Mural paintings have been part of Kerala (my home state at the southwestern tip of India) temple culture since time immemorial. The present day artists were kind enough to mainstream this beautiful art form by painting them on canvases with acrylics. In an instant the whole of Kerala fell under the mural painting’s spell. Like any loyal, artistically inclined Malayali (people from Kerala; our mother tongue is Malayalam hence the name) I too was spell bound at their beauty and the liberal use of bright colors. By now, you would have guessed….ya on my last trip to India I went mural painting shopping. I met a very talented artist Saju Thuruthil and loved his paintings. But there was one problem. The house wasn’t built yet and we didn’t know where exactly we would hang the painting. We couldn’t even specify what theme or how big a painting we wanted. That was the end of the mural painting hunt.
Back to reality; I painted my powder room SW Hopsack, which is on the darker side. The dark shade made the windowless room appear stuffy. Changing the light blubs to fluorescents brightened the space up while saving us some energy costs. Still it needed something to jazz it up. I really really needed something colorful to distract folks from the blah oval builder mirror (We will change that some day, but not now). And I thought “How about a mural painting? Maybe I can try my hand at painting one?” I was not even sure of where that came from. I hadn’t taken even a single art class or painted anything other than walls (and some small canvases that I tried to paint after seeing Bob Ross’s how to videos during my early US days) in my life.
So what was the problem? The Kerala mural paintings usually have religious themes. I felt really uncomfortable about putting anything religious in a bathroom. As it was the first time, I wanted to paint something easy that I couldn’t mess up easily. After some research on the net I found this one:
Here is my take on the same painting, lady in orange.
Here she is all framed up.
Keeping in mind my lack of training, I broke the process down as follows. Beware….this is the amateurish equivalent of the actual technique.
- Draw a rough sketch on paper so that you get the confidence to attempt it on canvas
- Using a pencil (preferably a lower grade, B or 2B) sketch the picture on canvas. You can use the eraser when needed just be careful not to smudge the drawings too much.
- Fill in the orange background using a stippling technique. Stippling is where you load your brush lightly (key….otherwise you will end up with blobs of paint on your canvas) and just dab all over your canvas gently. Usually takes two coats.
- Now fill in the rest of the colors.
- Finally, trace over the pencil with a fine point (not the super fine one) Sharpie/permanent marker. I know this is totally against the rules, but I don’t have a steady hand with the fine brush yet.
- Once the painting is cured for a few weeks I apply a coat of acrylic sealer.
For folks unfamiliar with acrylics, use only small amounts of paint each time. It dries super fast. Black Sharpies/permanent markers come in different shades. Use the true black ones not the ones with traces of indigo in them (these may have a tendency to run when the sealer is applied).
That said, I really hope to learn the art form one day and paint it with the dedication and piety that it deserves (aka not taking any shortcuts).
Source ListCanvas (22 x 28) – Michaels -$10.99 after using a 50% off coupon ( There are brands were you can get a set of two for this price. Check the website for 40%-50% off coupons every week.) Paints & Supplies –$10 (I didn’t have a single thing)- Michaels Frame – $42.99 -EBay Total –- $63.98
My Other Kerala Mural Paintings
Love this work of art of yours Vidya! Frankly, your version of the mural painting looks better than the red lady painting you put up. Down’t at all look like an amateur’s job. Keep it up! It is awesome.
Thanks a lot Saumya.
Vidya, I agree with Sowmya, yours looks better(the color is gorgeous)
Thanks again Preetha.
Was waiting to read the detailed story of Ur mural paintings. Love Ur art work really. It was really informative and I too really wish to put my hands on it. U are really inspiring. Keep up the good job Vidya!!!!
Thanks a ton Deepthy.
Rukmini Roy says
You are a painter you are Vidya! This is stunning. Plus i would completely agree with your take on terracotta. I love them.
Thank for commenting on my blog. Do visit.
Oh I wish! Got to actually learn it. Thanks for dropping by.
Kerala murals are my all time fav…loved ur tutorial…i feel like picking up a pencil to sketch one…:)
Should try it. You need more of a drawing skill than painting. So I think it is easier than a regular painting. The level of detail is what enhances the complexity.
Bright mural..i liked the color combo here 🙂 lovely tutorial too 🙂
Thanks Aprana. Hope I’ve inspired you to try it. 🙂
Loved the lady.. Wonderful painting. Am not good in acrylics.. but you’ve thrown a few pointers . That calls a try atleast.
Thank you Ashwini. Acrylics are pretty forgiving. Trust me. I hadn’t painted anything before this. Do let me know how it goes.
Bindu Mallela says
Beautiful colors Vidya! just can’t believe this is u r first painting,u really did a great job!I think u should consider doing this frequently……
Thanks Bindu. I wish I could do more. Don’t get much time nowadays. Just hopped over to your blog. You paintings are amazing! Thanks for dropping by.
really fantastic, what a colour combination, i like it, this is true Indian colours
Thank you! The colors are pretty much set by the rules of the traditional style.
awesome painting..looks so professional… actually i was googling today to see where i can buy keral mural n ur pic showed up n really thought its for sale… so beautiful… neways found ur blog now..so will follow it…
Thank you. Just realized that you started blogging recently too. Great going. Hoping to see more.
