Thangkas are traditional Tibetan artworks that have a history of over 1000 years that means these paintings have been there for centuries. Now the word Thangka itself is a Tibetan word that can be broken into two phrases “thang” means cotton cloth and “ka’ means different images. Since these paintings were only painted in Tibet, and also within specific community who were monks and nuns inside a monastery. We got to know about them through trade system which we were pretty much engaged in. Thangka can be made in two ways either by painting on cotton canvas or by waiving cotton tiny strings.
Now about processes of making Thangka by painting all the processes that we follow over here were the same processes carried out back then.
- Application Of Gold
As mentioned earlier ‘thang” mean plain cotton cloth, every thangka painting has to painted on a cotton canvas. Otherwise one cannot call it a thangka. Now if you try to imagine painting on normal cotton, it’s impossible because there are a lot of holes and fabrics which will eventually make the canvas bleed as soon as we apply color on it. So just to stabilize the canvas two ingredients are mixed together and applied on it. Then first one is white clay, which is mixed along with glue which is made out of yak skin or fat. The Yak’s fat/skin acts like a very good glue as soon as it is boiled and dissolved with water. After then two mixtures are applied on the canvas we will have to rub it with a smooth stone to give the surface of the canvas a smooth finish. And then we let it dry it in the sun for a day that’s how canvases are created. Now it is totally stabilized and the colors won’t bleed.
Tibetan people were very spiritual on whatever they did especially the thangka art. They believed defying the rules of drawing an image would be of great sin. So they were very specific on the base line of the sketching, linings and margins were drawn with exact measurements to make sure the proportions were right. They followed the rule of iconography, no matter how much ever they repeated the same art, and it came out in the same layout. So it’s the same thing that we do with the sketching as well. But only a high level master artist sketches. But unlike the main figure subject the backgrounds can be changed accordingly. Artist on put their own creativity on it.
When we say colors for thangka art regular colors are not very much used. As back in the days we did not have regular colors. So colors used were always natural. These natural colors were extracted out of colorful stones from the Himalayas, vegetable dyes and roots and some other minerals. All these colors were mixed together to form a complete color for thangkas. Since the natural colors don’t have that ability to stick on the canvas itself yak skin/fat were mixed with colors as well. The best features of these colors are they don’t fade away means they last for generations to generation if we keep it protected. Some examples the same thangkas can be seen in the museum of our country Nepal dating back from 18th, 19th and 20th century still in very good condition.
Application of Gold
When it comes to thangka art gold always sticks with the name. In Tibetan culture gold were considered as a symbol of purity. So as soon as all the coloring is completed, gold is applied on the painting as finishing touches the symbol of purifying the painting. Real 24 carat gold are applied on the thangka paintings. When we talk about back in day’s people used to grind the gold into fine particle forms so that it could be applied on the paintings. But these days its simple we get the readymade 24 carat gold for the thangkas in the market. The gold are available in small tablets forms which can be dissolved with the water and for the gold to stick on the canvas again some portions of the melted yaks skin has to be mixed along with it. Gold are applied on the canvas with very tiny brush. In some paintings gold is applied all over the painting with the different Tibetan pattern in different part of the Paintings. In some painting it is applied as it’s just the outlining we do with gold unlike the colors. As soon as the gold is applied on the paintings it has to be rubbed with a jade stone to give the gold a proper shine.
So that is all about the paintings and processes of doing them. If you are fund of Art then thangka is for you because It is rich in artwork and some time it has to be done with single hair brush. If you love Philosophy then definitely thangka is for you because each and every line inside the painting has its own meaning. If you are collecting the best things from around the world the thangka, 24 carat gold painting is for you. Prices for these thangkas are depending upon the quality of paintings (Normally they are available in three qualities student, Intermediate and master quality) and amount of gold that is put on the painting.