What Is Thangka Art?
In Buddhist culture, the Thangka is highly valued and sacred meaning. It is typically used to educate practitioners on the lives, times, and traditions, of the Buddha and other bodhisattvas. Thangkas, which depict images of deities in many shapes serving diverse functions and holding various items, are paintings created solely to support your meditation practice.
Thangka can be used in many different contexts. For prayer, meditation, spiritual practice, and positive vibration, not just by the core believers but also by others. Since the Thangka displays the Buddha's physical manifestations and distinguishing traits, it quickly becomes a meditational aid for anyone wishing to reflect on Buddha's life and existence. There are mainly four types of Thangka,
- Regular (multicolored) Thangka
The most prevalent ones are produced and used by devotees around the world. Their simplistic yet effective design and use of a wide range of colors have helped them become more well-known over time.
- Black Thangka
With their distinctive qualities, the Black Thangkas set themselves apart from other forms of thangkas. The painting is done almost entirely in gold, with a completely black background. Maybe these particular color schemes were used to symbolize the potent atmosphere of the wrathful deities.
- Gold Thangka
Gold Thangkas are not painted with concern toward aesthetics; instead, they are finished solely to fulfill the patron's need for merit. It is a result of the thangkas' extensive use of gold. It offers a comparative context to Tibetans paying with gold to paint sculptures' faces and Jowo's faces in Lhasa.
- Red Thangka
Generally, to portray the peaceful deities, red Thangka (dmar thang) is used. Here, the red background represents the deity's body hue. The Thangka, the red, furious defender, radiates the deity's wrath and ferocity. This deity is depicted in a Thangka representing Maya, illusion, or any attachment to earthly illusions. The excessive symbolism of the color red employed in this Thangka is this.
Not only there are differert types of Thangka but there are different deities as well, and classified into four types.
- Peaceful Deity
The peaceful figures are the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, who belong to the categories of Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya.
- Semi-Wrathful Deity
Between peaceful and fully wrathful beings are the semi-wrathful forms.
- Wrathful Deity
As the dharma's protectors, the Dharmapala are frequently portrayed in these representations, along with the occasional Istadevata in a wrathful form.
- Worldly Figures
Typically, the worldly figures are shown as humans with a wide range of distinctive traits and facial expressions- peaceful, semi-wrathful, or wrathful and are not limited to these only.
Thangka artists must depict each figure using the measurements and proportions specified in Buddhist texts using a complicated grid system. The deity described in the Thangka must match the traditional iconography exactly. Every brush stroke must be executed with accuracy.
To do so, the artist uses traditional compositional and design fundamentals, yet there is room for individual innovation and expression within parameters. The customer may occasionally be able to supply a picture or rough image diagram after speaking with a lama. The artist must examine his materials or may even need to talk with a lama to determine the appropriate iconography and composition if the patron does not have this knowledge. Of course, it is more straightforward if the artist starts with a plan or diagram.
It is possible to determine the composition using this fundamental information.
The fundamental rules of composition include the following;
- Division of Thangka in Half
- Dividing Thangka into 3 parts
- Division of Thangka into 4 parts
When the Thangka is divided into half, the gurus, devas, dakinis, Buddhas, and bodhisattvas are drawn in the upper area; if the guru is the dominant figure, then his followers, Dharmapala, local deities, and wealth deities are in the lower half.
The Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Gurus are represented in the upper third of the Thangka, split into three sections. The peaceful deities and dakinis are to the right of the primary deity, and the wrathful deities and dakinis are to the left in the center portion. The Dharmapala, local deities, and wealth deities are positioned behind the guru's disciples.
The lineage gurus should be positioned on the topmost section of the Thangka, just above the primary deity, after dividing it into four equal pieces. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are placed to the right and left of them. Put the peaceful deities and dakinis in the area below that. The wrathful dakinis should be put in the lower middle place. The guru's disciples are beneath the primary god in the lowest section, in the middle. The female Dharmapala is to the left or below, and the male Dharmapala is to the upper right. Around the lowest portion of the ground in front of the deity are the wealth and local deities.
The Thangka follows a unique art style. The drawing of the deities is conveyed through the fundamentals of composition. However, Thangka not only consists of deities but numerous elements of Buddhism as well; there is background, offerings to deities, disciples, and other elements of similar nature. All these are hand-drawn in such a manner that they appear 3 dimensional, using 'Rules of Perspective.' It is acceptable to attempt to use Western standards of perspective, even though they were not adhered to in Tibet.
For 3-dimensional portrayal, the central vertical line should be drawn first because it will serve as the line's point of reference. Draw two or more parallel lines to the right and left, then a horizon line for eye level. Based on the distance you want to convey, decide how high you want this line to be. Then, to create a grid, draw one or more lines above and below this. Draw two diagonal lines through the middle that cross at the horizon's level.
To give the appearance of distance, these eight lines are used. For the sides of a house, for instance, perspective lines are utilized. Western traditions' perspective-drawing guidelines are used in this lesson. There are certain perspective principles in Tibetan traditions, but they don't produce the same level of realism.