painting Shiva with palette knife

Painting Shiva with a palette knife

Join me at the studio and watch me paint a portrait of the Indian god Shiva based on the photo of my yoga teacher. In this video, I want to show you how I painted Shiva using a palette knife. 


In Indian mythology, Shiva is the creator and destroyer of the world.  He also created Yoga. They call him Adi Yogi, the first yogi. This is why Shiva is honored by yoga teachers around the world, including my teacher. Since I’ve met her in 2012 in Moscow, yoga practice has become a huge part of my life. Living now in San Diego, California, I continue practicing with her online. 

She always has a small statue of dancing Shiva in the class to create an atmosphere and probably make us feel guilty if we are not trying hard enough. 

So she became my inspiration for this painting and I decided to give my Shiva her face. 

Step 1 : sketch

First, I quickly sketched her face in the center of the composition. I’m using Strathmore mixed media paper, 184 lb black and General’s charcoal white pencil. 

Step 2: color palette

I chose to work with a limited color palette. Here is the list of paints I’m using. As you can see, some of them are just cheap not professional paint you can buy online or at your local craft store. I usually buy big bottles of them for the kids’ classes.

Shiva is often portrayed with blue skin, so turquoise and navy blue will be my main colors. 

Step 3: painting

I started randomly apply paint on the paper first. Then I gradually move toward the detailed work. I want this painting to be somewhat abstract, so there’s no particular rime or reason in my process. Besides, this is the second time I paint with a palette knife EVER. I check in with my reference photo for lights and shades and apply lighter colors in the lighter spots and darker colors in the darker spots. 


In the end, I added a snake picking out from over Shiva’s shoulder. There are many explanations of the role of this snake in Indian mythology. It’s a very symbolic character with multiple meanings. For example, this always alert snake is a symbol of the highest level of concentration. We know that Shiva could meditate for months at a time that requires incredible concentration of the mind.

I also added Shiva’s mantra Om Namah Shivaya (ॐ नमः शिवाय) in Sanskrit at the bottom of the painting. This is a salutation to Lord Shiva and it represents a sacred sound OM and the other five syllables represent five elements of the universe:

  • Na sound represents earth
  • Ma sound represents water
  • Śi sound represents fire
  • sound represents Pranic air
  • Ya sound represents sky or ether

Shiva is the destroyer and creator of the world and a unifying force of the universe and its five elements. 


The original painting with the certificate of authenticity is available for purchase.

You can also order signed and numbered archive-quality prints HERE. The series is limited to 250 copies.

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Om Namah Shivaya original painting acrylic on paper

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