Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sanzuwu, Yatagarasu, and Samjok-o - The Three Legged Crow

The Three Legged Birds- Sanzuwu, Yatagarasu, and Samjok-o

various Asian Logos, temple votives, and signs with Three Legged Crow

The Three Legged bird is found throughout the world in mythology and religions. It is most prevalent in Asian cultures.

Japan National Football Team logo

·        In Chinese mythology and culture, the three-legged crow is called the Sanzuwu and is responsible for the sun’s passage across the sky. The earliest known depiction of a three-legged crow appears in Neolithic pottery of the Yangzhou culture. The Sanzuwu is used in the decoration of formal imperial silk garments of the Western Han Dynasty 202 BC -220 AD depicts a Sanzuwu perched on a tree.

In Japanese mythology, this flying creature is a raven or a Jungle Crow
called Yatagarasu  and the appearance of the great bird is interpreted as evidence of the will of Heaven or divine intervention in human affairs. This great crow was sent from heaven as a guide for Emperor Jimmu  (reigned 18 February 660 BC - 9 April 585 BC) on his initial journey from the region which would become Kumano.
In Korean mythology, it is known as Samjok-o. During the period of the Koguryo Kingdom 37 BCE–668 CE, the Samjok-o was a highly regarded emblem of power, thought greater than both the dragon and the Korean phoenix. 

Newgrange   triskele
The three legs symbolize Heaven, Earth and Humanity. It is one of the most commonly ancient images of raven, appearing in the China, Japan, and Korea, Neolithic site of Newgrange, Celtic art, Scandinavian art, Ancient Italian art, Egyptian art, and cultures throughout Africa. Contrary to popular belief that this image is Asian it may be have originated in the West. Coins from the western Mediterranean showed the sun, as a disk from which radiated three legs united at the thighs.
The triskele, a motif characteristic of the European Celts of the Iron Age, is related to the triple-spiral of which there is a fine Neolithic example at Newgrange, Ireland. Further south, the association of three-legged birds with the sun is reported to extend to the mythologies of Egypt and other parts of North Africa.

Three Legged Birds. Acrylic and gold and Copper Leaf. 2014

“The Three Legged Birds” is one of my most popular prints. My original version was a 5 inch x 7inch etching. I have re-made the image as a painting, a relief print and an 8 x 10 print.
Carving the black plate for my four color relief Three Legged Bird
When I started researching my Three Legged Birds I did a thorough internet search. I used different search engines, different names (blackbird, crow, raven, birds) as well as the Asian names. I found many ancient as well as contemporary images. I knew that my image needed to be unique.
original etching with painting
I made a conscious decision to make my interpretation distinctive and unlike any other version or any other artist's vision. I made every part specific to my drawing. I intentionally made the head smaller than a real crow. I made the wings broader than any crow as well. The wings were also a combination of raven, and eagle wings. My bird also had very specific talons on my bird, I tried to make each expressive and unique, so unique that they would only be found on my drawing. My tail feathers are also configured so that they would not be found on any other bird drawing. So my version is intentionally unexpected, unlike anything 
found in nature or in any other images of this mythic bird.  I even titled it differently. Instead of the usual Three Legged “Crow” or “Raven”, mine is “birds”. 

Like my print “Inquisition” I added “Three legged Birds” un-watermarked to a membership only Printmakers site, assuming the images would be respected. I added watermarked images but by then my three legged birds had been set free un-credited into the abyss of the internet. I have be chasing them ever since. I did not know it at the time but my version would become a very popular version, often copied and mimicked. My effort to make my bird very unique was a huge help when I found copyright violations of my image. Since my etching appeared in 2011, there has been a cluster of similar images which directly lead back to my print.
It was being used by a French Graffiti artist, minus one leg
It was used by an Israeli micro Brewery without permission. when I discovered it they added my name and a promise of beer that never arrived :(
a New Zealand Designer used my image on a Mock-up product design
this is supposed to me a tattoo design idea. Obviously my image traced.


I have found that my Three Legged Bird is most popular with Tattoo artists. I have very mixed feeling about this. On one hand I feel kind of honored to have people wanting my images tattooed onto their bodies. On the other hand I wonder if these people know that the artwork was conceive by me and not the tattoo artist. I know that some clients bring my artwork in to the tattoo shops but I have to wonder how many times the tattoo artist use my images afterwards. I have found dozens of theses tattoos online. I usually ask for a credit if it is on a website and a promise that they will not use it again. I find it particularly irksome when the tattoo artist call this his artwork, it really isn’t, he copied it. A vast majority of the artists understand and happily give credit. Some are not so kind. Either way I enforce my copyright because, if I don't, I could loose it. Here are a few examples.

reversing them does not change the copyright

Here are my available Three legged Birds Prints
The Three Legged Birds- Sanzuwu, Yatagarasu, and Samjok-o, Aquatint etching 8 inch x 10 inch 2016 $70
The Three Legged Birds- Sanzuwu, Yatagarasu, and Samjok-o, Aquatint etching 5 inch x 7 inch 2011 $40

The Three Legged Birds- Sanzuwu, Yatagarasu, and Samjok-o, Linoleum Relief print, 12” x 18” 2016  - $50.

The Three Legged Birds- Sanzuwu, Yatagarasu, and Samjok-o, Four plate color Linoleum Relief print, 12” x 18”  -$150.

The Three Legged Birds- Sanzuwu, Yatagarasu, and Samjok-o, Aquatint etching 3 inch x 4 inch 2016-  $20

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