The tradittonal artist of Siam had little connection with the credo of the modern artist. He did not try to work in an original, individual style. He did not aim at expressing his own personality or his particular philosophy; in fact, he rarely signed his name to the work. Even as an individual he may have been one part of a painting team, perhaps a specialist in painting architecture or figures. The murals seem to have been planned or directed by one person, and the wat records occasionally give a name, but a close inspection of the various scenes will reveal slight differences of line and technique like the differences in handwriting of individuals even if they are copying the same model.
We do know that more than one artist might work on a manuscript. A Triphoum, in the Berlin State Museum done by the order of king Taksin in 1776 records the names of four artists and four scribes, and with only a few exceptions, all of the figures in the numerous illustrations seem to have been done by the same hand, the buildings by another, etc.
But whether the artist worked alone or with other, his main intention was to communicate. In the basic sense of the word he made visible an important message by means of pictorial examples. This was his chief role whether he worked on mural, the cloth banner which are hung in the wat on a certain occasion, or on the samut khoi, the paper manuscript.
The illustrator of a manuscript has one advantage over a mural artist in that a text will accompany the picture and the book will be used by a literate person. On the other hand, he has much less space than a mural artist and each small picture must score an important point.
The basic technique and elements of his art are the same as for the mural artist with the exception that he paints on sized paper made from tree bark instead of on a sized plaster wall.