Crafting with Jessica: Traditional Indian Rice Flour Painting
One of the things we love about The Blue Jackal, Shobha Viswanath’s retelling of a traditional Indian folktale, is the Warli-inspired illustrations by Dileep Joshi. The Warli tribe is an indigenous ethnic group located in western India. Their distinctive style of traditional artwork — done in basic geometric shapes with rice flour paint — dates back to between 2500 and 3000 BCE.
Help young readers discover this rich cultural and artistic tradition when they make their own Warli-inspired artwork.
- Glue stick
- Hot glue gun (or any other glue that works for wood and paper.)
- 16 Popsicle sticks
- String or ribbon (roughly four feet)
- Rice flour paint (recipe below)
- Hair dryer (optional)
- Blue paint
- White colored pencil
- Wooden skewer (or a paintbrush, toothpick, Q-tip, or similar utensil)
- Brown construction paper (with supporting cardboard) or card stock
Step 1: Paint the Popsicle sticks blue to represent the indigo dye that Juno the jackal jumps into. Make sure to paint both sides and the edges. Set the painted sticks aside to dry.
Step 2: Fold your brown piece of paper (which should measure about 8 ½ by 11 inches) in half long-wise. (If done correctly, you should end up with a fat rectangle, not a skinny one.) Fold the paper in half long-wise again. Fold the open edge of this smaller rectangle up one inch to make a square. Next, unfold the paper and lay it flat. You should be looking at four squares in the center of the paper and four skinny rectangles along the top and bottom edges.
Step 3 (optional): If you are using construction paper or any type of thinner paper, spread glue on one side of a piece of cardboard or paper board that is the same size as your paper and affix it to the paper you will be using.
Step 4: Now use your rice flower paint and your skewer (or other painting implement) to paint Warli style pictures* on each of the 4 squares. I chose to use a skewer because the Warli used a thin piece of bamboo — often chewed at the end to separate the fibers and make a brush — to make their art. For ideas on what to draw, check out Dileep Joshi’s illustrations in The Blue Jackal.
*There are three main shapes used in Warli paintings: triangles, squares, and circles. To make the bodies of humans and animals two triangles are joined at the tip. One triangle represents the chest of the human or animal and the other represents the pelvis. The circle represents the sun and is also used to create the heads of humans and animals. Squares symbolize land and are also used to depict houses. Warli paintings are normally painted inside a square that has decorated edges. Warli paintings are traditionally done on the walls of houses, and they depict scenes from the daily life of the painters.
Step 5: After you are done with your painting, you can set it aside to air dry or use a hair dryer to help dry the paint more quickly. (It takes a long time to dry on its own.) Be careful not to burn yourself or scorch your artwork if you decide to use the hair dryer!
Step 6: Once the paint is dry, use scissors to cut out each of the squares along the fold lines. Set all four squares aside.
Step 7: Use a white colored pencil to draw designs on one side of each of your sixteen Popsicle sticks. These sticks will be used to make a square frame for each rice paint painting.
Step 8: Using a hot glue gun (or other glue), attach one stick along each edge of the four paintings. (It’s fine if the Popsicle sticks overlap somewhat.) Set them aside until the glue sets.
Step 9: Once the Popsicle stick frames have cooled and/or dried, flip the four framed paintings over so that you are looking at the backs of them. Make sure the paintings are all oriented in the same direction. Starting with the painting you want at the bottom of your vertical row, place a dab of glue along one side of the painting, then press the string into it, making sure to let a little tail hang out below the bottom of the painting. Set the next painting above the first, leaving a small gap in between the pictures. Place a dab of hot glue on the frame and press the string into the glue. Repeat this process for the last two pictures.
Step 10: When you get to the fourth picture, bend the string over to form a small loop at the top to hang the art with. Then glue the string back down along the opposite side of all 4 pictures. Make sure to match up the distance between each picture correctly so the art will hang straight.
Recipe for Rice Flour Paint
- Rice flour
- White school glue
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Container with a lid to store the glue in
Step 1: In a bowl, mix ½ cup water and ½ cup rice flour together until smooth.
Step 2: Pour the rice/water mixture into a pan and heat until mixture starts to get lumpy. Remove your pan from the heat and stir the mixture until it is smooth. Heat the mixture again until it starts to get lumpy, then remove it from the heat and stir until smooth. At this point the mixture should have a glossy look. This process shouldn’t take more than five minutes.
Step 3: In your lidded container, mix together the rice flour mixture and glue at a ratio of three tablespoons of rice flour paste to one teaspoon of white school glue.
Step 4: Let the mixture rest for 20 to 30 minutes before use.
Note: Although traditional Warli tribe paintings use white paint exclusively, you can add a few drops of food coloring to make a rainbow of homemade non-toxic paint for other use.