donderdag 16 oktober 2008


The next variation Tharphen gave us is Vajradhara (Tib. Dorje Chang) in father-mother aspect (yab-yum). There are two things that make this figure different from the previous ones, first of all the figure doesn’t sit straight, but bents a little bit. The hart is shifted from the middle line and the figure has to be adapted to this posture. The second difference is on course the female figure which has to be drawn in front of the figure. Fitting the female figure to the male one in a natural way isn’t always easy. It takes a little try and error and practice. This yab-yum posture is quite common in Tibetan Buddhism and with this pose you can construct a lot of other Buddha’s/ Bodhisattva’s/Deities. As an example of another Bodhisattva in this pose I give a rough sketch of the Red Chenrezig. It’s a drawing I made some years ago, but I never finished it…

Avalokiteshvara - Chenrezig

After a few Buddha’s, we can start drawing other male figures like Avalokiteshvara (Tib. Chenrezig). Avalokiteshvara is the Bodhisattva of Compassion, it is a kind of personification of love and compassion. This figure is very similar to that of the Buddha, but has 4 arms is a different position than that of the Buddha. Also the clothes are different and the drawing shown here has a few ribbons in his hair and around his arms. This makes the figure a little complex, but this kind of decorations are quite common in thangka’s , so it’s a good exercise.

woensdag 15 oktober 2008

The complete Buddha

Once the hands and feet are more or less fine, one can start with the body of the Buddha. Like the face, we start with a complete grid of lines to help the student, and one by one we lose the lines till you only need the central vertical line. We start drawing the figures without clothes and when this ‘naked’ figure looks good, the clothes can be drawn on top of this. At this time my teacher asked me to start inking my drawings too using a brush and Chinese ink. This is very difficult, and you ruin the first few drawings you try to ink. This is kind of frustrating knowing you’ve spend a 4 to 5 hours drawing it, but once you start get the hang of it, you actually make the drawings prettier. Bring the inking to perfection takes a very long time, and I am still far from it! The Buddha shown here is a inked one.

maandag 15 september 2008

hands and feet

At the end of the second day, I could start with the hands and feet which I drew 13 times before I could move to the complete Buddha. The hands and feet are, in contrast to the face, more or less the same for all deities. The hands and feet of the female deities are drawn slightly fine, but once you got the form for the Buddha right, the hands and feet for the other deities aren’t such a big problem anymore.

zondag 14 september 2008

The face of the Buddha

The first course I took was a three day course from Saturday 19 July till Monday 21 July 2003, and it was all about the Buddha. In thangka painting one always starts with learning how to draw the face of the Buddha. The first two days I’ve drawn 11 of them, first with the complete grid (see picture), and gradually cutting down the number of lines till you only need the middle line. The face of the Buddha is the fundament on which most of the male peaceful and semi-wrathful deities are based. This is why we need to practice a lot on this before moving on.

my teacher


Tharphen was born in 1973 and is the son of the famous master thangka painter, sculptor and Stupa architect Gega Lama. Tharphen started assisting his father early and so received longtime and intensive training at this unique art of thangka painting. Since his arrival in Europe, Tharphen has been teaching mainly at Buddhist centers in Belgium and France.

Gega Lama

Gega Lama (1931-1996) was born in a small village in Eastern Tibet. At his eight he began studying Tibetan calligraphy and at eleven he entered the monastery where he studied Buddhist doctrine, dance, painting and music. In 1947, at his sixteen, Gega Lamabecame a student of the greatly respected painting teacher, Thangla Tsewang. By the age of twenty-two, Gega Lama was recognized as an artist in his own right. In 1959 he fled Tibet as a result of the 1959 uprising and settled in Northern India where he rebuilt the body of diagrams and methods necessary to the painting of Tibetan Thangkas, and taught this art to many Tibetan and Western students.

Thangla Tsewang

In 1902, Thangla Tsewang was born in eastern Tibet. Gifted from an early age, he studied painting and sculpture under two accomplished Gardri masters, Wari Lama Lodro, who excelled at drawing, and Payma Rabten, a holder of the Karsho lineage, who excelled in coloring. The previous H.E. Tai Situ Rinpoche, Payma Wangchok Gyalpo, once said that his paintings were so good as to be fit to be installed in shrines without being formally consecrated.

zaterdag 13 september 2008

about me

Maybe I’ll start with introducing myself. I’m Stijn Fias, I’m 26 years old, live in Belgium and since my 16th I’ve been interested in Buddhism. When I was studying at the Free University of Brussels (VUB) there was a Tibetan Buddhist temple near to the place I lived. After going to the teachings for a while, I took refuge in 2003. In the same year I’ve started following a course on Thangka painting in Yeunten Ling, a Buddhist retreat center in Huy. This course is given by a Tibetan artist, Tharphen Lingtsang, who learned painting from his father, the famous artist Gega Lama. Since the first time in July 2003 I meet my teacher a few times a year for lessons on drawing and painting. Now, 5 years later I’ve finished my first Thangka (of Shakyamuni Buddha) and hope many more will follow...