Kalamkari Painting

Kalamkari is a traditional Indian art form of hand-painting or block-printing on cloth. It refers to the ancient style of hand painting which is done with a pen using natural dyes . It refers to “Kalam” which means pen and “kari” means craftsmanship.

Motifs drawn in this ancient art include flowers,peacock and also divine characters from Ramayana and the Mahabharata

Kalamkari Art Styles

Kalamkari paintings are very detailed and complicated . This art is 3000 years old and it is originally from the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. There are two distinctive styles of Kalamkari painting

  • Srikalahasti
  • Machilipatnam

In the Srikalahasti technique the pen or the “kalam” is used for freehand drawing and filling in the colors, is a complete handwork art.

In the Machilipatnam style, artists use carved wooden blocks and vegetable dyes to print patterns and motifs onto fabric, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh are two prime states in India where these two different types of kalamkari patterns are done.The Andhra Kalamkari borrows design inspiration from forts,palaces and temples of India while the Gujarat Kalamkari depict motifs of mythological characters like Krishna, Arjuna from Mahabharata, lord Ganesha, lord Buddha.

The Process of Art Painting

The process of kalamkari painting is very slow and dynamic. It goes through a process of resist — dyeing and hand printing. There are several treatments involved before and after the painting are finished.The colors change depending on the treatment of cloth and quality of the mordant. Every step in the process is done and with perfection.

The process of making Kalamkari involves 23 steps. From natural process of bleaching the fabric, softening it, sun drying, preparing natural dyes, hand painting, to the processes of air drying and washing, the entire procedure is a process which requires precision and an eye for detailing.Cotton fabric used for Kalamkari is first treated with a solution of cow dung and bleach. After keeping the fabric in this solution for hours, the fabric gets a uniform off-white color. After this, the cotton fabric is immersed in a mixture of buffalo milk and Myrobalans. This avoids smudging of dyes in the fabric when it is painted with natural dyes. Later, the fabric is washed under running water to get rid of the odor of buffalo milk.  The fabric likewise, is washed twenty times and dried under the sun. Once the fabric is ready for painting, artists sketch motifs and designs on the fabric. Post this, the Kalamkari artists prepare dyes using natural sources to fill colors within the drawings.

Incorporating minute details, the Kalamkars use ‘tamarind twig’ as pen, to sketch beautiful motifs of Lord Krishna, the Indian god and goddesses like Parvati, Vishnu, Shri Jaganath; designs of peacock, lotus; and scenes from the Hindu epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana.

Kalamkari Colour

The colours used in Kalamkari are exquisite earthy tones of reds, blues, greens, yellows and browns. Women are depicted in shades of yellow, gods in blue and demons in red and green. The use of synthetic dyes is strictly forbidden and thus every colour is procured using natural means.

Kalamkari these days is not restricted to paintings and sarees only; many fashion attires also have kalamkari prints. Modern outfits are made out of Kalamkari print fabrics and are accepted by people of all generations. 

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