From the Author THE ART AND MEANING OF THANGKA PAINTINGThe purpose of painting a Buddhist mural or Tibetan scroll-painting, a thangka, is first and foremost that of a meditation object expressing Buddhist ideals. The Buddha forms are a depiction of certain enlightened qualities of mind, leaving deep imprints in the subconscious of the meditator and helping him or her to discover and realize these inherent, timeless qualities of an enlightened mind. A thangka is also said to be helpful for good health, a long life, protection in difficult periods in a person's life or assisting in the rebirth of a recently deceased.The basic principal schools of Thangka painting derive from Western Central India around the 8th century. Later on painting traditions developed further in Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet.Thangka painting is at large defined by iconographic rules and guidelines The different styles are therefore sometimes difficult to tell apart. Therefore, it is possibly easiest to characterize the Nepalese and Tibetan schools by looking at the backdrop of the paintings. Regarding the style of the background of the paintings, three styles can be identified:The Tibetan painting style of the 15th century style as painted in Copenhagen is called Menri style. Typical are floating clouds as well as rippled, surging water. The mountains are low and rounded, and there is less detail than in the other styles.In the 16th century the second major school called Karma Gadriof the Kagyu school appeared. It combined several influences, including the tight proportions by the Indian painting schools and thangkas from the Ming dynasty in China. The standard forms were taken from India, colors and background structures from China, but the composition and the Buddha figures followed traditional Tibetan style. The Karma Guen Buddhist Center in Spain is painted in the Karma GadriStyle (life-of-buddha.com).A style from the mid-1600s is called Mensar or New Menri style. The works feature more details, with thick and round or long and thin clouds. The mountains are well defined with steep peaks, giving them an almost exaggerated look.The training of a thangka painting artist takes a long time. Once an aspiring thangka painting artist has found the fitting teacher, the training starts with the drawing of sacred symbols, heads, hands and feet. Then the drawing of the most important figure types with correct proportions is taught. This is often practiced with 1,000 versions of the same figure drawing to reach perfection - a true practice of diligence and patience! Later on during the apprenticeship, the student is taught to paint or ?open? the eyes of the respective buddha forms, paying great attention to the right expression created this way. The details of the paintings are then enhanced with gold, bringing the painting to life through the reflection of light effects.The drawing of a figure starts with a precise grid. Within this grid, the ink outline drawing of the naked figure is created, the proportions precisely aligned according to detailed painting requirements passed on from generation to generation. Afterwards, attire and ornaments are added to the sketch. All surfaces are then painted in matte distempers. After drying, shades and shadows are added with many layers of thin, almost transparent colors in order to give depth to the scene.During as well as after the training artists are often following special personal guidelines of conduct. This may, for example, be strict cleanliness and/or abstinence from meat, onions, garlic and alcohol. Additionally, there are some features which a thangka painter should by tradition possess. All of his senses need to be intact. The painter should be modest and devoted to Buddhism, diligent and conscientious in his work. He should be of good character, friendly and sociable. He must also possess great know-ledge of handicraft and he should be indifferent to flattery, praise from others, wages and the quality of meals he receives.Before the actual painting work begins, preliminary rituals are carried out. The artist recites mantras, sacrifices and distributes offerings to the poor. Next, a realized Buddhist teacher blesses the artist's work, his tools and materials. The artist should strive to maintain a good relationship with the sponsor of the painting. The work should be carried out in a quiet environment without distractions. Therefore, only people directly involved are granted access to the painter's place of work - until the masterpiece is finished! Read more From the Inside Flap Tibetan Buddhism and the Precious Painting Art of the Copenhagen Buddhist Center Read more See all Editorial Reviews
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