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Painting On Cloth

 

Painting On Cloth

Painted cloth has been found as early as the eighth century, using various minerals and plants which were ground into pigments with a media such as egg yolk (tempera), and sizing made ingredients such as fish parts or glue from the hides of animals, and then sealed with coats of gesso combined with a sizing mixture. Stained cloth (also known as “printed cloth”) has been in existence since 23 A.D., The oldest examples having been found in the 6th century A.D., in the tomb of Saint Caesarius of Arles, using woodcuts, plant dyes and wax. Cloth Printing continued well into the eighteenth century, lending itself to more elaborate designs and patterns.

Painted cloth was an affordable option to the elaborate woven and embroidered tapestries or cloth made by local weavers and borderers or purchased from merchants dealing in imported textiles. Craftsmen dealing with pigment within the middle ages were classified as Painter-Stainers (peynters / stayners, steyners), dealing with the art of painting cloth or printing cloth which involved stain applied to carved wood blocks (woodcuts) to produce a repetitive pattern. Embroiderers worked closely with these craftsmen in producing designs for the tapestries of the embroiderers, noted in Cennino Cennini's Libro dell 'Arte that the painter will act as designer, explaining how to use charcoal and fixing a drawing with ink on damp cloth.1 In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries painters/stainers were formed into guilds, depending on the medium and materials which they worked in and by the fifteenth century, become quite popular, which they were then separated into their specific crafts.2 The trades of these craftsmen were guarded to anyone outside their craft, resulting in feuds between guilds when apprentices from one specific guild were hired within another.3 Painted cloth was produced by the Flemish, English, Italians, Germans and French and were frequently used for home decoration and in the sixteenth century it was customary to decorate one's home with large painted clothes of various images as a replacement of more costly tapestries.3 Painted cloth also adorned churches in the way of alter cloths, used for military standards, banners, and wall hangings, and were primarily commissioned works of art.

 

Creating a Painted Cloth using Period Techniques

Canvas, linen, silk were fabrics commonly chosen for painted cloth, which it then would be stretched over a wooden frame and tacked down to stabilize the cloth. The cloth would then be prepped with either potter's clay or ground gesso, although the gesso was preferred as a method which was least to crack over time and proved fill in-between the fibers of the cloth, providing a smoother surface to paint on. A piece of charcoal would have then been used to draw out the design, and an egg tempera applied to the surface of the prepared cloth. A varnish would have been applied directly over the painted image as a protective means, from the elements and wear and tear.

 

Extraordinary Example of Cloth Painting is Thangka Painting

Thangka painting is an extraordinary example of cloth painting. There has been a Tibetan tradition of thangkas (Cloth Painting), ('scroll paintings') for many hundreds of years. In the creation of a thangka (Cloth Painting) there is a wealth of ceremonial, magical and artistic tradition.The imagery, especially that depicting wrathful deities, has its ancestry deep within the pre -Buddhist shamanic traditions of Tibet.

The traditional preparation of thangkas (Cloth Painting) follows a long and complicated set of procedures. The first stage is the preparation of the cloth ground. This is done by stretching a piece of fine cotton on to a wooden frame, and applying to it a white paint (gesso) which will be the actual surface of the painting. This gesso is made up from a mixture of animal skin, bone glue (gelatin) and chalk dust. The glue is made by boiling the animal parts until they have reduced to a thick soup. Once cooled, this becomes jelly, basically the same as our fruit flavoured jellies, which are made in a very similar way.

The gesso is applied hot to the cotton, and once cool, provides a hard white surface which is easy to draw and paint on. This gesso surface is not very flat, however, and the artist must polish it until it is as smooth as possible. This is done by rubbing special smooth stones all over the gessoed cloth until it is completely flat and burnished. An ideal surface ground should be free from air bubbles (trapped in the cooling gesso), brush marks, and polished evenly all over. The gesso should not be so thick that it will crack if the painting is rolled up, nor so thin that the weave of the cloth is too prominent to paint on.

After the ground is ready, the design of the thangka is drawn on, and the colouring begun. Thangka (Cloth Painting) designs are normally very traditionally formulated, the artist not having scope for personal expression in anything except the fine detail areas of the design, such as the patterns found in landscapes and the clothes of the Deities. Many painters employ books of stock designs, and some may even use stencils or templates to aid them in their work.

Once the drawing for the painting is complete, it is coloured using paint similar to the white gesso used in the preparation. This paint is made by grinding mineral pigments into fine powder, and mixing them with the hot gelatin. The paint is kept warm whilst work is in progress, by placing it in a pot on a little stove; when it cools it sets, and the air of Tibet is of course very cold.

The mineral pigments used include clays to produce yellows and whites; azurite and lapis lazuli for blues; malachite for green; cinnabar (mercury sulphide) for reds; and powdered gold. Once the basic colour of the thangka is applied, further transparent ink-like colours are added over the top to help the artist show such things as shadows in the folds of robes.
The whole Thankga (Cloth Painting) is then ready for the finishing detail painting. This involves the outlining of all the figures and deities in the painting, and painting the fine brocade patterns on their robes. Very often this is done in gold.

The last stage of painting is to paint, or 'open', the eyes of the paintings principal figures. Once all the detailing is done, the painting is may be polished until it is shiny all over, or left dull with only certain areas such as the gold polished. This polishing is often done with animal teeth, or small polished stones. The painting is now complete, and is given to the framer to put it into the brocade frames.

 
FEATURED THANGKAS
 
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30” x 25.5” Araniko White Tara Newari Thangka Painting
White Tara represents the enlightened and liberating activity of all the Buddhas. She embodies the motherly aspect of universal compassion.
Price: US$ 657.14
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22.3” x 16.7” Manjushri Thangka
Manjushri is known as the Bodhisattva of Wisdom and is the bodhisattva counterpart to Adi Buddha the Primordial Buddha.
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29.5” x 23.5” Water Buddha Thangka Painting
Beautifully painted 29.5” x 23.5” Water Buddha Thangka Painting.
Price: US$ 599.00
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15.4” x 12” Antiquated Chenrezig Mandala Thangka
Beautiful antiquated chenrezig Mandala Thangka. Mandala is a circle which is a device for the Tantric meditation.
Price: US$ 29.00
 
 
 
 

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