Chhimi Dema 

The clay face even has sunspots and wrinkles.

Tshedar, 31, from Trongsa, is known for hyper-realistic sculptures of religious figures. 

No journey is ordinary for any artist. Tshedar did not go to any courses to learn the basics of sculpturing and painting. He never went to school and did not undergo any training.

But he has an eye for detail. His body of work stands testimony to this fact. 

What he learned about painting and wood carving came from observing his friends. Jobs were hard to come by. Helping them from time to time, he picked up essential skills.  

It has been only one and a half years since Tshedar began sculpting statues

“I had nowhere to live. If I found a job, then there was no place to sleep,” he says. Today, sitting in the comfort of his apartment in Olakha, Thimphu, he can focus 100 percent on his projects. 

Before taking up sculpture full-time, Tshedar worked in restaurants and as a crew member on film sets. He used to paint houses and mani dungkhors. 

He recalls that there were incidents when people paid him Nu 30,000 after painting for a year. 

“I did not fight for more money. I was satisfied knowing that I gave my best,” he says.   

It has been one and a half years since Tshedar began sculpting statues. 

Starting with the sculpture of Je Khenpo Tenzin Doendrup, Tshedar sculpted Je Khenpo Geshey Geduen Rinchhen, Je Khenpo Nyizer Trulku, Lama Dabap, and Lama Duba, among others. 

Recently he made a statue of Kyabje Jadrel Sangye Dorje Rinpoche for Kathok Yoesel Samtenling Monastery in Baylangdra, Wangdue. 

“Tshedar has an aptitude for painting and he works hard,” says Tshedar’s friend and Thimphu-based traditional painter Tobgay, 49. 

“I was asked to paint on a sculpture of His Holiness the 68th Je Khenpo, Tenzin Doendrup, which I asked Tshedar to work on,” Tobgay says. “The statue did not resemble the late Je Khenpo, so Tshedar said he could try to make one.” 

This was during the first nationwide lockdown in August last year. 

Tshedar’s version of the sculpture was impressive and he was asked to make the whole body, Tobgay says. 

 “I feel blessed to have the capacity to mould a lifelike figure from clay,” says Tshedar, who dreams of going abroad to perfect his skills.

Today, he employs a man to help him with his work and teaches sculpting and painting to a recent high school graduate. 

“The focus on quality from the beginning got me here today. If you give your best, you are always rewarded,” Tshedar says.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk