The artist of the pieces pictured above and below is Indian-born Rajan Koshy, who now lives in Galveston, Texas. Koshy estimates he is one of only 100 practicing rice straw artists left. He used to have a free museum in Galveston dedicated to the art, but now offers his work on Etsy at etsy.com/shop/museumshop.
Remember when looking at Koshy's pieces that nothing but rice straw is used. The shading is achieved through meticulous selection of natural coloration differences in the straw itself. Koshy's Esty pages include this background on rice straw art:
Rice straw art is an ancient art form which developed before our existing knowledge of color application became known. This leaf art form consists of using the natural colors of the rice plant to form a straw collage of unsurpassed beauty. No color, paint or dye is added to the natural color of the rice straw (dried leaves of the rice plant). This unique art is on the list of endangered art and only very few artists around the world practice this unique, ancient leaf art.
He also gives the shorthand version of the creation process: "The leaf is opened up, flattened by a primitive tool, apply glue on one side (Gum Arabic as glue, which is sap from a tree, everything used in this art is natural, eco friendly art), applied in place and cut with a double edged razor blade."
Koshy's rice straw art includes depictions of buildings, ships, famous people, animals and religious iconography. Hey, if you've always wanted a potrait of Willie Nelson to hang on your wall, here's Willie made of straw:
Some of Koshy's portraits depice historical figures - presidents, founders, entertainers. Some of them are odd choices - want a picture of Oprah? How about Geraldo? - but, hey, whatever floats your boat.
Koshy also does pieces on assignment. How about a portrait of your dogs that will be with you much longer than they will? Here you go:
Here is a 3-minute video that describes rice straw art and demonstrates the process from start to finish:
If you want to see more examples of rice straw art, check out Koshy's Etsy page.