On one of my trips last year to Mogok, Myanmar, I had the opportunity to sit and watch a gem-painting being made.
I appreciate good art, but I’m not someone who goes to art museums or would even consider picking up a paint brush. This was fascinating though, and I spent a few hours watching the artist meticulously use ground-up gemstones to create the face of Buddha, bringing the gem painting to life with each brush stroke.
A few weeks ago I was in Vietnam, researching a future gem tour. Once again, I found myself mesmerised by the locals making gem paintings. I began to wonder whether it was something I myself could do as a hobby.
I sat and watched again and I noticed a few significant differences between the gem paintings in Mogok and the gem-paintings in Luc Yen.
In Mogok, the gem paintings are made on whiteboard or wood, about 3-4 mm thick. The artist begins by carefully drawing the outlines of the piece on the board. These outlines are then filled in with gemstone powder—some very fine, like sand, and some coarser, like breadcrumbs. The Mogok style of gem-art uses a combination gemstone powder with brush painting.
In Luc Yen, the gem painting hub of northern Vietnam, the paintings are very different from those created in Mogok. Luc Yen gem artists place transparent acrylic plastic sheets (2-3mm thick) over a picture, so that the artist can follow the exact outlines and colours.
Different textures of gemstones go into a Luc Yen gem painting, including shards of marble and glass-sharp slivers of rose quartz. The artists skilfully make flower petals, by dousing a teaspoon of gemstone powder in glue and peeling the dried ‘petal’ off its backing paper. I also saw virtually no brush painting in Luc Yen, though I’m sure it’s used for faces and very fine details.
Finally, when the finished painting is dry, the artists apply a white decal to the back of the acrylic.
Though, the Luc Yen paintings are just as skilful and elaborate as the Mogok gem paintings, the Luc Yen style seemed to me a little easier for a beginner to achieve a good result. I couldn’t resist having a go!
Creating my own gem painting felt a bit like being at playschool, but the experience was also weirdly meditative. It took me about four hours, though I must admit I cheated a little! Running short of time, I went ‘off piste’ and added my own cheeky touch.
I’m reasonably pleased with the result. When the current lockdown of the Covid-19 crisis comes to an end, I shall go and get it framed.
I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to share the fun with others. 5 kilos of gemstones came back with me from Vietnam and I’m currently taking orders for gemstone painting kits. It could be the perfect way to take your mind off the stresses of everyday life!
Whether you would like to receive a gem painting kit, or order a bespoke framed gemstone portrait by the skilled gem artists in my contacts list, get in touch.
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