DTW 14 – Compositing a Photograph into a Thangka

In this video tutorial we look at some methods for compositing a landscape photograph into our work whilst still keeping it looking as though it were a painting. I talk a little about atmospheric perspective and we look at a work by the master thangka painter Robert Beer. I also talk a little about some ways to attempt to “paint” our meditative experience into our work.


Using a simple photograph I snapped on holiday, I take a crack at compositing it into my latest work. I am looking for something fairly subtle, a bit wrathful, but suggesting plenty of space element and the stillness of a pranic implosion and rebirth.



Samantabhadra and Samantabhadri

I am currently working on an image from the wonderful Nyimgma tradition for the practice known as The Lake Born Vajra. I wanted to have the Primordial Buddha as the minor figure at the top of the thangka. Having completed the linework I couldn’t resist the opportunity to create a separate piece to give this profound icon its own place as a major work.

I have always loved this form so I was very happy to be able to create this work. I wanted the image to be a simple as possible since I believe the bare metaphor of unpainted space to be very profound. The space element portrayed in this thangka is a very rich metaphor for emptiness itself, both on an experiential level and on the philosophical. Contemplating the nature of unproduced space can become a major stepping tone to a correct view of emptiness, where emptiness itself isn’t reified in the meditators mind as an existing (albeit subtle) aspect of phenomena, it is merely an absence in the same way that unproduced space is an unchanging phenomena characterised by the absence of obstruction.

On an experiential level I also find the divine shape of Samantabhadri’s hair, along with its alignment to the central channel, to have great spiritual poetry. Traditionally only half of the female deities face is shown in full profile. I like to break from tradition and portray her in 3/4 so that Her beauty can be more fully realised.

I hope you like and benefit from the image. I have only shown a small vignette of the completed work here, if you are interested in seeing the full version please email me and I will endeavour to send you a copy…

With love,
Ben (Jampay Dorje)

Vignette from a larger image.

Hi Res Image of Green Tara

Here is a high resolution image of the Green Tara Thangka. If you click on the image it will open in a new window, you can then right click in the new window and select “save image as..” you will be able to download the file to your computer.

Please share this image with your Dharma friends… I hope it brings peace to the world and your mind.

With love,

Ben (Jampay Dorje)


Green Tara

DTW 10 – Painting Green Tara pt.5

Digital Thangka Workshop – Here is a video showing the latest work on the Green Tara image. Its been a long but beautiful process. I have been working steadily on the image maybe about 2-3 hours a day, its almost finished now.

I had a good friend come to visit yesterday and he gave me some invaluable advice on resolving certain areas of the image that I had been struggling with. Its great to have a master artist on hand to critique your work! I think it becomes very hard to “see” the image after spending so much time with it. I find I become almost blind to whether it is good or bad. A fresh set of expert eyes is so precious, and the insight that comes with them even more so.

This week we look at one of the final stages of the thangka, rendering the Body and Face. This video represents about 20 hours of work along with a little commentary I made to describe the process.  

I hope you enjoy it…

DTW 9 – Painting Green Tara pt.4

Digital Thangka Workshop – This week we take a look inside my retreat cabin and have a tour of my meditation space and my portable painting workstation. Its raining outside and there is thunder approaching, so I head into the quiet of the meditation room to discuss a little bit about this weeks painting.

In the video we continue with the shading the lotus stem, I introduce a different method for rendering the highlights and then we talk a little about colour temperature for shaded and highlight areas.

We are getting close to finishing now. I think I am about 70% done. I finish retreat in about a week and will be able to spend more time painting. I imagine I will complete the Thangka fairly soon now… maybe about 4 weeks away now, this one has been an incredible journey.

I hope you enjoy the video and the little tour of my home.

With love,
Ben (Jampay Dorje)


This images shows the lower section of my Green Tara image and the semi completed areas of shading.

DTW 8 – Painting Green Tara pt.3

Digital Thangka Workshop – This week we sign off on the colour flats and also talk a little about some new changes and maybe a few future adjustments to the composition. We talk a little about managing file size, then its on to shading the water surrounding the lotus stem.

May the Savioress Green Tara protect you in all your lives,
with love,
Ben (Jampay Dorje)

DTW 7 – Painting Green Tara pt.2

Digital Thangka Workshop – we take a quick tour of my retreat cabin then off to Photoshop to create some channels and do some basic colouring. We also take a look at Smart Objects and how they allow a complex image to become manageable.

I hope you enjoy this video series,
Happy painting!
Ben (Jampay Dorje)

DTW 6 – Painting Green Tara pt.1

Digital Thangka Workshop – An introductory video showing my latest project. A bit of discussion on the individual elements of the thangka, as well as my vision for this image and my reasons for painting it.

I have completed the compositional sketch and finished the linework in ArtRage. This image is complex so I will use five separate files as Smart Objects in photoshop to composite into the final image.

I hope you like the image and this upcoming video series. I think there will be at least 10 videos from this project over the coming months. I hope to upload one every fortnight.

With love,
Ben (Jampay Dorje)

White Tara

White Tara appears amongst a serene landscape. Below Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara meets Her directly in answer to His prayers.
Here is the updated image of White Tara. I made some changes to the hair, that is the only difference. The image is inspired by the famous prayer know as the TwentyOne Praises to Tara. The opening lines of the prayer describe how Tara appeared to Bodhisattva Chenresig in a moment of despair, as he wept for the suffering of beings, and his own inability to help them. The churning waters and lake below represent those tears and the immense compassion of a Bodhisattva. The three stems of the lotus represent the “Three Spheres” of perception and the Bodhisattvas correct view of each. The opening line of Lama Tsongkapa’s Migtsema mantra reflect this same state of mind when they describe Chenresig as possessing a “treasure of love with no (self existent) one it loves”.

I hope this image brings peace to your heart and happiness to your mind.

With love, Jampay Dorje.

DTW 5 – Repainting Hair in Photoshop

Here is a short video showing the repainting of certain areas of the hair in my image of White Tara. I completed this image some years ago at the request of my Lama and also a good friend who was in a 3 year retreat. The image is a little unusual in that the Sadana I was given described Her hair as Cornflower Blue. I have seen White Tara sometimes with blue hair but it is rare. Another unusual aspect is the position of the topknot. Generally you will see the topknot as centrally located, but I chose in this image to place it off to one side, in the tradition of the Situ Panchen school.

I was never entirely happy with the hair and tonight I decided to spend some time correcting it…

I hope you enjoy this short video,

Best wishes,