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Miniature is More Than a Technique - I Talked with Aisha Khalid

Topping off the Fortress structure during the final days of the Summer Academy, there is a quiet classroom of mostly women sitting on floor cushions, painting on their knees. This is the miniature painting class of Aisha Khalid, a renowned artist from Pakistan. Squatted, concentrated paintresses, dotted along the walls of the long room all seemed much too involved with their work, which reminded me of old times, 1001 night, or Indian traditional imagery. Their equipment small and their hands steady, they kept weaving marks of the present into those ancient pictures.


Aisha Khalid explains the technique of gilding "It's very special."

Greeted by Aisha’s co-teacher, Heraa Khan, I inquired about the differences between miniature and regular painting technique.

We use opaque colors,” Heraa said, continuing, “Students prepare their own surface. It’s called a wasli, meaning - to join. They take some sheets of watercolor paper and create their own glue with flour, and then join the surfaces together. It gives us this hard cardboard kind of a surface. It’s a very strong and resilient surface, you can do anything to it, you can wash the painting under water and the surface will remain intact. That’s the basic difference with painting, you make your own material,” concluded Heraa.

Aisha came into the room, so I approached her with a few questions about the class. After learning that this is her first time in Salzburg, but not the first time teaching, I wondered how does she compare teaching her experiences.

This is amazing because the course I’m teaching here has what we learn in almost three years! I’m happy because the students have a background in art, they know how to draw and they have a sensibility of art. They are very much into this learning, so I’m amazed that they have covered almost everything.

Still, no student has a background in traditional miniature, so I wondered how she structured such a demanding course.

When [the students] came, they were quite updated about the miniature painting. They have seen it on the internet and were familiar with miniature painting. I made the structure then since there is a [certain] process of learning. I cannot miss any assignment out of that. I have shortened the time of the assignments, but they are going through the same process students go through in two or three years in National College of Arts [in Lahore].

After asking if the students will be able to do a miniature after, independently, I got the answer that miniature is more than a technique.

There’s a whole tradition - how to sit down, how to behave with the paint, understanding of color senses, and the whole environment is not a usual studio environment. In Pakistan, miniature painting is not only a traditional technique, it’s contemporary, it’s on the mainstream art field, artists who do it are shown internationally in the mainstream art, they are accepted. Because it is revived, it’s now evolved with the vocabulary of the new time. So, I think in the same way the students are taking it. They have the previous experience of art and they can collaborate with miniature and can create something very interesting in the future.

Approaching the end of the course, Aisha is “more than satisfied” since her dedicated class has done “more than [her] expectations.” At the time of our conversation, they were starting their fourth assignment, an experimental collage, which will be on show at the final Open Day.


Tomorrow’s the last day. I am wondering what Paulina Olowska’s students have made, having seen a lot of color in their classroom in the previous weeks.

Before we part, stay with me.


Miniature painting working area
Painting barefoot
Seashells are a traditional palette in miniature painting
Color, seashells, drawings and floor
Gilded waist. When it dries, the artist will brush the excess gold off
Minute work in miniature
24/08/17 12:38 Summer Academy 2017

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