How to Draw an Aztec Sun Stone

How Do You Draw A Sunstone?

As you may already know, the original Sun Stone was carved from a type of stone called Basalt, which is primarily solidified lava. Basalt is a tough volcanic stone similar to granite and took decades to carve the original Aztec Sun Stone. 

How to Draw an Aztec Sun Stone
How to Draw an Aztec Sun Stone

The ancient Aztecs took 52 years using wooden tools, stones, fiber cord, sand, and water to carve into the Basalt. As a result, any image of the sunstone will appear pretty rough with a textured stone surface.

Even the researchers who recreate drawing of the Sun Stone need to use their imagination when defining select images, designs, and deities shown on the calendar. 

As a result, knowing how to sketch an Aztec Sun Stone will require a soft touch and special drawing tricks to recreate the heavily textured surface.

How to Draw an Aztec Sun Stone
How to Draw an Aztec Sun Stone

What Is An Aztec Calendar Stone?

Many experts have called the Aztec Sun Stone a Calendar Stone, but there is very little proof it was ever used by the Aztecs as a direct reference to calendar functions. 

It represents a story that spans different eras from the past and a current era of what is predicted. These are elaborate stories invented by Aztec mythology and were likely used to promote the sacrifice culture that Aztec leaders used to appease their gods.

Because the area where the main Aztec temples were located was largely a volcanic region with regular earthquakes that would cause significant loss of life each time a big earthquake hit. 

Since the Aztec people did not understand that volcanoes and earthquakes were not acts of their gods, they used rituals and human sacrifice as coping mechanisms. 

This is why the Sun Stone predicts the end of their Sun Gods’ existence in the form of sacrifice with animals and humans.

Little did the Aztecs know that a lesser-known infection called smallpox, which was passed on to them by the Spanish would ultimately cause their entire kingdom to perish!

Aztec Suns Stones
Aztec Suns Stones

Piedra Del Sol Inspiration

When it comes to Aztec hieroglyphs, there is much to get inspired about with so many images used within a Piedra del Sol calendar. 

As these images all relate to the Aztec concept of the cosmos, each representation is linked to one another. Yet, much of the imagery is open to heavy interpretation that even the mind of Timothy Leary would get a nose bleed from.

When using the Piera del Sol for the Aztec calendar inspiration, one thing is for sure is enjoying the near-child-like depictions of images and icons depicted within the Aztec Stone Sun calendar.

Child-like is mentioned to simplify the thought process down to important first impressions that any child could realize when viewing the calendar itself. This will help fuel the interest that allows this kind of drawing to be enjoyed without conclusions being drawn.

Equipment

Start with using the essential tools to enable a sketch to be turned into a completed drawing.

Paper

Paper will be the most important and can range from textured paper to smooth hot-press variants sold as sketching paper.

The rough, mostly cold-press paper is decidedly better to get natural stone-like imagery. These will allow natural texture within the paper grain to simulate the stone surface of an Aztec calendar.

Eraser

You can choose anything available and can be erased with relative ease as far as drawing pencils.

Charcoal or Pastel

If you are using charcoal or pastel, be sure these can be removed or erased using gum paste or an eraser to allow further blending.

Pen

Using a pen is a definite No-No in this case -as you can’t remove pen marks so easily. Obviously, a good eraser and blunt stick will be needed to help control lines and correct lines with added blending ability afterward.

You can find essential drawing equipment to complete this task here:  Click here to view my basic equipment list.

How To Start Your Drawing

I can’t say that it’s an absolute necessity to have adequate reference material. Use every appealing image and be as sharp as possible for tracing or reference. Since we live in a digital age, there are even options to download 3D scans of the Aztec Stone Sun already available for 3D printing and high-quality image printing. Every detail can be used as a picture reference, but the final details are always your choice to recreate for better clarity.

The best method for going forward is to start mapping out what elements you’ll tackle first to get the right proportions. 

This will obviously include looking at the image to determine where the rings encircle specific calendar elements. There are only three central rings that form this calendar. One of these rings is further separated into 20 semi-round squares representing the days of the month for the Aztecs.

Drawing Aztec Culture
Drawing Aztec Culture

Draw A Circle Outline Of The Sun Stones

The best way to create a circle is using a compass which is the most common tool in your drawing kit. I recommend using a small piece of masking tape (or Post-It Notepaper) where the center of your sharp point would otherwise cause an indentation in your drawing paper. 

Since you’ll be making a series of circles representing each outline, these added layers of ‘paper protection’ will prevent your drawing from having an unsightly hole.

Because of the repeated compass turns, that sharp point can damage thick sketching paper relatively quickly. This will give you enough time to lightly outline the number of circumference circles that make up your calendar.

Draw The Radial Design

Now, you might be wondering how many circles in all are being added to the Sun Stone. This is better left to an expert explanation that tells you how many radiate within the circle itself. No less than 17 concentric circles are drawn within the Sun Stone, further segmented to create areas for deities and other decorative symbols. 

These excellent drawing tips and instructions the-design-of-the-Aztec-sunstone will help break this down quickly.

Aztec Sun Stones
Aztec Sun Stones

Draw The Geometric Shapes And Patterns

There are many geometric shapes within the relic, but the main geometric shape is simply the Star of David to make a general observation. Another alternative to creating the dividing lines is two angles positioned oppositely.

Within these light lines, the circles are separated into patterns contained within these geometric patterns.

Decorative patterns that symbolize sun ray arrow tips are positioned like the hands on a clock, including 12, 3, 6, and 9 for their location points.

The rest are glyphs representing days of the month, deities, and various ornamentations. Another easy way to draw an Aztec Stone is to project the image onto a wall using a ruler and protractor to trace the lines easier.

Draw A Sun God Design

The Sun God located at the center of the calendar is a marvelous feat of geometric engineering. Many of the segments for the SunGod can be traced using a protractor to get the angles just right. 

To see what this god would have looked like if it was painted afterward, this example helps to show the finer details of the face. 

The similarities to Chinese circle patterns make you wonder if these two ancient cultures even met…

Additional Questions:

Is the Sun Stone Mayan or Aztec?

The sunstone was created from 1480 to 1520 and took 52 years until nearly completed. The Aztec empire is further estimated to have existed from 1345 to 1521, so obviously, the invasion of Cortez’s army brought this empire to an abrupt end with an unlikely bio-weapon called smallpox. 

The artifact is certainly Aztec because the Mayans did not use the symbolism and deities that the Aztecs used.

What if the Stone of the Sun is an Aztec?

It’s a fair question to ask if the image in the center of the Stone is an Aztec figure. Although the facial features are human, the Aztecs believed to represent the God Tonatiuh. The large monolithic sculpture located in Mexico City

It also further represents the Fifth Sun which was part of the Aztec prophecy of four other apocalyptic events that ended the Aztecs throughout their history. It was predicted that this god would not rise if human and animal sacrifices were stopped.

This would result in massive earthquakes that would punish the Aztecs for their ignorance of appeasing the God Tonatiuh.

Ian

Ian Walsh is the creator and author of improvedrawing.com and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

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How to Draw an Aztec Sun Stone