in a different family from cranes and storks. They are smaller, more svelte, and fly with their heads in a “S” shape, rather than straight outwards like a crane. Egrets were once nearly hunted to extinction for their beautiful plumes, but the species has made a comeback.

An egret flying with its long neck and head tucked into an “S” shape.
An egret flying with its long neck and head tucked into an “S” shape.
The famous floating gardens of Inle lake are literally pieces of floating earth and vegetation staked into the shallow lake bed with tall bamboo poles.
The famous floating gardens of Inle lake are literally pieces of floating earth and vegetation staked into the shallow lake bed with tall bamboo poles.
Entire villages directly above the water. You can’t get much more “on the lake” than this.
Entire villages directly above the water. You can’t get much more “on the lake” than this.
Fisherman at dusk on Inle Lake.
Fisherman at dusk on Inle Lake.
Seagull attack or pleasure cruise? Local Burmese folks feeding a frenzied flock of seagulls to pass the time. Look closely and you can see the food being tossed up to the gull.
Seagull attack or pleasure cruise? Local Burmese folks feeding a frenzied flock of seagulls to pass the time. Look closely and you can see the food being tossed up to the gull.
A photo of Beth as we pass a small village.
A photo of Beth as we pass a small village.
An egret looking for dinner at dusk.
An egret looking for dinner at dusk.
Our longboat driver on the day he and I were stuck out on the lake with engine trouble. Sorry, Mother Earth! This is what zero regulations on engine emissions looks like.
Our longboat driver on the day he and I were stuck out on the lake with engine trouble. Sorry, Mother Earth! This is what zero regulations on engine emissions looks like.
Buddhist pagodas on the lake.
Buddhist pagodas on the lake.
Passing local commuters on the lake. (Nice photo, Beth!)
Passing local commuters on the lake. (Nice photo, Beth!)
At In Dein monastery, there are many pagodas topped with thousands of wind chimes- the sound of which is quite lovely. I hiked up there alone and found the temple empty except for a few stray dogs and two men restoring crumbling bricks.
At In Dein monastery, there are many pagodas topped with thousands of wind chimes- the sound of which is quite lovely. I hiked up there alone and found the temple empty except for a few stray dogs and two men restoring crumbling bricks.

Hiroshige - This design was surprisingly challenging. I had hoped to make a simple image of an egret set against light, cascading hills, but it just wasn’t striking enough from across the room. So, I made upwards of forty (yes, forty) variations of this design to get it to feel just right, and finally settled on a dusk / dawn image with the hills in silhouette. 

While I was working out the kinks I looked to Hiroshige, an Edo period Japanese printmaker, to help point the way. I have always loved his prints, but after intensely studying his landscapes I have a newfound respect for his work.

During a workshop in Mae Sot, students JK and PD pore over books of master printmakers Hiroshige and Hokusai before drawing sketches for their own designs.
During a workshop in Mae Sot, students JK and PD pore over books of master printmakers Hiroshige and Hokusai before drawing sketches for their own designs.

Thank you! – Thank you for reading and for your continued support with this project!

Kaia Wong, Katherine Davenport, and 2 more people like this update.

Comments

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    1. Mike Schultz Creator on

      @ Maryline Schultz - Thank you so much for your thoughts! I hoped that the black would show off the white of the Egret. :)

    2. Missing avatar

      Marylin Schultz on

      Super work...like the dark background of the mountains behind the Egret! The contrast really shows the bird so beautifully!