“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” quote from the teaching of Buddhism.
Such simple words yet not so simple for many of us. We can go to the quietest and most serene places on earth but if we are not at peace with ourselves, we will never find it. Irregardless of our beliefs.
I ‘discovered’ this subject during my trip to United State last year when I made a detour to Portland, Oregon, to pay a visit to my husband’s grand aunt who is in her mid 80’s. She is of a Thai descendant and has been living in the States for many years. Being a devout Buddhist, she has a small prayer room filled to the brim with Buddha statues and antiques from Thailand, it looked and felt like a mini Buddhist temple. She spends her time in there praying and meditating most time of the day. Because of the many fruit trees planted surrounding the house compound, the room was gloomy yet cozy at the same time.
One morning, while I was going around the house, looking for my grand aunt, I happened to opened the door to the prayer room and saw a beautiful sight. The bright morning sun was shining through the windows and it cast a gorgeous glow on this beautiful wood carved statue. The artist mode in me came on automatically and I knew this will be a beautiful painting to create.
I was hesitant to snap a photo immediately, out of respect to my aunt’s belief. I stood outside the room, practically pacing up and down until I garnered enough courage to ask her. Being such an open minded person that she is, gave her permission without missing a beat.
I took several photos with my mobile and I was very happy that I managed to captured that moment.
20″ x 12″ (50.8cm x 30.48cm) in size
300gsm hot pressed Lanaquarelle watercolour paper.
Faber-Castell Polychromos and Caran D’ache Luminance.
I begin by using Photoshop to cropped, sharpened, to add definition to the reference photo and print out in A4 (8.3″ x 11.7″) size. To enlarged it from A4 to the working paper, I used the grid method. This way, I will get a close accuracy of the subject.
I was not too worried over the details of the wood grains and the gold headdress because the main focus point of the painting here was the value.
Using a 4B graphite pencil, I draw out of the outline and shape, forgoing the details. For the gold headdress, I used the Polychromos directly and played with the tones of yellow, ochre, orange and brown.
For the highlight, I lift the colours using both the Derwent battery operated eraser and the Tombow Mono Zero eraser and then applied the Luminance White over it.
The details of the headdress looked intimidating at first but after slowly working on it, I found that it was not as difficult as I thought it would be. The idea is to play with the value rather than concentrating on the details. At one time, I was holding about 5 pencils in one hand and 2 erasers on the other. That was because I applied all the colours as I go, instead of layering them.
Once I am done with the details of the headdress, I went over it again, darkened and lighted the specific areas.
The method for the wood grain details was to worked with the paper’s grain. All the colours were applied with various pressure (from light to heavy). This will give that patchy/uneven textures of the wood. Derwent blending pencil was very useful at this point, it helped to smoothened out the transition from light to dark and vice versa.
I left the flowers till last, after the background because of its delicate light colours.
Now, the most dreadful part of this painting was the background. I want the focus to be on the expression, not on the details. By leaving the background white, it will be too stark of a contrast and would not give the sense of serenity, it will be focusing solely on the details and textures of the subject.
I did several researches on the internet, anything to do with Buddha’s portrait and imagine how it looks when I merged the subject and the background together (mentally, because I am not well versed with advanced Photoshop, yet). I was thinking along some splashes of muted colours like some oil paintings background but found that it is either too dull or overpowering.
Then, I came across this wood grain background with the value from dark to light and it was spot on. The colours fits perfectly with the subject and the little details of wood grain was perfect because I know I could not blend all the colours seamlessly using only dry colour pencils. Those grains will be a good cover up for the lines that will show through the layering.
I did thought of using black surfaced paper for this painting but I knew the white flowers would not turned out as translucent. So, it is a big sacrifice using white paper. I meant that I will be using a lot of black coloured pencils for this. That was also the reason why I did this painting in a smaller size.
To get a good depth of black, the base has to be a riot of colours. For this painting, it was all the warm colours to complement the gold. The flowers were not easy, I tried to make it looked as delicate as possible. Too light, it will look floats, too dark, it will sink. I did just about and have to stop or else I will risked messing up the whites.
Ironically, while working on this, I got no peace from within because I was fighting myself. My brain and my emotions just did not seemed to be on the same track. My eyes were telling my brain that there were so many details that I missed out but my feelings were telling me otherwise. It is a struggle for me with all my pieces, especially towards the end. I just have to learn when to put the pencils down. That is just technically speaking. Now, what draws me towards the subject was the overall ‘feel’. Not about the statue nor belief. I see way beyond that. I see and feel the sense of calmness, peace and if every one of us could find the peace within ourselves, the world we live in now will be a much better place.