It definitely wasn’t love at first sight, but my heart prodded me to give it a go and my mind armed with a steely determination egged me on. So, here I was, at Aarathy Thiyagarajan’s home, keen on making my first ever Tanjore painting. Yes, you read it right! Now, I have always been naturally artsy (or so I consider myself to be 🙂 but I certainly had no inkling of what was coming my way! Who knew that all that grit and love and passion for art were to fly out the window in the next few weeks 😉 Aarathy is a software testing professional turned Tanjore painting artist and her artworks speak volumes about her passion for this traditional art form.
My class began with the preparation of a 12*15 inches ply board that I chose for my painting. A plain white muslin or linen fabric was stuck to the board with a glue made out of dried, soaked, and ground tamarind seeds. Just an FYI, Aarathy sources all the raw materials (read: gold foils, brushes, markers and the works) for the painting herself and insists on doing everything the traditional way with no shortcuts whatsoever!
I coated the board with several layers (alternately horizontal and vertical) of a thick mixture made up of ground tamarind seeds and chalk paste (1:2), wherein the chalk paste is a combination of Arabic Gum, Chalk powder, and Raw lime powder (1:2:1). I then sanded the board repeatedly in circular motions till it had a smooth patina and this is how the board looks after all the hard work.
I then sketched the outline of the painting I wanted to work on. I chose the Indonesian Sita as it exudes an oriental, contemporary vibe, yet is very traditional when it comes to the art form. Also, the painting has a lot of gold which would eventually bring out the real beauty of a Tanjore painting.
The next few days were spent in sticking green and red Tanjore stones along the periphery of the sketch. These stones would go on to highlight all the gold foil work in the later stage of the painting.
Next I moved on to fill up the chalk paste and Arabic gum mixture in areas wherever I planned on using the gold foil (which was almost everywhere, except the face and other body parts!) The paste was also filled in between the stones.
And now, started the laborious process of cutting the gold foil and sticking it on the areas marked with chalk paste.
This is how one of my WIP works looked like. But the work was far from over. I now had to paint the gold less areas with oil paint using deft, careful brush strokes. I was in school the last time I used the paint brushes, so you can imagine my pain!
I chose a dark shade of Prussian Blue as the backdrop, lemon yellow and white for her facial features, and permanent red marker ink around the corners to highlight them. Loved how a little bit of colour changes everything! The features were etched out carefully with a very thin hair brush and it took me all my might to stay focused to make it look decent.
Aarathy recommended that I use stone paint on certain parts of the gold foil to highlight the jewellery that the Sita wore in the painting. And I happily obliged 🙂 I finished the painting with little white dots around the subject on the blue backdrop. So, this is how the painting looks after 2 months of back-breaking hard work (literally!). I am actually relieved that my first Tanjore painting isn’t such debacle after all!
Aarathy has been so patient all this time with my incessant queries answering them logically that its not surprising to find her meticulous and prudent approach to all her paintings. So, a BIG thank you to her for mentoring me! She retails her mesmerizing Tanjore artworks through her Facebook page Chitra Koodam and also has an online art gallery for Indian artists – ArtIndian, where more than 1000 artists have benefited from showcasing their artworks. A visual tour of few of her Tanjore masterpieces – Ganpati, Goddess Padmavati, and Krishna.
And this is how my Tanjore Indonesian Sita looks after 2 months of back breaking hard work!
And below is a close-up of the same…
Hope you like it. Do share your thoughts in the comments below and a happy weekend to you all!