Thangka paintings are traditionally not valued for their artistic beauty, but the primary use of the Thangka is to aid in meditational practices. Practitioners use thangkas to generate a clear visualization of a specific deity, increase their concentrations and to form the link between themselves to the diety. Historically, thangkas are also used as the Teaching tools. The Teacher, also known as Lama Mani would travel to teach on Dharma, and life of great masters. He would carry a large Thangka scroll to illustrate the stories and teaching.
Thangka painting was originated in Nepal in the 7th century. Now the Thangka painting evolved into many different schools of Painting. The one most popular school is the Menri and Karma Kardee.
The Images of Deities painted in Thangka are usually depictions of vision that appeared to the great master at the moments of realization, which are then recorded into the Buddhist scripture. The proportions are considered sacred as it is not only the exact representation of the deities but also the visual expression of the spiritual realizations that happened at the time of the vision. Thangka painting is, therefore, a medium representing a multi-dimensional spiritual reality. Practitioners use it as a road map to guide them to the original insight of the master. So it must be accurate, and the artist must make sure it is correct for it to be considered genuine or to be used for meditation and guiding one to the proper path.
As Thangkas are carefully executed from a blueprint drawing and not the products of the Artist’s imagination, The role of the artist is different than artiest’s role you may have in the west. The part of the artist in Thangka painting is that of the medium. To ensure the truth remains intact, he must train many years to perfect the guidelines.
The aspiring artist must spend years studying the iconographic grids and proportions of the different deities and then master the technique of applying the paints. Generally, in Lhasa, Student would study for three years in intensive training and work with the master as apprentices for several years.
The Process of Thangka Painting
In the process of Thangka painting, first, a piece of the canvas is sewed onto the specific wooden frame. Then they would apply a mixture of base pigment and smooth it until the texture of the cloth is no longer visible. The outline of the figures is sketched with pencil on the canvas with the help of iconographic girds and later drew the shape with black ink.
We use minerals for the coloring. Minerals composite is crushed into the powders and mix with adhesive and water to create paint. Many elements used are quite precious, which make Tibetan Thangka expensive.
At the end of the process of Thangka painting, the artist would be added pure gold paint. Traditionally thangka is framed in brocade border with silk.
These days, genuine thangkas are more expensive for the length of time to create the painting properly. However, you guide and us ( Your Tibetan owned Travel agency in Tibet) can help you find the place to buy authentic work during your Tibet travel. We can create a custom-made Tibet tour plan for you to meet and train with Tibetan master to learn how to draw the eyes and hands of Buddhas.
Commissioning a thangka is consider a means of generating spiritual Merit. Many time if a person is facing hardship. He would consult Lama and as a remedy would recommend the commissioning a thangka of a particular deity. Commisioning a thangka is commonly practiced in our after death rituals. The family has to make a thangka of a specific deity for the deceased to help guide him to the next life in the stage of Bardo.