Indian miniature painting dates back to the 10th century. Today it is mostly found in the state of Rajasthan, for example in the city of Udaipur.
During my first afternoon in Udaipur, I visited a gallery and spent some time learning about this art. The use of natural colours (from precious stones), types of brushes – some consisting of just 1 squirrel hair, and the varying levels of expertise. Some of the paintings I saw had taken months to be completed. Those were large in size, often with a number of panels, and made up of numerous miniature images.
The traditional technique
Painting in miniature involves such a specialised technique, artists tend to start out as students and apprentices, who progress through levels of expertise. Becoming a master can take 20 – 30 years to achieve.
Pictures are typically 2-4 inches, and are more traditionally of men and women, birds and animals, or trees and flowers. The smooth flowing lines, delicate brush strokes and intricate detail is amazing.
In fact, the detail on some of the pieces in the gallery was impossible to capture in a photograph. Even with the naked eye I found it necessary to use a magnifying glass to appreciate the work fully.
Each miniature painting is unique of course, so a beautiful choice to take home as a souvenir of a visit to India. I personally like the more traditional designs, but it’s common to see paintings of landmarks such as the Taj Mahal.
Better than that, at least for me, is creating a souvenir of my own. Of course, even before my visit I was already planning ahead for this opportunity. Even opting to duck out of visiting the Amber Fort, one of the highlights of a trip to Jaipur. Although I had been there before.
Taking a lesson
Ashoka Arts offers classes charged by the hour. A typical painting will take at least 2-3 hours or longer if you choose something more detailed. The teacher will fix up you up with an almost paint by numbers outline, helping you to build up each stage, bit by bit.
I was glad to have been able to draw my chosen image unaided initially. Help was on hand as needed, so this would be a great experience for anyone, even if you aren’t creative.
The hardest part is choosing which image to paint. After that I found the colour choices difficult as each stage of the picture was completed.
If you don’t have time to take a class and paint a miniature yourself then I recommend picking up a postcard or similar which has been painted by one of the local artists. These are very reasonably priced and make a great significance. The old stamped government documents are also a unique purchase as no two will be the same.
I love to experience local arts and crafts and get creative on my travels. India is an amazing country with plenty to experience, there’s more to come in future posts so do check back soon, subscribe to receive updates and new posts, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.