Professor Murad Mumtaz teaches on the art of miniature painting – The Williams Record

On March 11th, Mellon’s Academic Programs Curator Elizabeth Gallerani, art history student Amber Orosco, and artist and assistant professor of art Murad Khan Mumtaz hosted an event for attendees entitled “Practice & Process in Indian Drawing” Immerse yourself in Indian art and especially Indian miniature painting.

Mumtaz started the workshop with an introduction to Tasvir Khana. (Kevin Weng / The Williams Record)

The workshop started with a brief introduction to Tasvir Khana, a Persian term that refers to the workplace where Indian miniatures are made and its meaning for the past and contemporary art in India. In discussing the medium, Mumtaz emphasized the importance of creating outlines and learning how to create “tiny, controlled and refined lines”. After all, as Mumtaz pointed out, “when you look at a traditional Indian painting, everything is bound or contained in a beautiful outline.”

After the outline has been created, the paint is applied. Many of the materials the paintings are made of are organic. For example, the colors used are often natural pigments bound with gum arabic or animal bone glue, often placed in shells as holders and paired with squirrel tail brushes.

According to Mumtaz, a squirrel’s tail brush is used for the main detailing because it has a “perfect point” at the top and yet is thick at the bottom so it can hold a lot of pigment and water … [meaning] You can let it run for a long time while creating an extremely tiny and nifty line. However, working with such brushes can “take months and months to get used to,” and Mumtaz recommended a 4-H or 5-H sharpened pen on paper for learning and practicing the techniques.

Mumtaz demonstrates the steps and the step-by-step structure of a flower study. (Kevin Weng / The Williams Record)

To get a visual insight into the intricacies of Indian miniature painting, participants were also able to look at two drawings: A tall flower with pink petals and Raja with attendant, both from the Indian art collection of the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA). After a brief introduction to Gallerani’s pieces, Orosco also mentioned the use of a technological software called Reflectance Transformation ImagingThis allows the viewer to manipulate the light and surface shape of a subject. Orosco demonstrated this application in the previous illustration, which helped “isolate the linear properties of the painting” and add depth to make the two-dimensional surface appear three-dimensional.

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