Bigfoot man, McConkey Ranch, Vernal, Utah.
Photo: Peter Faris, 1985.
Among the marvelous Fremont culture rock art at McConkey Ranch outside Vernal, Utah is the figure known as Bigfoot Man. This figure presents us with an example of a beginner’s mistake. Anyone who has actually taught art will recognize this immediately as a common error made by beginning students in figure drawing. What it represents is someone starting to draw the figure on a scale that is too large for the surface. Depending upon where the student started the head may be too big for the rest of the body, or some other portion may be seen as outsized. Then they recognize that they have to change the scale to fit the rest of the figure onto the surface. In the case of Bigfoot Man the artist ambitiously began with a pair of large feet and quickly realized that he had to reduce the scale for the rest of the figure to fit onto the chosen rock face.
Some other points to note in this panel; the figure has been given knobby knees which I interpret as an attempt to realistically portray the patella, or knee-cap, and he is shown with six fingers on his hand (polydactylism again). Finally, notice that this panel is not only pecked, but paint has been added as well, it is mixed-media.
Funny looking - yes? This is, however, diagnostic of a situation in which the creation of rock art was actually being taught to someone, and probably critiqued by the teacher. In our culture we call that an art school and it suggests a high degree of sophistication in the Fremont culture.