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CRAFTS OF INDIA / PATACHITRA / TECHNIQUE
PATACHITRA
The Patachitra Technique

- The patachitra when painted on cloth follows a traditional process of preparation of the canvas. First the base is prepared by coating the cloth with the soft, white, stone powder of chalk and glue made from tamarind seeds. This gives the cloth tensile strength and a smooth, semi-absorbent surface, allowing it to accept the paint.

- The artist does not use a pencil or charcoal for the preliminary drawings. It is a tradition to complete the borders of the painting first. The painter then starts making a rough sketch directly with the brush using light red and yellow. The main flat colors are applied next; the colors used are normally white, red, yellow, and black.

- The painter then finishes the painting with fine stokes of black brush lines, giving the effect of pen work. When the painting is completed it is held over a charcoal fire and lacquer is applied to the surface. This makes the painting water resistant and durable, besides giving it a shining finish.

- The materials used in the paint are from vegetable, earth, and mineral sources. Black is made out of lampblack, yellow from haritali stone, and red from hingal stone. White is prepared from crushed, boiled, and filtered shells.

The choice of colors for the Patachitra

In the 16th century, with the emergence of Bhakti movement the paintings of Radha and Krishna were painted in vibrant shades of orange, red and yellow. There are typical scenes and figures like Krishna, Gopis, elephants, trees and other creatures that are seen in these paintings. Krishna is always painted in blue and Gopis in light pink, purple or brown colours.

The painters use vegetable and mineral colours without going for factory made poster colours. They prepare their own colours. White colour is made from the conch-shells by powdering, boiling and filtering in a very hazardous process. It requires a lot of patience.

But this process gives brilliance and premanence to the hue. 'Hingula', a mineral colour, is used for red. 'Haritala', king of stone ingredients for yellow, 'Ramaraja' a sort of indigo for blue are being used. Pure lamp-black or black prepared from the burning of coconut shells are used. There was no blue either cobalt or ultramarine in the earlier colour schemes.

The colours used in the Patta paintings are primarily bright colours, limited to red, yellow, indigo, black and white. The brushes that are used by these 'Chitrakaras' are also indigenous and are made of hair of domestic animals. A bunch of hair tied to the end of a bamboo stick make the brush. It is really a matter of wonder as to how these painters bring out lines of such precision and finish with the help of these crude brushes.