The creation of a ground painting is a very social event. The picture itself depicts some specific historic ancestor, glorified to be a hero or monster. The ancestor is nearly always some kind of natural element, whether an animal or force of nature. Since the pictures are innately tied to specific locations with specific ancestors, it very much ties the creators to each other and to the land, reinforcing the group identity. The creation of the ground painting and the accompanying dance is a performance tradition, analogous to oral tradition.
The pigments used traditionally come from the natural resources: lime for white, ochre for yellow, clay for red, coal for black. With the introduction of a market economy, it is not uncommon to use acrylic paint for a ground painting. The emphasis is not on the materials or the form, but the meaning behind the picture as well as the accompanying performance. Nearly always, the participants paint on themselves as well.
The use of certain patterns to symbolize glowing, glittering power are usually limited to crosshatching and dots. In much of Oceanic art, these patterns symbolize an extra power. They are commonly seen on deity figures, the genitalia and thighs of women giving birth, and mythical creatures.