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Traditional Tibetan Art

Chenrezig Buddha of Compassion by Tashi Dhargyal

Chenrezig Buddha of Compassion by Tashi Dhargyal

"The process of thangka painting seems to parallel tattoo art like no other art-form. Like tattooing, the process is thousands of years old. If done correctly, the paint is hand-mixed with mineral pigments. Artists make their own canvas using natural glues and distemper on 100% cotton. The studying is intense — a minimum of five years. You must draw perfectly first, for 3 years, before you ever touch paint. Your lines must be delicate. You learn to shade with the mineral pigments, and lines must be precise and delicate. The best brushes from Japan are preferred. When it is done correctly, it is fine art.

"That reminds me of tattoos — another ancient art, originally passed on from master to student. The apprentice tattooist learns to make needles, mix colors, cut stencils and draw. The traditional tattoo apprentice must learn to pay close attention to detail and do what his teacher asks him to do. Eventually, the apprentice progresses to tattooing, maybe himself at first. Like thanka painting there is a sense of discipline and respect for tradition that, when learned properly, will shine through in the work.

"These are images that tell stories, and aren't just painted to be pretty artistic expression (although they usually are). Most importantly, they, like the best art, have the power to teach the viewer things about life."

Jonathan Shaw

Rio de Janeiro

Traditional Tibetan art is a thing to behold. Dating back over 2000 years, today’s paintings are still done using the same ancient methods and stylings from years ago.

One of the best, and few, traditional artists still working today is Tashi Dhargyal. Tibetan scroll paintings are called thangka, they are designed to be rolled in a scroll-fashion for easy transport, and most often depict Buddhas and Buddhist teachings. There are strict rules to how they are created, starting with precise grids and measurements for the drawings, then gradual progressions from the backgrounds, to the solid colors, and finally shading, lines and then the application of 24k gold. One painting can easily take three to six months to complete.

Tashi’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed by many of today’s great artists, in fact he can count tattoo artists Mike Bennett, Chris Garver, and Troy Denning as well as street artist Cryptik amongst his fans.

Tashi also excells at Tibetan calligraphy, and we’ve put in some samples in the gallery below.

Today, you can find Tashi in his studio in Sonoma, Calif., where he is working on a massive, two story thangka; he is the first Tibetan to do this outsie Tibet and estimates the project will take five years to complete. Talk about dedication!

Enjoy his work in the gallery below.