The art of painting in Kerela traces back to ancient period. The state is famous for varied forms of paintings that have been prevalent here since ages. Its myriad forms like mural, hand painting, oil painting, Kalamezhuthu, Mylanchi, and Chedikkalam have earned the state a distinguished place as a center of art and craft.
Kalamezhuthu : It is a form of powder drawing that is practiced in the Temple premises and royal households. The temples of Bhagavathy hold a forty day long festival and this art of painting is practiced there. Men belonging to the communities like Nambiar, Kurup, Theeyadi Unnis etc. gather at the temple premises and frame a Kalam. First an outline is drawn and the images of deities are drawn. The painting is adorned with the metallic lamps that are placed on the corners of the image. The paintings are prepared from natural ingredients like paddy husk, colored turmeric, mylanchi etc. Vermillion is also used extensively. Paddy powder is used to form the outline of the drawing. Different rites and rituals are performed depending upon the community and the images of the deity.
The deities whose images are used in drawing paintings include Bhadrakali, Snake God, and Ayyapan Swami. A number of offerings are made to them and the religious ceremonies are carried out with chanting of hymns.
Oil Painting : Through a recent development in Kerela, the art of oil painting has gained prominence in the state. The exquisite paintings of Raja Ravi Verma are worth mentioning here. A majority of his work is based on the themes derived form epic stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Some of his oleographs depict the characters from Indian tales. The portrayals of Damyanti and Nal in oil are famous round the world. Some of the oil works of Ravi Verma have captured the realistic India; sari clad ladies with ornaments and expressive faces form a major proportion of his work.
Body Painting : The art of body painting has fond its essence in numerous dance forms including Kathakali. The extensive face painting that is involved in it requires high level of skill and perfection. This art has become the inherent part of Kerela's culture and is propagated from one generation to the next. To master the art of face painting, an appreciable amount of patience and practice is required. Chutty or rice makeup is applied on the artist's face and to portray different characters, different types of paintings are done. Pacca makeup is used to depict valorous characters like Rama, Krishna etc. the face of the artists painted in green. Kathi is used for representing a devilish look on the artist's face. A combination of green and red is used for this purpose. Minukku is applied in the faces of female characters and yellowish color is used in it.
Pulikali is a form of body painting. This art form involves painstaking efforts on parts of the painter. A tiger's face is drawn on the chest of the performer and with meticulous work; efforts are made to resemble the painting with the actual beast. Use of yellow, red and black color is prominent. Theyyam paintings are also drawn on faces of the performers. The special feature of this particular art form is that eyes are highlighted extensively; they are mostly blackened and are outlined thickly. Body is also painted and the themes are based on set patterns. Kattaram, Viradelam, and Prakkezhuthu are different forms of face painting involved in Theyyam. Employed in almost all dance forms, body and face paintings are used to depict different emotions and sensitivities depending upon the portrayal of the character.
Mural painting : Murals in Kerela found its origin in the culture and tradition of temples that depict scenes from Hindu mythology. The ceilings and walls of these temples were extensively painted with murals based on themes like religion, royalty, animals, nature etc. the frescoes of the 16th century boasts of some of the best murals of that time.
Painting in Kerela is a traditional art that is popular even today and has been the source of inspiration to many.