Normally it takes about two decades for an apprentice to master the art of miniature painting. However, Professor Bashir Ahmed, who has served as principal and former head of the Fine Arts Department at the National College of the Arts (NCA) in Lahore, introduced a curriculum for the medium at the art institute. He is known as the founder of the bachelor’s degree programme in miniature painting, which he initiated back in 1982.
“Apprenticeship was never practiced in the academic system and training is a lengthy process so I squeezed that into a two-and-a-half-year academic programme,” said Ahmed, who is currently conducting an eight-day workshop on miniature painting at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts.
“The objective of the workshop is to introduce miniature painting to upcoming students,” said Ahmed, who is famed for reviving the art for over three decades. He is currently working on a book on graphite drawings and has already published another book on sculptures, restoration called “Remains of Ruins.”
Ahmed has taught hundreds of students at NCA, including the internationally acclaimed miniature artists such as Shazia Sikandar and Imran Qureshi. “I knew nothing about miniature art or line drawing and I got a really good chance to learn the techniques here,” said Manal Amjad, a freshman at Hunerkada.
Amira Mehmood, who studied miniature as an elective course in Ahmed’s class, is revisiting the art form after decades. “I’m here to brush up my skills because I lost touch over time,” she said.
Mehmood is a current faculty member who teaches history at NCA.
Dabbling in siyaah qalam, using squirrel brush and ink, she was painting a sword and armour wielding man, on a tea wash stained paper.
The workshop comprises a mix of young students from art schools such as NCA, Hunerkada and Fatima Jinnah Women’s University.
The students at the workshop sit on the floor, surrounded by art supplies, intermittently consulting Ahmed for feedback and advice. Noted artist and founder of Hunerkada, Jamal Shah, who was present at the workshop, dubbed Ahmed as a living legend who is single-handedly responsible for reviving miniature art in the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2014.