Sep '08 Painting

Traditional Mysore Painting

By Elise Espat

Besides the freshly baked breads and massive coffees, breakfast at Santosha means dining in a room surrounded by beautiful traditional Mysore paintings where Hindu deities dance and recline in colorful backdrops sprinkled with 22-karat gold leaf detailing. I see a poster on the wall indicating that, yes, I too can learn to paint in this unique style. Count me in!

Classes begin two days later on Monday. I'm given all the supplies I'll need to begin (a pencil, pencil sharpener, eraser, and drawing pad), chai, and apple muffins. Anand, our teacher, draws a one petal lotus and instructs me to fill the page with the same. After the ninth or tenth try, he laughs a bit and gives me something else to sketch. Just like this we learn, line by line, detail by detail, until we are ready to learn something a bit more challenging. I now know that when we say "Mysore style" it isn't just asana practice but painting too. And even without my yoga mat, I see that this too is a yoga practice. "You see him?" Anand gestures to Tomasz, the owner and chef extraordinaire at Santosha. "You should see him before painting! Any person," Anand continues. "After ten paintings will become much calmer."

Can painting really make such a difference? Can it really teach us as much about ourselves as our asana practice? As my friend and I learn to draw the more challenging hand and feet variations and I throw down my pencil in frustration, I see how similar the two practices can be. Anand puts his hands on top of my head and takes them away as if he touched a stove, "So much heat! Be cool." He smiles. As lotuses, hands, feet, and flowers slowly unfold on our notebook pages we see that like asana practice, things come slowly, slowly.

Painting classes with traditional Mysore painting master, Anand, are offered on an ongoing basis. The average time to complete a basic painting is about one month. All levels of students are welcome to attend. Classes are held Monday through Friday at Santosha between 12 and 2 pm. If you are interested in attending a class, simply show up during class hours to talk with Anand.

Visit Santosha's website for more information on painting classes and other events. Please also check Anand's website for more on his work, classes, and historical information on this unique artistic tradition.

****Please note that as of 20/10/2008, Anand's painting classes are now held at his private studio. Contact Tina or Anand for more information.****

When Elise isn't practicing ashtanga, she's practicing painting thin red lines.

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