Okavango Delta Aerial

Okavango Delta Aerial

Monday, 26 August 2013

More batiks

This Bank Holiday weekend I have concentrated on getting a few ideas done in batik. I had two cotton tote bags hanging around that I thought I could batik with elephants in some form or another. My thinking is that I could sell these ahead of the exhibition and in particular wanted them for my week as Artist in Residence at Nature In Art which is fast approaching (10th - 15th September). The funds from them will go into the 'exhibition fund pot', but I shall first deduct 20%, which will go to Elephants For Africa..... if I sell them.

I did two designs, on the same style bag (42cms x 35.5cms)... one of a wild bull that is named 'Hunter' (which is a 'threshold' image) who 'walked' a mahout and myself back to the mahout day camp in a calm but resolute manner! I will have to tell that tale on here at some point! 

And the other one is a pattern made up from a repeated image of an elephant, based on a bull named 'Ivor' (also wild). 

The third batik is another threshold image, this time of a greater kudu bull. A magnificent animal standing tall (unfortunately the photo is slightly tilted in a clockwise direction, so he doesn't look as tall and proud as the batik actually is - sorry I didn't notice that before) and looking very strong; he definitely means business!  This one is most likely to be done as a wall hanging to go in the exhibition. It is on a piece of cotton measuring 34" x 21" (865mm x 535mm), the kudu image itself is over 16" (405mm) high.

Here are a few images of the creation of the greater kudu batik.

The computer printout (my plan), from which I do the basic outline drawing that goes onto the cotton, is to the left.. I work on a piece of Java cotton, which is pinned taut to a frame. I mark in the outline of the kudu with a pencil (around HB grade) I use it lightly as this cotton is particularly fine and the technique I am using does not require the line to stay visible after the first layer of wax goes on. Pencil lines are easily lost though the process as water and colour are repeatedly applied to the cotton. I wax in the detail using my plan as a guide, adding detail or leaving bits out according to how I want the final image to look.

Here I have waxed in around the head. For this I use a slow flowing fine tjanting (canting), which is a type of batik tool for applying the molten wax to the surface. Every now and then I hold it up to the light to see if I have made good marks (that the wax has sealed the cotton) and that there is nothing that needs adding or altering (I can never take away - if I go wrong... I just have to adapt it as I go!) Luckily I managed to wax it all in without any mishaps.... such a relief.

Before I add any colour I then cover the rest of the cotton with wax to protect it from any unwanted colour spills ... I used a large household paintbrush for this. I had done several colour ideas on the computer before settling with the pink and mauve combination and then I had played with the distribution of colour, also on the computer. I had that printed out also as a guide for when it came to washing the colour over the surface of the free cotton, as again it is often the case with some colours that once on they cannot be undone or covered up... so it was important for me to get the feel of it right before the colour is applied. I love my computer as a tool for my work... it makes the prep work so much quicker and it is easy to visualise your ideas.

The time it took to wax it was about 5-6 hours, and I had to resort to protecting my thumb from the heat of the molten wax whilst holding the tjanting for that length of time almost non stop. Even though I had a folded piece of kitchen towel cradling the 'hot end' of the tjanting, the stray wax eventually seeps through and I was getting a very sore thumb, despite frequent changes of the kitchen towel. A combination of a plaster with masking tape then covering it, did the trick. The first for comfort the second as a barrier against molten wax.... a plaster alone, I learned, just won't do the job.    

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Batik finished - Impala

This isn't the best of photo's to show off this piece.... I just couldn't get the background a good white and get the colours to show up bright and as lovely as they are. But hopefully you will get the idea of it.

This certainly isn't a new idea, but having seen several different art works recently along the lines of silhouetted shapes with colour on black or white backgrounds, I felt inspired to try and create something for the exhibition. I liked the effect and thought it might work well in batik, so after some thought on subject and approach I chose this format. The impala shapes all come from numerous reference photo's that I took in Botswana that I then grouped together and arranged into a design that I liked. I toyed with colour backgrounds either a solid colour or wet into wet colours, dark colours, light colours, different blends of colour... until I settled with this. I do like the simplicity of this idea and may do more. Maybe I'll try some of the other combinations I played with.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Working on the batik

Started the batik as planned. As you can see from this small section, the subject is a group of impala. The process of waxing around the antelope took about four and a half hours and I managed not to go wrong or drop any blobs over the design. Yeehaa! A minor miracle! 

This short video shows me starting to wax around the last impala with the tjanting (or canting) a batik tool for drawing molten wax onto the surface, in this case cotton.

For going around the antelope outlines I used two slow flowing, small sized tjantings; this gave me more control to get detail and using them in turn meant I could work with one whilst the other reheated and to block in the larger spaces around the animals I used two slightly faster flowing tjantings. The tjantings cool quite quickly once they are out of the waxpot, so working with two of each size meant I could speed the process up as I wouldn't have to wait for the tjanting to get nice and hot again each time I put it back in the waxpot.

Tomorrow, the plan is to finish waxing the cotton to protect the background and then to wash colours over the impalas. 

New works

At the moment I seem to have so many ideas needing to materialise. Usually I work on one or two pieces at a time, but at the moment I have five fighting for my attention. They are either one of my numerous ideas in my head screaming to get out and put to paper or one that has already made it to the reality of a rough sketch on paper but now desperately wants to be worked on to a more definite plan.

There are two batik ideas, one of which is planned and ready to go, the other is just an idea stuck to my wardrobe door for evaluation (time to look at and ponder on whether it is aesthetically pleasing or interesting enough). Then there's a vervet monkey portrait oil study waiting to be finished, a  large triptych desperate to get beyond the idea in my head stage and onto paper and one other oil painting that is partly planned and eager to become something more. My dilemma is... which do I answer the call for attention of first! 

At the moment it looks like the planned batik will win out.... I have spent three days in the prep for this, two of which were working on the computer. I do like using my computer (Mac) for planning a piece sometimes... it is a great tool for speeding up the process and for visualising an idea quickly. As this batik has more of a design element to it I had some fun playing with compositional ideas and colour schemes. I think I have now come up with a plan... so all I have to do is draw it up properly, transfer it to a piece of cotton (or silk - I haven't yet decided which) and then wax it in without going wrong.... like getting blobs of melted wax where I don't want them. That's all!! Fingers crossed!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

New links

Today I've added some links, under the title 'Artworks', to view some of the exhibition artwork, these are on my Facebook Page, 'In the footsteps of Elephants', and you can view them without having to be a Facebook user.

The albums will be added to as I do work up until the exhibition. But not all the paintings will be posted here, I obviously want to keep some special for the show.  The idea is to give a preview to the exhibition; an indication of the type of work that will be exhibited.

Friday, 2 August 2013


Thank you for stopping by to look at this blog; it will focus on the preparation and build up to the exhibition showing images of work in progress and completed work, as well as news and information on the details of the exhibition.

Kate and I have recently viewed a possible venue, which we are both very excited about, but we are waiting for confirmation, so as yet we can say not much else. Hopefully it won't be too long before I can post some definite news on the venue and dates. Watch this space!

Talking of which.... As you can see it is new and I have more work to do to it yet - adding images and information. Please pop back to see any new posts or better still type in your email address in the box on the left 'Follow by Email', so that when I post something new you will be notified.

I hope you will enjoy this blog and the journey we take to the end of the project - The Exhibition.