American Indian paintings have charmed and intrigued people over time and place. From ages, native Americans have been painting their emotions in lines and colors. There were native traditions of tribal paintings , but most of them served decorative purposes for functional items, such as paintings on leather war shirts or tipi covers, or painted petroglyphs on a nearby cliff faces. American Indian artists almost always use their cultures (songs, legends, traditions) and religions as their source of inspiration. In the Southwest region, for centuries, American Indians have decorated walls with petroglyphs, pictographs, pueblo kiva murals—and objects - pottery, blankets, baskets.
One exception is Navajo Indian sand painting. It was originally a spectacular religious art. Presently, some Navajo artists make secular versions of traditional sand painting that can be purchased as cultural art. They started painting on flat surfaces, such as paper, only at the beginning of the twentieth century. In the 1960s, a new generation of American Indian artists decided that they could no longer perpetuate a decorative and illustrative style that interpreted life in the 19th century and to which they could no longer relate.
Instead, they needed to express their feelings regarding the traditions that were still alive in their tribes and the new ways of living. Slowly, contemporary Native American artists adapted Western painting styles to depict their own people, experiences, and worldviews. Though the techniques of these paintings are not traditionally Indian, the styles, designs, and subject matter reflect the artists' tribal heritage, and many of them are stunningly beautiful and perceptive.