Here's a close up of a Garuda's head that Namgay. Garuda in Buddhist mythology is a birdlike creature, able to move very fast, and make itself large or small or disappear altogether. It can change itself into a human, too. It can swoop down on an enemy and grab it like the snake it holds in its powerful teeth. It's a protector and an enemy of nagas, or earth spirits that usually come in the shape of snakes. It can also rip up whole trees with its claws and destroy villages by creating storms with its wings. The Buddhists believe there were four of them-- like the four direction kings. You can see Garudas in India, Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia, Thailand and Mongolia. The main thing is, all over Asia, Garudas are badasses and you shouldn't mess with them. This Garuda is a commission, but I think Namgay is painting another one because he's in that kind of mood.
In this part of the world there's a lot of iconography, religious or otherwise, that is symbolic of protection. You see it everywhere. I was wondering if there are symbols for protection in the west, namely in the U.S. I found this guy, looking a little like a Garuda.