Two artistic genres have united at Full of Beans café for an exhibition called ‘Art with a Twist’ that highlights the creative eye of photographer Amanda Nicholson and batik specialists Pat Nicholson and Shirley Scott. The Journal sat down with the artists to find out more about their creative processes.
Pat Nicholson and Shirley Scott have been creating intricate batik artwork for more than a decade, along with their friend Bob McKendrick, and have exhibited their work at a variety of art exhibitions across the island. However, the exhibit at Full of Beans cafe is the first the duo has undertaken alongside Pat’s daughter-in-law, photographer Amanda Nicholson. The exhibit follows a shared theme of the love of nature and the outdoors, with each artist offering her own unique interpretation.
A labor of love
Batik, the Javanese word for “wax writing” is a time-consuming process whereby layers of material are covered in wax and then dyed to form intricate designs.
Shirley says she was introduced to batik in the 1990s, during a workshop held by a woman from Guyana.
“She showed us the direct application method, which means dyeing/painting the dyes on cotton or silk. Later, Bob introduced me to the traditional method of tub dyeing,” she explains.
Shirley says she chose the art of batik in particular because of the challenges and the planning involved.
“Each step has to be carefully planned, and sometimes the end result is quite a surprise,” she sayss.
Of the pieces she has on display, the “Orchid,” “Bromeliad” and “Lucky Bamboo” are plants Shirley has on her porch.
“They are an inspiration as they grow so well,” she explains. “The cricket picture [‘The Lovely Game’] was inspired by a postcard a well-meaning friend gave me,” she says.
Pat’s interest in batik came about early in the 2000s but really fired up after her favorite artistic activity, pottery, was cut short once the kiln she had been using was lost during Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
“Our friend Bob McKendrick showed Shirley and I the basics of batik, and I really liked it. It’s a great way to express yourself, but you need a lot of patience as it is a lengthy process,” Pat says. “I think Bob, Shirley and I all took to batik straight away as we are all from similar backgrounds – the financial industry – where you need to be very precise and patient!”
The end result is always a “happy surprise” Pat says, because the final “crackle” that the process produces cannot be controlled.
“Sometimes I think there’s not enough crackle; sometimes it’s too much. But whenever I’m not satisfied, it seems that others like it, so it’s difficult to judge your own work,” she says.
Pat’s subject matter usually revolves around the natural world, including the beach and under the sea, as well as an abundance of flowers and plants. Her undersea images are generally based on fantasy, she says, and therefore her studies of fish are usually not based upon real species.
“Cathy Church [Cayman’s well-known underwater photographer] always laughs when she sees my work!” she says.
“Three French Angels” is a case in point: a colorful depiction of Pat’s interpretation of Cayman’s underwater life. “On the Beach” highlights one of Pat’s favorite pastimes from days gone by – a carefree moment in the sunshine, while “Purple Haze” is a nod to Pat’s love of the natural world.
“I’ve always been drawn to tulips as they are my favorite flower, and so I have submitted some in this exhibition,” she says. “Coming originally from Canada, I’ve always enjoyed the fact that tulips are the first flowers of the new season. But ‘Purple Haze’ is taking me in a new direction, painting bougainvillea, which I’ve enjoyed. I think I will do more,” she says.
Pat says that exhibiting alongside her daughter-in-law Amanda has been fun.
“The collaboration has worked really well,” she says. “Like Amanda, I am drawn to nature, which is evident in both our work.”
Amanda’s photography hobby led to her submitting some black-and-white images for an exhibit at the Frary Gallery in Sarasota, Florida, a few years ago.
“The photos were taken at the Venice Fishing Pier in Florida and it was a stormy day. I think by some fluke they were really good and one was picked up and run by National Geographic,” she says modestly.
After moving to Cayman 18 months ago, the Iowa native says she turned to color photography to do justice to the incredibly vivid colors of Cayman’s outdoors, especially the greens and blues.
Concentrating on the outdoors as a starting point, Amanda says she loves to capture the feeling of the scene, without people in the photo.
“I like the idea of some place restful and serene in a pristine setting, so I deliberately shoot photos without people, garbage or any other distractions,” she says.
Amanda identifies with the subject matter she has found in her new home.
“Coming from Iowa, with its vast open spaces, I think I’m drawn to the ocean here because it gives me the same sense of open space when I look out to sea.
“It’s all about nature.”
The exhibit is at Full of Beans through early March.