Preethi Vaidya says
Vidya, This painting is really beautiful. I have been wanting to try a Keral Mural and spotted this while I was searching for ideas. I hope you won’t mind if I try this. will keep you posted
Sure Preeti. Would love to see yours.
loved the color combination.
What do you do to avoid the brush strokes in canvas when using Acrylic paint?
Do you mean for the orange background? For that you need to use a stippling technique, where you lightly pound the canvas with a lightly loaded brush.
I agree that for the background, but for any other major areas, for eg; the green face as in your painting? Do you use any thinner?
Yes I watered down the paint and kind of gently rubbed it in/away with a slightly damp paper towel.
Thank you..that helps
luv ur painting. wonderful job u have done though it was first time try. i just want to know whether i can try it on white chart and if yes, what type of paint do i use, is that acrylic or normal poster colors?Painting is very new to me and that too with acrylic paint. But as u said i just want to give a try…
Thanks Priya. You can paint on white chart paper. A lot of the Kerala mural painting work is done on chart paper. You can use acrylics on chart or even water color on chart paper.
thank you, Vidya.
i will try it on chart paper and will let u know , how it comes out.
Good luck Priya.
Neema Rajan says
Wonderful dear! loved your “Lady in Orange” 🙂
Thanks Neema. Hope to see you around more.
Arun Bhaskaran says
This is my first Visit to this blog. Comparing to the original, I feel that you miss the face, I mean the beauty of the eye and particularly the expression of that lady
Very true Arun. Mine has more pointy features and looks more wooden. I’d never taken a drawing or art class ever when I drew that painting. For that matter I’ve not even drawn much all my life. I did 2 other murals after this one.Soon realized that the eyes and the mouth are the toughest part for me. So enrolled in a few classes. Haven’t had a chance to sit down and paint after those or to continue the classes.
Thanks for dropping by. Looking forward to seeing you around more.
Vidya, I was searching for Kerala related art work and I happened upon your blog. Lovely work. Of all the places I have visited in India, Kerala and its people and art have stolen my heart. Your work is wonderful and has so many dimensions. I hope to keep coming back. 🙂
Chi sun says
Question on your technique…..I have never painted before so, did u do the stippling technique all over the canvas or just the background area that is sans drawing? Can we paint the background all over in a dark tone …then use lighter shades on the other objects we paint?
I did the stippling only on the background area.The traditional way of doing the Kerala mural is an orange background and the characters or subjects in the lighter shades, with black used for the hair, eyes, and outlines.
superb work….and kudos to ur heart to share things so clearly….
Thank you Jaya.
Superb work, Vidya! Loved it…I am a big zero in painting but can sketch a bit….getting the confidence to try out….Could u please tell me which r the basic colours we have to get and also what r the brush sizes we should have….
Aww Swapna. Thank you. Unfortunately this was so long ago that I hardly remember what I used. Brushes, I used whatever I had on hand, just got a thicker stronger brush for the stippling. My mom does these painting professional now. I’ll ask her for the basic paint colors and let you know.
Hi Vidhya,i too tried the same painting,but the orange colour didnt turned out well :(..mite be becz of colour mixing.How to get that perfect orange colour? One more thing how come your painting is looking glossy.Is it becz of acrylic sealer?.
Maybe you could try painting the background with a lighter orange and do the stippling with a darker color? Yes, it is glossy because of the sealer. The sealer actually makes the colors more vivid. Hope this helps. Feel free to ask if you need any help.
Hi Vidya…finally got all the necessary articles for the painting! Excuse me for using the same painting…….Now all I need is ur blessing “Guruji”……. 🙂
Vidya Sukumaran says
Wow! Good luck Swapna! Do let me know how it goes.
Absolutely loved your painting. What shade of orange and green color did use? I am planning to try this painting. Please let me know. Thank you.
Sorry Chitra. This was pre-blog days. So I never saved the bottles or the info. 🙁 Good luck with your painting.
Kerala Art Gallery says
wow amazing painting
Hi Vidya.. How can i share ‘the try’ which i have done on this picture to you… 🙂
Please send it to me at [email protected]
The email is getting bounce back. 🙁 any alternate id…??
Please send me a message on the Whats Ur Home Story Facebook page.
Hi… Hope my attempt is not bad…
Saw the painting. Great job Aneesh! Wish the original artist could see how well the painting has been received!
Thanks for such an appreciation… All the best and wish you all the luck…
Very Inspiring. I am planning on painting various diety images on a 5×7 canvas panel for my pooja room. Can u please share the exact names of the colours you have used? For instance, I know burnt sienna and yellow ochre will give an antique skin colour. Please help.
Fantastic work !Very Inspiring. I am planning on painting various diety images on a 5×7 canvas panel for my pooja room. Can u please share the exact names of the colours you have used? For instance, I know burnt sienna and yellow ochre will give an antique skin colour. Please help.
INCHARA RAMAKRISHNA says
i wanted to know if this painting can be done on regular paper and not on canvas.also can i trace the drawing instead of drawing it???
Yes to both. It can be done on paper and you can use water color. Go for it!
You absolutely loved your painting. What kind of shade of orange and green did you use? I’m planning to try this painting. Please let me know. Thank you.
Meena kurup says
Just came across your blog…beautiful painting!!! Could you please let me know the color and brand of the paints you bought from Micheals…
Thank you Meena. I believe it was level 1 acrylic paints. Sorry don’t remember the exact colors.
jose Samuel says