Masters of their craft

Cayman’s leading trio of batik aficionados
led an exciting exhibition of their work just recently, titled Back to the Wax
Pot and held at Full of Beans café in Pasasdora Place. The Journal catches up
with all three to find out more.

Batik is a very particular craft that
requires the patient artist to perform a painstaking layering of dye and wax in
order to acquire the finished result. Bob McKendrick, Pat Nicholson and Shirley
Scott are three local artists who have gone far beyond simply perfecting the
practice and are creating some incredibly beautiful batik work, some of which
was on show at the recent Full of Beans exhibition.

Bob McKendrik is a true master of the art,
having become interested in batik in the Seventies.

“I am an accountant and I used to have to
travel to the Bahamas a lot on business. I would have a bit of spare time on my
hands after I had visited all the tourist spots, so I began experimenting with
batik, initially with acrylic paints and water,” he confirms.

Bob quickly became acquainted with the more
usual technique of applying dye to white material and then applying wax to the
areas which will remain that colour, followed by more dye and more wax
application. It’s a process which requires the artist to have an understanding
of the relationship of colours and how they mix, as well as the properties of
the wax once it’s applied to the material. It also requires a vision as to how
the overall piece will look once it’s complete.

Bob has a sensitive eye that can create
incredibly intricate pieces with depth and shade as well as light and colour.
‘Light and Shade’ is a clever piece that draws the viewer into the piece, with
delicate blues and purples. Once you view it for a while you realise that Bob
has outlined a lamp and shade in the centre of the piece.

“This piece actually began with me tie
dying the material, which means I knotted the original white cloth and dyed it
so that some of the cloth remained white. I then looked around at home for
inspiration and liked the shape of a lamp that I have, so I drew it onto the
material. I then layered the colour using a pink dye, waxing in the areas that
I wanted to remain blue,” he explains. “Finally I waxed everything except the
outline which I coloured black.”

A pleasing crackle of the ink runs through
his work, a telltale sign of batik work, where the dye has been deliberately
allowed to gently seep between the wax, giving the finished piece a delightful
textural quality.

‘Brief Encounter’ is Bob’s study of two
butterflies which landed on his arm during a past trip to the Butterfly Farm.
“They were originally white butterflies and I did actually create a batik piece
based on this; however I also thought it would be interesting to incorporate
colour as well, so I dyed the cloth before I began waxing and further dying,”
he says.

As always, Bob finished his piece with a
black outline which, he says, brings out the contrast in the colours.

Another current stalwart of the art
community is Pat Nicholson, although she has only been practicing the art if
batik for about six years.

“I don’t draw particularly well but I am
drawn to colour so I really enjoy batik,” she says.

Her ‘Big Bamboo’ piece is a great example
of the art of batik, employing greens, blues and yellows to great effect.

“I like to gain inspiration from the world
around me,” Pat says, “and I have already created a batik study of small shoots
of bamboo so I thought it would be fun to study some larger pieces.”

Pat’s ‘Orange Pots’ is a tribute to her
pottery days, of which she was an enthusiast years ago and is a vivid
celebration of colour, as is ‘Autumn in the Park’ which Pat confirms began as a
‘take your pencil for a walk’ exercise. ‘Fantasy Fish’ is just that, colourful,
magical fish created out of her imagination, while “Mr Sun’ is a whimsical
lighthearted piece which shows that Pat gains real enjoyment from the art of
batik.

Shirley Scott began learning the art of
batik with Bob back in the Eighties and she is another artist who says she
gains tremendous satisfaction from her work, also enjoying the art of mosaics,
ceramics and stained glass work.

“In particular, I love the discipline of
batik,” she states. “I enjoy planning every step along the way.”

‘Crayola’ is an exploration of solid colour
(like the Crayola crayons) using geometrical designs to lift the piece and add
intrigue and depth, while ‘Northerly’ takes her work into a completely
different direction.

“This piece is based on a friend’s house in
the UK. I took a photo of her house and it looked so peaceful that I really
wanted to try and reproduce it in batik,” she says.

Shirley confirms that it took a good deal
of effort to sketch out the piece, which is so detailed it looks like a
painting.

Elsewhere in the exhibition Shirley shows
pieces that are clearly influenced by her love of nature, with a study of
parrots and vegetation adding to the exciting mix of work, proving that once
you can master a technique, the subject matter is only limited by the artist’s
imagination.

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