In Search of Stupas

posted in: All, Art Lessons, Thailand | 0

stu·pa (noun):  a monumental pile of earth or other material, in memory of Buddha or a Buddhist saint, and commemorating some event or marking a sacred spot.  In Thailand the stupas (also called chedis) have taken the form of a tall conical-shaped tower.  They are usually found in the wats (temple areas).


The alarm goes off and I am more than happy to wake up.  Here in Thailand you have to get up early if you want to beat the heat and besides, I’m on a mission.  I assembled everything I might need the night before:  water, hat, sunglasses, camera, writing tablet, folding stool, and most importantly, art supplies.  I am off in search of stupas!

I am an artist living in Chiang Mai.  This city is nothing less than a virtual feast of interesting subject matter!  From the markets to the monks, the wats to the waterfalls, there is not a single spot to sit where you can’t find something interesting to draw and most days I am down the sois and at the temples doing just that.

I sketch everything in sight: food vendors, expats, architecture, lazy dogs, and bodhi trees but lately my favorite subject is the stupa.   I am a little obsessed.  These graceful structures appear around every corner in the old city, sitting like sentinels behind the main temples, solid base on the earth rising upward pointing to heaven.   No two alike, there are golden stupas, white stupas, and ancient stupas with their red brick exposed sprouting leafy green plants out the cracks.   Some have Buddha images set into deep alcoves.  Often they are wrapped in a vivid saffron colored cloth contrasting with the brilliant blue sky which serves as their backdrop.  Impossible proportions, I have yet to capture one in it’s entirety on a single sheet of paper.

So I settle for just a piece.  On one recent drawing expedition, I couldn’t find the entrance to one of my favorite wats, but kept seeing it’s massive stupa above and between other buildings as I drove around the block on my scooter.  A stupa reveals itself amidst the modern chaos around it.  I can work with that.

Art lessons:  see Location Drawing

To see the entire collection of stupas thus far, go to




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