04 May 2012


We did the drama workshop in the morning. In the afternoon, it was painting.

Sawai (artist in residence) talked about the main, traditional painting styles. The style used in most of the temple murals we'd seen in Bangkok were areas of flat, pure color in deep, dull red, blue, and black with gold leaf. They tend to be dark, except for the shine of the gold leaf, and the perspective is always from slightly above. All of the Ramayana murals use this style.

The style from the north part of the country is called Lanna. It's more modern-looking. The color areas are still flat but bright and with mixed colors (green, orange, purple, etc). The subjects are from daily life, not just the Ramayana. The faces tend to be more round and stylized.

Sawai showed us examples of the 2 styles and then showed us some of his own work. He did a number of paintings in the Lanna style for a gallery on the upper floor of the CCI seminary. Those paintings are great but I was absolutely blown away by his pen-and-ink drawings. They were large, intricate, stippled images. I was fascinated.

One of the guys in the group was also taken with his pen/ink work and got one of his unfinished studies to have made into a tattoo.

However, the real point of the workshop was to learn about traditional Thai painting so Sawai walked us through the sort of training exercise traditional Thai painters would go through. It involved tracing a standard motif (in this case, a lotus), filling in the main color with gold and painting in the lines in red. We used poster paints on a good quality paper.

For aspiring traditional painters, they would keep practicing with this exercise until the teacher says they have mastered it. Then the artist is allowed to be more creative, add stylistic elements or flourishes.

In the time we had, we certainly did not master the technique.