Tiny Brushes and Faint Owl

Last week I attended a workshop with Dr Veeda Ahmed looking at 2 different forms of Middle Eastern and South Asian miniature painting, Neem Rang and Siyah Qalam. “Neem Rang, meaning ‘half-painted’, is a style of miniature that features finely shaded images with selected bursts of colour. In Siyah Qalam or ‘black pen’ paintings, figures are sparingly and subtly shaded.”

I have always loved these beautiful drawings so was very keen to take the chance to learn something more about them. On many levels it was fascinating; the history, the techniques and the materials and the possibilities of learning classical techniques and then using those techniques for more contemporary imagery. I was most interested in the technique of drawing with a brush, but I had not quite appreciated how very tiny the brushes would be. I could barely see the tip of this tiny thing with its curved hairs squirrel hairs.


In the right hands it can give a super fine, precise and most elegant line. In my hands it did not. However after a couple of days I began to get the hang of it in a very rough and ready way.


We worked from copies of traditional images which is a good way to learn but a copy can be deceiving and what appears to be one beautiful ink line is, in fact, made up of many tiny lines starting with an almost ghost image in pale grey, the thickness of the line being built up in certain places to emphasise and describe form. The originals are exquisite.Needless to say I did not finish anything but just trying these techniques made me understand and appreciate even more the skill and finesse of these wonderful artists and probably improved my hand eye coordination quite a bit.

three samples. sJPG

3 practise pieces.

I think I have now done just 6 of the 10,000 hrs of practise.. way to go..  Meanwhile I am working on some much bigger, bolder, woodcuts… vive la difference!

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