Mineral and vegetable or plant colors
Color obviously is the most eye-catching feature of many minerals. Some minerals will always have a singular color, such as Gold, whereas other minerals shine in all the colors of the rainbow. The presence and intensity of certain elements will determine a specific mineral color. Minerals of a specific color incorporate essential elements causing this very color. Many minerals have different colors and some of them are identical to other minerals´ colors. It is important to understand what causes color in minerals in order to understand these minerals´ property.

Some minerals show a change in color when exposed to light, heat, radiation, even in the presence of nuclear variances. For example, Red transforms into Yellow upon repeated exposure to light. Likewise, minerals composed mostly of the elements aluminium, sodium, and potassium are usually colorless or very lightly colored. However mineral colors may be artificially enhanced in various ways, especially when they are used as gemstones. Many minerals are used as paint pigments. The colors used in Tibetan Thangkas consist of mostly powdered minerals mixed with a specific glue and water.

The major sources of natural colors used in traditional Thangka painting are a huge variety of mineral and plant pigments. Concerning the mineral based colors, just to name a few, Black is made of powdered coal. Dark Blue consists of powdered Lapislazuli and Light Blue of powdered Azurite. Yellow is made of powdered Pyrite and Red of powdered Hematite. Green consists of powdered Malachite and White of powdere Diatomite. Just to name a few.

The main sources of plant pigments are Chlorophyll, Betalains, Carotenoids, and Flavonoids. These plant pigments provide colors like Green, Blue, Orange, Red, Yellow, and Pink. Especially within the tradition of Kathmandu´s Dharmapala School of Thangka Painting, we predominantly use mineral colors with just a tiny amount of vegetable or plant colors.

The process of producing completely pure and natural pigment-based colors is elaborate and highly complex. It requires an abundant wealth of practical experience based on a profound knowledge of the ancient traditions, uninterruptedly transmitted throughout the innumerable generations of gifted craftsmen.

The main sources of plant pigments are Chlorophyll, Betalains, Carotenoids, and Flavonoids. These plant pigments provide colors like Green, Blue, Orange, Red, Yellow, and Pink. Especially within the tradition of Kathmandu´s Dharmapala School of Thangka Painting, we predominantly use mineral colors with just a tiny amount of vegetable or plant colors.

Prior to receiving these natural colors, a base or substrate has to be produced, traditionally by using yak leather glue. On top of this time-consuming manual process the stone and mineral pigments which are the basis of the various colors, are manually ground for at least five days. After the grinding process having been completed the pigments are thoroughly mixed with the glue and a small amount of water to make a liquid paint which is filled into bamboo tubes. These tubes are then closed air tight and exposed to the sun. After letting it dry for a couple of days, the bamboos are cut in half. The granular components ofthe paint are settled at the bottom and the smooth and pasty color liquid stays on the surface. Finally the coarse remains at the bottom of the bamboo tubes are dumped and we receive the precious smooth natural colors .

Thangkas with natural colors light up more intensively, shiningly and vibrantly. With an impression of a certain three-dimensionality, due to their transparency. In the course of the years these colors do not change or fade out by the influence of daylight, especially by its content of ultraviolet radiation. See it for yourself with this below comparison which quite clearly illustrates the difference between the two kinds of color.

At the Dharmapala School of Thangka Painting we ensure to produce individually designed and painted Thangkas, maintaining precise iconographic correctness to the detail at any time. We will not take any compromise and keep our standards to superior quality. Our final goal is to maintain and preserve our living and ancient artistic tradition and pass the deep wisdom and overwhelmingly rich cultural heritage of traditional Thangka painting on to future generations.

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