Attendees of the Greenpoint-based Himapan lotus leaf painting class depart with two things: a wall-ready piece of art and an almost alarming sense of zen. I don’t normally associate prolonged repetition with relaxation, and yet there it was—two and half hours of lightly painting, sponging and dabbing at leaf skin felt more therapeutic than therapy itself.
Lotus leaves symbolize purity of heart and mind. When stretched over a canvas to dry, they also create a unique texture for painting. It’s like paint by number, except beautifully serene and understated.
Classes are led by Tristan de Terves, a warm and patient Frenchman who met the founders of Himapan while traveling through Bangkok. He brought the craft to New York City and practices it from a back room at the The Brooklyn Art Library, where each workstation is outfitted with everything you need, from canvas and paint to brushes and sponges.
The canvases come direct from Thailand. Each requires about 4 weeks of stretching and drying, such that all that remains of the lotus is a paper-thin layer. Each finished canvas is unique and may feature several small leaves or a few larger ones. Mine was the latter, though Tristan will let you switch if you’re not “feeling” yours.
After a few minutes of introduction and gentle surface priming, we got to work. I opted for shades of white. In true American style, I was overzealous with my paint application, globbing on far too much at first. A little goes a long way, Tristan explained, and layers are best built up gently.
We spent the next few hours in a trance-like state, adding layer upon layer, mostly by sponge. My fellow classmates went more colorful routes than I, blending vibrant greens, blues and golds. Tristan peppered in helpful hints when needed, like how to use metallics or highlight veins. Otherwise, we barely spoke.
Time was up before I knew it. I rushed to put on the finishing touches. And yet, at no point did it ever really look “unfinished.” The lotus leaves gave it a beautiful shape, texture and structure from the very get-go. It’s now hanging on my wall (which is more than I can say about pieces generated from most art classes).
Interested in checking it out for yourself? Here’s what you need to know:
Location: 28 Frost Street, Greenpoint (The Brooklyn Art Library).
Dates: Tuesdays from 6:30-9:30pm or Saturdays from 3:00-5:30pm.
Cost: Normally $135 per person, but Greenpointers pay just $95 (30% off) with discount code PAINT.
Registration: Book directly on the website. All materials are provided.