Painting a Thai Painting

in

Painting this Thai mural has taken so much. Time, definitely. Determination and energy, too. I've always actively avoided wet media - watercolours, oils and acrylics - for dragging liquids across surfaces can be fairly exhausting. These wet media have their own minds - they like to flow where ever there is less resistance and it is tiring, to push them into shapes and shadows that they are reluctant to be in.

Perhaps, my own reluctance from dealing with wet media - like any other insecurities - stems from failures. I remember those days, when my then-art teacher compared my first-ever oil painting to that by Marc Chagall, an American artist who painted really kiddish images. Let's just say that the comparison wasn't flattering.

It was with much trepidation that I started on this canvas painting.
Firstly, the outline of the Thai mythical swan-human was traced with the aid of blue carbon paper. A coat of soil-brown was applied for the background, and the blue outline smudged. 

F***, f***, f***. Damn the canvas board, the acrylic paint and myself, for this mistake. Should I buy a new canvas? Maybe write an essay instead of painting this infernal thing. 

The first time dealing with acrylic paints and this has to happen. Sigh.
Thankfully, after about seven coats of clay-brown paint, the blue streaks disappeared. And so, I painted. Don't give up, please. You're like the paint you're pushing about now. Always choosing the paths of least resistance. Don't give up, not now.  
After hours and hours of screaming silently at myself, in a mental space that I couldn't escape, the painting was finally completed.
There were mini-crises ("learning opportunities", if we were to be positive) littering this journey. The brushes, in exuberant shows of defiance, would spin out of my hand, splattering paint onto the canvas. Ouch:
Gilding parts of the humanoid figure with gold leaves was fulfilling and exhausting, in equal measures.

A transparent glue was dabbed onto the area-to-be-gilded with an extremely fine brush. Due to the glue's invisibility, I didn't manage to apply an even coat the first time round. This caused some areas to be patchily covered with gold. Hence, the need to use more gold leaves when touching up.
Working with gold is a strangely exciting experience. Perhaps it's because I've spent days dreading this process - what if I were to fail? What if the gold destroys my entire painting? What if, what if, what if? The irrational dread has fermented into a kind of nervous excitement.

Or maybe because this precious metal seems to promise a glittery something.

Either way, it was thrilling to smack a large piece of foil into something that I've been working on, almost akin to smashing cake into a birthday person's face.
At some point, I decided that I've been using a very limited palette of store-bought colours. Time to read up on the Colour Theory and the nature of paints and paint-mixing. Apparently, most paints contain trace amounts of heavy metals. Which means that they are POISONOUS. Which means that everyone in the class has been dealing with POISONS... 

Lead, for example, can be found in the white and beige paints - 'Titanium White' and 'Buff Titanium' to be exact - and causes neuro-disorders. Cadmium, in those bright red paints, causes neural abnormalities. 

Okay, sometimes it's better not to know too much.
To add a bit of diversity, I painted a pair of pikachus into a little corner of the canvas. 

But why these Japanese electric mice? 

1) Thai art involves elements that are considered contemporary when the murals were first painted. For example, there is a temple near Bangkok, where Doraemons and Angry Birds were painted into scenes from Buddha's life. Any Thai artist worth his/her salt must incorporate contemporary elements to draw worshipers to the temple he/she has been working on.

2) Pikachus are mice. And mice can be found everywhere.

3) One pikachu may be lonely. Hence, the need to paint a pair. 

A common question friends have asked: are the pikachus interacting sexually?

No. Firstly, one of them is a pikachu and the other is a ditto.

Secondly, they are snuggling. WHICH DOESN'T CONNOTE ANYTHING SEXUAL.

The second most common question: but is the snuggling pre- or post- sexual interaction? 

URGHHH. THINK WHAT YOU WILL.

(It's not easy to paint these animals. Spent almost 5 hours painting these deceptively simple creatures. Firstly, the yellow paint cannot be layered well. They peeled off easily or created very uneven tones.

After repeated errors, finally understood that the yellow paint I have is a glaze. It is translucent. Not a 'full-bodied' opaque paint. This means that the pikachus are going to look like mangy creatures, with uneven fur tones. But after a bit of tinkering, the pikachus were finally done.)
Here are the details of the canvas painting:
Painting on gold has introduced a unique challenge.

The watery paints just didn't want to dry on the slick metallic surface. Smudging is a real concern. It'd be difficult to correct poorly drawn lines, mainly because wiping them away would also cause gold flakes to be removed at the same time. This, I've learned, at a rather unpleasant cost. 
In some ways, this painting journey has been dreadful. It comes in tandem with all other academic deadlines; it's almost suffocating. 

But after the paint has dried and the brushes cleaned, there is time to ponder about the what-ifs and what-may-bes. There is time to reflect on the lessons that these painting processes may have quietly offered. 

Thanks to everyone who has shared this journey and offered their support, feedback and criticisms. It has been great fun.

0 comments: