Colorado Springs woman paints, teaches Buddhist art | Arts & Entertainment

Bodhisattvas dance across the walls in Chelsea Beach’s basement Buddhist art cave.

It’s here the longtime artist paints divine images for herself and clients, and teaches others how to paint in the paubha (poe-bah) genre, the traditional painting of Nepal, a Sanskrit word that translates to the divine in flat form.

On her drawing board rests her latest commission — an intricate, half-painted work of Vajrapani, a bodhisattva, or enlightened being, who decided to be reborn to help others achieve enlightenment, and Siddhartha, the historical Buddha. The piece was commissioned by Beach’s friend and student whose husband died. After his death, a monk told the widow which divine beings to paint for her husband’s next lifetime.

“This is a blessing for purifying karma,” said Beach about the painting. She opened Himalayan Art School in 2018 after returning from Nepal in 2017, where she studied paubha for three years under master artist Lok Chitraker. Find her online at himalayanartschool.com.


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Paubha is to be used as a meditation map, with each component unlocking a part of your neural pathways. The images are used as visual aids for visualization meditations in the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition, and can provide insights into our conscious experience. Each painting has a different objective and employs different images. For example, the female deity Tara is used for compassion, Vajrapani for action, Manjusri for wisdom.

“Let’s say someone has a lot of post-traumatic stress disorder,” Beach said. “The monk would tell that person to practice visualizing Green Tara because she is the mother of all Buddhas. You’re unlocking that universal, motherly realm so your neural pathway for compassion is opened up. It’s about channeling the energy from whatever divine being.”

Rick Meinig, an orthopedic surgeon in Colorado Springs who began studying paubha with Beach in 2018, fittingly first painted a medicine Buddha representing healing. He’s working now on a Vajrapani painting.

“It’s nice in the sense that you have known subject material and style, and then you bring your own interests and tastes and abilities,” Meinig said. “It’s a form of relaxing meditation. It’s very much like Bob Ross, that kind of feeling. I’m not an artist, but it’s always new and experimental.”

The traditional religious painting, created by the Newar, the indigenous people of Nepal, can be read like a text, if somebody is familiar with its symbols, images and philosophy. There are several ways the art can be used. For some, paubha is purely something they collect and hang on the walls. Others use it as a ritual object, which is preceded by an eye-opening ceremony performed by monks. Mantras (repeated words or sounds used in meditation) are drawn on the back of the painting, and the eyes of the figures in the painting are consecrated.