Batik was the original art form used to decorating textile by coating with melted wax the areas not to be dyed, and building up colors by dying the lightest colors first, waxing them after the fabric has dried, and continuing to wax and dye and rinse, working from light to dark colors until the pattern or image is complete. As each layer of dye is applied it is interacting with the existing color of the unwaxed cloth. A complex image may have 15 or more steps of wax, dye and rinse. In modern times artists have begun to use the batik technique to create fine art pieces. The intensity of color possible with dyes on fabric, and the fluidness in drawing with melted wax, creates a unique style; and sets batik pieces apart from painting.

A batik in process

The first step in a batik is drawing out the image on a sheet of newsprint to scale. In this case I only suggested the basic composition, leaving a lot of the details to be worked out as I go. I painted with hot wax the clouds in the sky so they will remain white when I apply the first dye.

Half the cloth is dipped in a tub of blue dye solution.

The blue sky has been waxed and the entire cloth was soaked in a yellow dye bath. After waxing what will remain yellow in the final image, I painted a stripe of pale brown dye on the cloth with a brush to wax in some tall grasses in the background, as well as loosly brushing a darker gold on the cloth to give the goldenrod in the foreground a little more depth.

The darker gold was covered with wax, and the entire cloth was again soaked in a medium blue dye to create the lightest greens. Once the cloth dried, The light green highlights were waxed. Here the waxed areas appear as a darker green.

I repeated this step several times with successively darker greens, creating more details when each darker green was waxed in places. At this point most of the cloth has been coated with wax.

The final dye bath, a dark brown, seeps into all the unwaxed areas of the cloth, tying all the colors together and completes the piece.