Friday, February 2, 2007

Preparing the drawing surface

The group is starting to feel a little more comfortable around me, and me around them. A few of us have been exchanging candy and gum, two of the boys offer to sharpen my pencils, and a couple have taken to calling me by name.

Today the 16-year old Bhutanese boy sitting next to me finished his drawing and after having it approved by the teacher went off, with me and my camera, to document how we prepare the drawing surface at Tsering.

What you see here first is a photo of Yeshe Chodak's completed drawing. (You can click on any of the photos here for larger versions.)

This board is known as a chansing. A rag is used to wipe away the old drawing. Not much pressure is required to clean the slate, though you might have to rub a little more vigorously in some spots than others to clear away small clots of oil.

In a previous post I noted that yak butter is used to prepare the slate. Traditionally this was probably so. But after a little asking around I found that what is used now is actually a mixture of various vegetable oils. Here is a bucket of the stuff, known as mar.

Once the chansing has been wiped smooth, a little more mar is applied and spread evenly across the board. On a cold morning, letting the chansing sit in the sun for a couple of minutes softens the mar and makes it easier to apply smoothly and evenly.

The chansing is then coated with a fine dusting of powdered limestone, known as karak, which provides contrast and a dry surface.

Finally, the board is tapped on a hard surface to loosen excess karak. The student is again ready to draw.

To give you an idea of what can be done on this surface, have a look at the following photos, a series of shots of work from Phuntsok Wangu, a student from Bhutan, who with this particular piece completed his drawing assignments on slate.

Phuntsok Wangu is in his second year at Tsering. He says these drawings took about 3.5 days.

Maybe in a couple of years I can do the same. Right now, I'm still working on leaves and lotus flowers.



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