By Rachel

I remember a batik painting my parents had in our house growing up – I think it was a wedding scene or a procession of some kind – mostly in reds, maroons, browns and oranges. Batik is art that is created by dyeing cloth and using wax (the technique we learned) to help create designs. All I really knew about it was that the end result was a cloth painting. But the process was absolutely fascinating!

Side note: Our batik painting class was on a small street – if you are at the restaurant Nomads, make a left onto the small street. There was a batik painting class called Nirvana that was probably a little more structured, but way pricier, and wouldn’t let Samir and I work on the same thing. The class after Nirvana (Instructor: I. Nyoman Warta) was cheaper (350k for one batik that we shared) and I liked the guy teaching it. Also, the class we took said we could stay as long as we needed to finish our batik whereas Nirvana (and ARMA for that matter) had a time limit or an extra hourly charge.

Summary of our batik steps:

We started with a blank white cotton cloth already stretched/stapled onto a simple wood frame. The instructor asked what we wanted to paint. I absolutely love elephants and monkeys, so we said elephants and flowers. He sketched, with pencil, a rough drawing of the head of an elephant – which actually turned out looking like Ganesha.

Once we have a sketch, our first step is to outline everything with beeswax. The wax seeps through the cloth and will act as a barrier to the colors we will put on later so that everything we outline in the wax will stay white.

Using the fountain pen like tool to outline

Our outlined batik

Heating up a spin to burn off our mistakes

Samir burning off a few of the glops of wax that we accidentally dripped onto the cloth – we burned off the wax with the heated spoon from both sides of the cloth

Putting on our first layer of dye – yellow, blue and green – we kind of just haphazardly paint around with all the colors

Our first layer of colors – the yellow is yellow; the brownish will be green and the kind of purply looking color is blue

Brushing water over it to bring out the colors – this was the coolest part for me!

After we’ve brushed over it with water

After washing the whole canvas under tapwater, we patted it dry on both sides

Painting on beeswax with a little brush – again, using the wax to preserve the colors underneath – i.e., if we paint over portion that’s yellow, it will stay yellow once we put another color over it

Powdered dye

After we’ve painted on some details

After we layered some brown over the elephant part

The we coated the entire canvas with a thin layer of parafin wax. Then, we ran our fingers underneath the canvas to ‘crack’ the wax

Canvas layered with parafin wax after we’ve cracked it

Painting over with a bright red dye – the dye will seep into where we cracked it giving it a lined texture

We cracked it again with a deeper red. Then soaked it in hot water to melt all the parafin and beeswax away.

Our final product! So proud of us!

After class, we went to the market to look at some of the lovely art we had seen during our market tour. I was determined to buy something if we found something that we LOVED since we were closer to the end of our trip and carrying a painting around (or possibly shipping it) wouldn’t be as burdensome. We looked through several shops, but after awhile, we kept on seeing a lot of the same types of paintings. Tons of Buddhas in all different styles – we actually found one we both liked and we almost got it, but at the end of the day, Buddha just doesn’t speak to me – we had the same problem in Thailand – found an excellent painting of Buddha that was beautiful – but couldn’t do it. Samir got tired of looking at stuff and finally headed back to our homestay while I kept looking. I looked at a couple Ganeshas, but again, Ganesha doesn’t speak to me either. I thought it was interesting that there were so many Buddha paintings considering Bali is like 90% Hindu – but I guess people paint for what tourists want. There were a lot of nice abstracts but I noticed the more and more I looked at stuff, the less anything stood out. There were a couple of really striking portraits that depicted Balinese life/people, but nothing that I thought I could appreciate day in and day out. Finally, I left the market area and headed back to our homestay. But, as Samir mentioned before, art shops and galleries are everywhere. I stopped at one of the galleries on the way back because something in the artists’ style caught my eye (though I didn’t love that particular piece). Really liked one of his abstracts and talked about it with him for a few minutes – but I got the sense that he was just making up stuff and didn’t really put as much thought into it (i.e., I was reading more into it then he put into it). Dejected, I walked away and wandered into a housing compound that had paintings displayed in all different areas. And finally, something truly caught my eye. It’s a very simple painting and the topic is prob a bit cliché to some (a couple watching the sunset) but I looked at it and thought ‘It’s us!’ – watching so many sunsets – on the beach, in the desert, in the mountains…and I liked the symmetry (funny how I like that in some artwork but not in photographs), the bold primary colors, the right amount of texture, clean lines and semi-abstract looking people. I even love that the artist didn’t try make the sky look all fancy and put too many colors in the sky like a normal sunset would have or try to define the landscape  – it brings focus to the sun and the couple. And the outfits of the people give it an Asian feel to it without being over the top. So, finally, I found something that spoke to me – something that speaks to the many lovely memories we’ve had so far on our honeymoon in Asia and will hopefully continue to have!

Our new painting with its painter, Tewar

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