AN EXAMPLE OF PAINTING ORDER:
There are usually four main planes in a thangka; the sky, the landscape,
the deity's nimbus and the divine figure itself.
The first area
to be painted is the distant sky, and this requires the painter
to prepare and apply a suitable blue paint. Next he applies this
and other blue paints wherever else they are required in the landscape,
for example on areas of water and on the blue parts of the traditional
blue and green rocky crags. Last he paints the blue areas on and
around the central figure, beginning with the body nimbus or backdrop
since it is the rear, and then moving to the body, if appropriate,
and to any part of the clothing and accoutrements that are blue.
The colour green comes next, being first applied to the green
and meadows in the landscape, and afterward to large details in
the landscape such as trees. Then, as with the blues, the artist
continues to work forward in the composition, applying green as
necessary to the nimbuses or back-curtains and then to the figure.
Immediately after the blues and greens, the artist mixes and
white and bluish and greenish off whites to such distant objects
in the painting as clouds and snow peaks. These colours complete
most of the distant planes of the composition. Areas of pure
in the foreground, however, are not painted until last, to prevent
them from becoming dirty.
The remaining colours are required for the most part in the forward
plane of the composition. At this point the artist might apply
reds and oranges, followed by yellow. He continues to fill as many
areas as possible with each colour, painting such things as the
flames, nimbuses or back curtain, robes and the deity's body,
appropriate. Next he applies such minor colours as ochre, brown,
pink and finally white and gold.
SHADING AND OUTLINING
Transitions of both tone and color are regularly executed on single
objects within the painting, and when used to create the shadowing,
the technique contributes a three-dimensional appearance to such
things as clouds and the bodily forms of the divine beings.
Outlining proper serves to set off most objects from their surroundings,
and it is used to demarcate the main subdivisions within them.
Indigo and lac dye are widely used during outlining along with
white, gold and other colors.
last main step involving the application of colors is the rendering
of the faces of the main figures. This is in effect the final stage
of outlining, and sometimes the master painter will step in at
this point and complete the painting of his student. Of all the
details, the facial features demands the most attention, and among
these it is the eyes that receives the greatest care. The painting
of the eyes of a deity is one of the acts that brrings it to life.
The final step for many areas painted with gold is burnishing using
a hard conical end of a gzi stone. Nowadays, Tibetan artists use
various types of burnishers besides the gzi stone, including animal
teeth, other siliceous stones, and suitably shaped pieces of metal.
With the completion of the faces and the burnishing of the gold,
the production of the painting comes to an end. Finally, to function
as a sacred object of worship the painting is consecrated through
the ceremony of vivification (rab gnas). As a preparation for this
consecration, many artists write in the sacred syllables OM AH
HUM with red letters on the back of the canvas behind the forehead,
throat and heart of the main figure. These syllables represent
the essence of the enlightened body, speech and mind with which
the figures are to be imbued during the consecration ritual. The
artist than removes the painting from the stretcher and either has
it mounted on a silk brocade frame or rolled up and kept carefully
until the patron calles for it.