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How To: Make a Batik-Style Painting

How To: Make a Batik-Style Painting

We set Cass Art Student Ambassador, Christina Marshall, the task of researching and exploring a new technique; ink and paper batik-style painting. Keep reading to learn more about the process and find out how she got on...

Inspiration comes from so many different places, and I'm always keen to learn new processes and explore new techniques. Much of my work touches upon my health condition, epilepsy, and seeks to represent my thoughts and feelings about my illness. I wanted to find out how the painted batik process could express these themes, and enhance my wider art practice.

Batik is widely known as a method of dyeing cloth, using wax as a resist to leave blank spaces and create patterns in the design. The technique is now taught and practiced worldwide, but has historically been associated primarily with eastern countries such as Indonesia, Singapore and India. While the process takes its roots in fabric and textile design, it can easily be transferred into a Fine Art medium, using paper, masking fluid and coloured inks. Here’s how:

WHAT YOU'LL NEED

 

Before jumping ahead with any new technique or process it’s always worthwhile taking some time to research and gather inspiration. Leaf through a few batik books and browse sites online for patterns and designs that catch your eye. Images with strong, separated shapes and blocks of colour work the best for this technique, and abstract repetitive patterns or simplified floral designs can be particularly striking.

Looking at source images can really help to spark inspiration, and can often encourage you to be bolder and more experimental in your work. Because this technique is fairly quick to execute, it's worthwhile selecting a few different designs to play around with.

Once you've decided on your design, lightly sketch the outline of the shapes in pencil onto your paper. Take your time and keep a rubber to hand to erase mistakes before applying the masking fluid. Try not to press too hard with your pencil, as this can leave indents in the paper's surface, which may affect the clean appearance of the finished piece.

When you're happy with your design you can begin to apply the masking fluid to your image. Target areas that show off the pattern to its fullest- remember, wherever the masking fluid is painted the area will remain a brilliant white in your finished piece. Try not to leave gaps in masking fluid lines, as this may cause the colour to bleed between sections when the ink is added. It's worth experimenting with different sized brushes at this stage to cover both larger areas and small detailed strokes.  

After the fluid has been applied put your piece to one side to dry. Drying times may vary between products, so follow the instructions on your masking fluid bottle for exact information. While your work sets you can start to select complementary ink colours for your piece.

Once the masking fluid had completely dried the real fun can begin!

Colour choices are completely up to you, and the only thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need cover the entire paper in ink, as blank spaces will interfere with the look of your design once the masking fluid is removed. For my own pieces I chose to limit the number of colours I used to prevent the shades from becoming muddy, and I allowed my inks to bleed into one another to create a swirling, expressive effect. Applying the inks can be great fun and allows for plenty of artistic freedom, as the design is already completed and safely concealed beneath the masking fluid. You can use a large brush to create a light wash over the entire piece, or you can fill each segment in one-by-one with different colours and shades.

If you want the colour to remain in solid blocks, dry your piece flat, or you can encourage drips and further bleeding by hanging upright to dry.   

Allow the inks to dry fully, and then use your finger nails to begin peeling away the lines of masking fluid. Don't rush during this stage and be careful as you pull the fluid away- rough, quick tugs may damage the surface of your paper. If you have trouble removing an area of the fluid try using a small sponge or rubber, to gently rub away any remaining layers.

This is probably the most satisfying step of the whole process- the slow act of peeling away masking fluid will leave bright white lines, and the full effect of your design will begin to emerge. 

I was really pleased with the outcome of my experiments, and embraced the freedom of colour and pattern that the Batik technique promotes. Talking about a personal illness can be hard, and sometimes I feel concerned that people won’t understand or know how to discuss it with me. The designs I created encapsulate my personal feelings towards my epileptic condition, whilst creating something visually exciting that will appeal to a viewer. This technique allowed me to open up and embrace expression, colour and emotion.

Feeling Inspired?

Shop for drawing inks and masking fluid online at Cass Art.

Find more of Christina's work here and here.