Drawing illustrations for seven pandals is no easy task; and that is why this artist had to work round the clock during this Vesak season.
Tissa Weerawardene was the artist behind the giant pandals that illuminated Grandpass junction, Pepiliyana, Gampaha, Panadura market town, Athurugiriya town and Ratmalana (near Maliban), also the JWT pandal in Nawam Mawatha.
He drew some 67 massive panels of various Buddhist jathaka tales, the only exception being the JWT pandal in Nawam Mawatha that depicted a theme of a different sort- gender-based violence.
Usually it is the client who comes up with the storyline for the pandal and narrations but there are times he too is called upon to do that. "With my experience, most of the stories in pandals are familiar and if not, I read the script and draw them accordingly," Tissa says.
What he does next is to draw a plan of the thorana and decide on how the scenes will unfold. The story is then divided into 12 or 14 panels. This done, he starts cutting the boards and panels according to the design before painting.
|The pandal at Grandpass junction and inset Tissa Weerawardene.
Pix by Sanka Vidanagama
Interestingly Tissa says there are times he had drawn the same story four or five times for different pandals but made each one different. "Famous stories like Kundalakeshi Jathakaya and Sambula Jathakaya, for example…I have drawn these plenty of times. But since each thorana has a different design, it is not the same," he says.
He uses mainly enamel paints mixed with dye.
The biggest challenge, as he sees it, is having to handle it on his own. "The lighting artist can seek the help of another, those who put up the structures can get others' assistance but when it comes to a drawing, an artist cannot seek somebody else's help to draw a picture," he says with a smile.
Tissa drew his first pandal at the age of 25.
He has been art director for about 10 films and does illustrations for story books and greeting cards.