Khadim Ali discusses miniature-painting technique

3:11 | Published on November 18, 2013 | 249 Views

Artist Khadim Ali talks about some of the techniques employed in miniature painting, and shows off some of the materials that he uses in his work. These include special layered and glazed paper, and brushes made using squirrel-tail hair and “hair from the backs of kittens, because cats never fall on their backs, so the hair on their backs is very fine.” He also answers questions about his ethnic and religious background, and about the conflict that caused him to move to Australia. Listen to Part 3 and watch Part 4 of this Mind's Eye with Khadim Ali series.

For more information, visit the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative.

Download the Transcript (PDF)

This video features No Country artist Khadim Ali, and partially sighted or blind participants of the Mind’s Eye workshop (indicated by first name within the transcript).

Khadim Ali: Miniature painting has its own characteristics. It’s really two-dimensional. The colors and everything are very flat. And in terms of technique, it uses very courtly, bounded techniques. And we make our own brushes. We make brushes out of squirrel-tail hair, and out of hair from the backs of kittens, because cats never fall on their backs, so the hair on their backs is very fine. And we make our own pigments. We prepare our own paper.

This is the paper that I prepare for miniature painting. It is four layers of paper, glued with wheat glue. I boil wheat to make glue out of it, and I add a little copper sulfate, which is poisonous, to protect the paper from insects. That makes it more archival.

Andrew: Feels like cardboard.

Khadim Ali: Yeah, there are four layers of paper, and I glaze it with this seashell.

Karen: How do you glaze with a seashell?

Khadim Ali: I hold it from this part, and I rub it.

Karen: Really?

Khadim Ali: Yeah, it glazes the paper.

Karen: I can’t wait to try that!

Khadim Ali: Yes?

Spider: Are you visiting, or do you live here?

Khadim Ali: No, I’m visiting New York. This is my fourth day in New York, and my first trip to the States. Yeah.

Karen: Have you had a bagel yet?!

Khadim Ali: What is a bagel? This is my brush. This is made out of kitten hair. And this part is the pigeon-feather part—the head of a pigeon feather. And this part is bamboo.

Karen: Now, why use the pigeon . . .

Khadim Ali: Feather?

Karen: Feather, yeah.

Khadim Ali: Because it has a little hole at the top. I put a little kitten hair through that hole, so it holds the hair very firmly.

Karen: And what’s this?

Khadim Ali: That’s just thread. Yeah. Because there was a war going on in Afghanistan, people didn’t have the culture of, you know, having pets. There were lots of cats, but it is really difficult to catch them! I asked some local kids to catch me a kitten and the other day they came back with rashes on their hands and had caught a cat in a bag! I said, “No, release it, release it!” That poor cat!

Yeah. The story we are reading today is a story where the hero of the book, the hero of Shahnameh, Rustam, kills his son accidentally. That is the saddest part of the story, where he kills his son Sohrab.