'Ten-pa' or meditation support is the word often given to Thangka Paintings or scroll paintings in Tibet. This form of art was often commissioned by practitioners, families, or monasteries, from skilled artisans, statue makers or painters.
Often Master Painters or Sculptors worked with groups of students to create these works.
All of these paintings and sculptures were created by hand, from the very canvas to the mineral paint, and the glue that binds the paint together.
The artists would often use precious stones such as Lapis Lazuli or 'mu men', and Malachite or 'spang ma'. Depending on the density of the stone, the artist would often spend days grinding the stone into a fine powder which could then be used as a pigment to add to paint, and would also be used for inks and dyes.
The drawings and the sculpture where always created using a system of units. 1 sor or unit is called a 'cha chung' and 12 sor or units is called a 'cha chen'. The length of a unit isn’t identified, in the sense that a unit could be a measurement of 1mm, 1cm or 1 meter if necessary, but the proportions will always be the same. The units are divided up to create a grid in order to draw a particular deity.
The grid system has been used by Tibetan and Nepalese artists to keep the proportion of the deity correct with the correct height, width and various gestures continuously over many centuries, and is still used today.
To help preserve this precious area of knowledge Shang Shung Australia is running various courses with qualified Thangka Painters and Sculptors.