I never imagined learning a Truly Traditional Artform Online

As a child, I had seen a gorgeous painting of Lord Krishna with intricate detailing, gold work and precious stones in the pooja room of a friend’s home. I remember how her family proudly mentioned it was a family legacy and probably more than a 100 years old. Amidst the wall of  photographs, idols and modern era elements of a traditional pooja room, this one painting stood out with great glory and the mesmerizing art etched a memory in my mind. Years later, I realized what I saw was an original Tanjore painting which is a classical South Indian Painting style with origins in the 16th century. That childhood memory in my mind left me wanting to create a legacy of my own in a truly traditional artform. 

In the olden eras, these paintings were commissioned by rulers, courtiers and affluent members of the society to adorn the walls of their palaces and temples. The usage of pure gold, pearls, precious stones, natural dyes and the truly talented artist community made this traditional artform stand the test of time. Today these Tanjore paintings have a broader appeal and are accessible to everyone with the advent of ecommerce. But the essence of the original artform still remains intact with very few artists who have carried forward the heritage. 

For a couple of years, I was looking for a teacher to learn this traditional artform in Mumbai. Given the intricate nature and detailing, I genuinely believed that it was possible only through a physical classroom model. But I was pleasantly surprised when I saw an Instagram post of an artist painting the eyes of a goddess Lakshmi on Instagram by Tanjore Collective. What I thought would be another website selling paintings resulted in a stunning learning experience!

Introducing Tanjore Collective

Tanjore Collective is run by a mother- daughter duo, based in Bengaluru who have been passionately teaching this beautiful art form for over 3 decades. Vani Bhaskar has taught over 2000 students and her work has graced the houses of eminent personalities and largest temples in the country. Today, her daughter Vibha has taken the journey forward by launching online classes which she manages with meticulous detailing and great patience. 

I signed up for the 6 week program for a gorgeous Goddess Lakshmi painting. Few weeks later, a box with the entire kit of the sketch on board, arabic gum crystals, gold foil, stones and brushes arrived. Despite the excitement, there was an equal degree of nervousness for I had never picked up the painting brush after I left school, which was almost 2 decades back! In the first class, I realized everyone had the same doubt in their mind. But Vibha was an excellent teacher who handled these mighty bouts of fear with exceptional calm and grace. She made it clear that her focus was to ensure we learn the artform and techniques involved while we enjoy the process. 

Experience of creating something special to heart – No age barriers 

Tanjore Paintings clearly holds a special place in the heart for anyone who has seen them in their glory! It was quite a dream come true moment for each person in the class to create a beautiful Tanjore painting with their own hands. I was amazed to see women from different age groups and backgrounds in the course. From young college girls, working women, expectant mothers, empty nesters to a 70 years plus grandma, all of them were eagerly waiting to learn. And their stories were fascinating! A newly married student wanted to surprise her husband, another young woman who was relocating to a different country wanted this painting to be in the pooja room of her new home and an expectant mother was working on her own sketch by the side. For each one, learning this artform meant something unique and extremely special. 

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Focus on technique while encourages creativity & exploration

Vibha Raj’s teaching style is key to the whole learning experience. While she focuses on the technique, she encourages creativity and exploration in each stage of the course. Be it  embossing, gold foiling, brush strokes or finishing touches- she paces it in such a manner that every student learns the technique rather than racing to finish the painting. She patiently answers questions, clears doubts and double checks that everyone is on board before moving to the next stage. It’s this passion which makes it possible to teach this traditional artwork on an online platform. 

Though the artform demands symmetry and perfection, the approach to learning is honestly therapeutic! I would sit down to paint at 9PM after a long day at work and would just not realize that it was way past midnight when I finished. At the end of 6 weeks, like every student in the batch, I was tremendously proud of the beautiful painting ready to be framed. 

Tanjore Collective has taken the century old traditional artwork online and is enabling many to have their own Tanjore Painting to decorate their homes!!

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About the Author

Aarthee Suriyakumar

Electrical engineer turned into Marketer. From heartland of Tamilnadu but almost Mumbaikaar. read more...

26 Posts | 61,210 Views

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