Tanjore painting is a classical south Indian painting style from the town of Thanjavur in Tamilnadu. The art form dates back around 1600 AD. The speciality of tanjore paintings is their surface richness by use of Jaipur stones, vivid colours and gold foils. The subjects of most of the paintings are Hindu gods. The painting style is famous for depicting bal-krishna.
As it was my first painting I selected to paint Ganesha. The work started with preparation of a wooden plank called base. Proper preparation of base is important as it decides the life of panting. Making a base ready for painting is a long and difficult task as it involves pasting a cotton cloth on the wooden plank and many coats of chalk powder on it. Next was drawing a sketch of Ganesha on the base. There are memories of discussion with madam to select right Ganesha for the painting, size of Ganesha, matching ears, trunk, background arcs and many things. I cannot miss to mention about delicious lunch I used to have at her house after every class.
Next stage was pasting Jaipur stones on borders, arcs, crown and ornaments. Important was to select right colour, size and shape of stones, and to take care of their alignment and symmetry while pasting on base. After pasting all the stones on base, started the mukk work. Mukk is a paste of chalk powder mixed with water and Arabic gum. The paste is used on borders, arcs and ornaments to give embossing to the painting and to reinforce stones at their places. The stage involves putting thick layer of mukk, let it dry, open up all the stones covered under the mukk and clean all oozing outs at the edges. Next was to fill same mukk in a cone and to draw fine leaves, flowers and designs (like mehndi). Other students of her were equally interested in tanjore paintng. Sometimes even three to four of us used to do work on our tanjore paintings, a Ganesha, a Saraswati and a Krishana. Mrs Padmini had a gang of wonderful friends those used to visit with homemade puddings and we used to chit chat.
After completing mukk work, next was the most important stage of pasting gold foils on embossed area. Each foil had to be cut in correct shape and pasted over embossing using Arabic glue. While pasting it has to be pressed gently so that the foil takes the shape of the embossing. Once completed pasting of gold foil on painting all the stones covered under the gold foil had to be opened. This is done by precisely cutting gold foil over each stone in the shape of stone and removing it carefully. Unfortunately by the time I completed this stage madam had to leave Bangalore, as she had to settle with her son and daughter-in-law in Coimbatore. For once I thought this painting wouldn’t be completed as colouring was remaining, which had to be done in traditional tanjore style only.
Given me the colouring tips madam left for Coimbatore and I started colouring on the painting. Colouring became even difficult as it is to be avoided in damped season, and in Bangalore it can rain anytime. There were days when I even took leave from office to complete painting, but clouds gathered in sky and started pouring. That was because of cyclone ‘Nilam’, and it rained heavily for next one week. It was test of my patience indeed.
Finally I worked slowly and steadily and completed the painting this month. When I look back in past, more than a painting it appear to be a journey which I travelled passing though excitement, devotion, dedication, frustration, anger, patience, persistence, achievement and finally satisfaction.