Behind the Brush: The Journey of Thangka Paintings from Nepal to Your Home

Thangkas are not merely objects of beauty, but rather sacred representations deeply rooted in the practice of Buddhism. Originally hand-painted by lamas or Buddhist priests, thangkas are now created by skilled artists who undergo extensive training in the traditional art form. These intricate paintings can depict deities, mandalas, or important events from the lives of Buddhist masters, serving as vital tools for meditation and spiritual reflection.

Thangka's significance in practiced Buddhism cannot be understated.

The process of making a Thangka Painting

Creating a thangka is a meticulous and time-consuming endeavor, beginning with the careful stretching and smoothing of the canvas. The deity and composition are meticulously outlined in pencil and delicate brush strokes, following traditional guidelines, before being filled in with vibrant colors.

Prepping the Canvas

Thangkas are painted on cotton canvas that is stretched onto a bamboo and wood frame to maintain even tension.

The canvas is meticulously prepared by being washed and scrubbed multiple times. Afterwards, the surface is meticulously smoothed by rubbing it with porcelain or glass.

Drawing Process

The thangka is considered to be a visual depiction of a spiritual truth and the artist acts as a conduit for this representation. The artist must adhere to specific rules when drawing the figures and arranging the composition. In Buddhist art, stance, gesture, mood, and color hold significant meaning. The initial sketch of the deity is made with pencil or charcoal on a prepared canvas.

Students learning the art form of drawing Buddha start by practicing simpler forms and learning the correct proportions of the Buddha's head and body according to iconographic grids.

In addition to the primary deity, there are guidelines for the overall composition of a thangka, with symbolism and importance attached to the elements included in the artwork.

Enhancing character through colors

Thangka paintings are created using fine brushes to blend colors and add details for depth. Artists traditionally made colors from natural sources, but now mostly use acrylics. Color plays a key role in identifying deities in Tibetan Buddhism. The painting process is intricate, requiring months of careful work and knowledge of Buddhist teachings.

Finishing Touch

The background colors are filled first, and then the main deity is painted.

The main deities face including eyes, lips and ears are only painted on few select days of the month including day of full moon based on Buddhist literature.

It can take months of painstaking work to complete a detailed thangka. Besides skill in painting, the artist must have an understanding of Buddhist scriptures and iconography.

After meticulously crafting each Thangka painting through a thorough process, we undertake a rigorous inspection to ensure the highest quality. Our commitment is to deliver nothing short of excellence, providing our customers with the finest paintings to adorn their homes.

Photo credit: Subinoy Das, Dastkari Haat Samiti