Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Sacred grid


A thangka begins with a grid of lines. Acting like a skeleton the grid frames the project so the artist can organize proportions. These traditional Tibetan Buddhist paintings can be as big as several yards diameter and contain hundreds of elements such as humans, deities, animals, and sacred objects. Some are scenes of famous Buddhist stories, others are portraits of colorful beings who symbolize values and ideas. Once a year we get to experience the thangka creation process right here in the Hudson Valley. Nepali-born thangka painter Sonam Rinzin makes the trip upstate once a year with fellow artists to host a thangka class for beginners.


Held in a community room at the temple at Tsechen Kunchab Ling in Walden, thangkas in various levels of completion are on display painted on canvas and stretched on frames. There is so much to learn before even getting to touch a canvas so students begin with paper, drawing small elements like a lotus flower, bowl of food, water or burning incense. They begin with a light grid shaped like a cross followed by a sketch of an image. Rinzin brings books of images, supplying students with lots of examples to see there isn’t just one way to draw a flower. He provides colored pencils and paint to make the images come alive.


Some traditional thangkas are intended for meditation while others are used in instruction. They appear in temples, museums and homes. Rinzin hosts thangka classes on Saturdays at Ethan Petit Gallery in Brooklyn. Tsechen Kunchab Ling is a Tibetan Buddhist temple established in Walden in 2001 to strengthen the practice in North America and give both renunciates and lay people a place to study and meditate.

Himalayan Tibetan Thangka Arts with Sonam Rinzin: https://www.facebook.com/SonamRinzinTibetanThangkaPainting/