Tanjore painting (Tamil Language: தஞ்சாவூர் ஓவியம், Thanjavur Oviyam) is an important form of classicalSouth Indian painting native to the town of Thanjavur(anglicized as Tanjore) in Tamil Nadu. The art form dates back to about 1600CE, a period when Nayakas of Tanjavur encouraged art- chiefly, classical dance and music as well as literature both in Telugu and Tamil. Tanjore Paintings are known for their surface richness, vivid colours and compact composition. Essentially serving as devotional icons, the themes of most of these paintings areHindu gods and goddesses, and saints as well. Episodes from Hindu tradition are drawn upon as elaboration to the main figure / figures placed in the central section of the picture. Tanjore paintings are in fact panel paintings (done on solid wood planks ) and hence were also referred to as 'palagai padam'( palagai - wooden plank ; padam- picture) in local parlance. In modern times, these paintings have become a much sought after as souvenir during festive occasions in South India; or as pieces to decorate the walls ; or as collectors' item by art lovers.
The process of making a Tanjore painting involves many stages. The first stage involves the making of the preliminary sketch of the image on the base. The base consists of a cloth pasted over a wooden base. Then chalk powder orzinc oxide is mixed with water-soluble adhesive and applied on the base. To make the base smoother, a mild abrasive is sometimes used. After the drawing is made, decoration of the jewellery and the apparels in the image is done with semi-precious stones also known as Jaipur stones. Laces or threads are also used to decorate the jewellery. On top of this, the gold foils are pasted. Finally,dyes are used to add colors to the figures in the paintings.
High quality gold foil is used to ensure the paintings lasts generations and becomes family heirlooms. They generally appreciate in value and are considered collectibles. Paintings come in three finishes, Classic, Antinque Style and Embossed. In the classic finish, bold colors and striking backgrounds are combined with high glitter gold foil, while in the antique style, the gold's glitter is more sober with more subtle colors and plain backgrounds. The emboss paintings are similar to the classic style but are super embossed to bring about more depth.
STEP 1. Preparing the board to make the painting.
STEP 2 Sketching the figure and fixing the stones.
STEP 3 Filling around the stone work with a thin mix of gum and chalk powder.
Inlay and relief work around the stone setting with a thicker mix.
STEP 4 Cleaning the work and fixing the gold foil over the stones and relief work.
STEP 5 Cutting the gold foil to expose the stone work.
STEP 6 Painting the figures and the background
STEP 7 Checking for flaws, correcting and fixing the glass and frame.
Here are the materials we require to make a Tanjore Painting.
1. Plywood above 6 mm thickness.
2. Soft white cloth preferably mal-mal cloth, 2 inches wider and longer than your board.
3. Chalk power.
4. Tamarind seed powder
6. Flat Brush (above 3" width).
7. Sand Paper (emery sheet).
8. Arabic Gum.
9. Coloured Jaipur Stones.
10. Gold foil (paster on papar)
11. Poster Colors.
12. Rounded Brushes (000, 0, 2, 4, 6,8)
13. Black Pilot Pen / Indian ink.
14. Multi coloured transparent ink (photo color).
15. Cutter, Ruler, Yellow carbon paper, pencil.
16. Reference art to trace
And now I give you the method to prepare the board for painting.
a)Soften the edges of the plywood board.
b)Mix the tamarind seed powder with enough water to make a loose paste; sieve it into a vessel and boil this mixture, stirring continuously until a thick glassy consistency is formed. Add water if the necessary; Allow this to cool.
c)If you are using a 6”*6” board, cut two pieces of the mal-mal cloth of 8”*8”.
d)After the mixture has cooled, coat the board evenly with the mixture using your fingers; then lay the first piece of cloth on the board, stretching it neatly. Even it out so that it sticks to the board with the gum.
e)Next apply more of the paste to the board, on the first cloth in the same manner and lay the second piece of cloth also as the first one.
f)Turn it around and apply the glue paste to the edges and stick the remaining cloth (both pieces together) tightly.
g)Coat the top with more gum and smoothen it out; Keep it out in the sun to dry for about an hour.
h)To the remaining tamarind seed glue, add chalk powder little by little and make a paste, just thick enough to coat on the dried board with a big flat brush, without lumps.
i)When the board is dried, bring it in and coat it with the gum + chalk powder mixture evenly, starting from the middle and working towards the edges, first horizontally and then vertically.
j)Leave this out by the sun to dry for about an hour. If the coating has cracked, your mixture was too thick. If it isn’t, then polish the board with emery / sand paper in a circular motion starting form the centre. Dust it with a dry soft brush and voila your board is ready.
The next step is sketching the figure and fixing the stones.
Start by choosing a design and then trace the design using yellow carbon paper onto your canvas. In this stage do not trace the image in detail. I.e. while tracing the ornaments just trace the outlines only and not the details of the shapes. This trace is to judge the area to be decorative and shapes of the figure. At this stage remember to provide a margin recess on all the four sides of the board to accommodate the final frame, after the painting is completed.
Next apply a smooth layer of embossing gum in the decorative areas as lines or dots or whatever shapes you require, using a round/flat brush. The ratio of embossing layer should be Arabic Gum: Chalk powder: fevicol - 1:2:1. Now place the stones and pearls on the wet gum at points where you have decided to place them, using tweezers. The canvas should then be left for a day or two to dry.
The next step is filling around the stone work with a thin mixture of gum and chalk powder. Then, for inlay and relief work around the stone setting, fill with a thicker mix. This is to get a higher embossment in certain areas. Then allow it to dry for an hour or so.
Now for cleaning the work and fixing the gold foil over the stones and relief work, use a wet ear-bud, rub in circles around the stones and pearls to clean any traces of gum or paste on them. Also remember to keep the painting area clean during this process.
For fixing the gold foil, first cut a gold foil sheet from the Gold foil booklet. Place the gold foil sheet over the design and mark an edge impression with your thumb for approximate shape. Cut the require shape of gold foil by leaving 3 to 4 mm extra on all the sides of the required shape. Apply normal glue to the back side of the gold foil using your brush numbered 2 or 4 and place over the required area and press it with a folded cloth without moving (to avoid tearing the foil).