A Refuge Tree - common in Tibetan Buddhism - depicts all those figures from the Buddhist tradition from which the Order and Movement derive their primary Dharmic inspiration.
He says -
“The painting of the Refuge Tree is progressing well - although there is still quite a long way to go before it is finished. The canvas measures 8ft high by just under 6ft wide - a size that seemed right if all the figures in the composition were to be clearly visible and not too cramped. As can be seen from the areas of pink, there is a lot of what is called 'underpainting'. This means that the various parts of the image are painted over coloured 'grounds' so that the final colours are, to some extent, harmonized by what is underneath.
“The central image of Sakyamuni is derived from the 'historical Buddha' image that was recently painted for the Mexico City Buddhist Centre. The main thing about it is that it shows how the Buddha might have actually looked, rather than how he appears in the conventional, archetypal form with all the 'marks' and 'signs' which, ultimately, derive from pre-Buddhist, Vedic symbolism.
“Sangharakshita has emphasized the historicity of Buddha Sakyamuni - and this image, with its portrayal of ragged garments, and a month old growth of hair on head and face (the monks traditionally only shaved once a month) attempts to capture this. There is a precedent for this kind of image of the Buddha in Chinese Buddhist art.
“In some ways a photograph of an unfinished painting can be quite misleading as what is seen 'in progress' often bears no relation to how the finished piece will look. But at least this photograph shows that something is actually happening!”
The project has been funded by donations - these are still being accepted, so if you’d like to contribute please visit www.justgiving.com/refugetree.