Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Grid System

The underlying skeleton to thangka painting is the grid system. The lines help define how the body is to be positioned. Thus having a master's grid will achieve more than lots of decorations that tempt the eye. If the grid is poor, then the beauty is corrupted thus not making as suitable a home for the deity's energy to inhabit.

The grid for the White Tara that I'm currently working on comes from the personal artist to the previous Panchen Lama. A compilation of his grid systems were put together in a book for future students. Tsherin's father gave him a copy the last time he was in Nepal.

Tsherin is having me look at other reference books to see the differences between this grid and other grid systems used for White Tara. This tradition is a subtle way to train the apprentice's eye. After staring at these other paintings, I'm beginning to see slight variations. Even though the line work and everything else seems perfect, if the underlying grid isn't good then the deity will look stiff. Once you see this flaw, one's mind wants to give the deity a yoga adjustment for correction.

The below picture was taken when I had just completed the initial body sketch. The previous Green Tara that I created, helped me to see the underlying body much easier. The complex New Mendri style clothing used in this grid is more challenging than I've ever done. At some points the body lines were hard to find, since so much flesh is covered up. The process has become like combining sculpture with drawing. I'm refining the most minute details of the line trying to find the perfect harmony.

The older Mendri style is what Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche asked Tsherin to preserve. Since it has closer ties to Indian and Nepalese art, many Tibetans don't consider it as pure. However, the Mendri style has less ornamentation for the eye to catch on. This style may be easier to use to practice visualization rather than letting the mind wander therefore it is of great importance to maintain.

The Red Tara in my series will be done in Mendri style. I hope that having just done a complex New Mendri style White Tara, I will be able to have fresh in my mind the changes between the two.

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