Before arriving in Kuala Lumpur I had seen many gorgeous Batik Painting examples but had no understanding of what it was, or the process involved. So as a fun afternoon activity we decided to take a class, and learn first-hand the art that is Batik Painting!
What is Batik Painting?
Batik Painting is a process of colouring fabric and using hot wax to block sections of the fabric, preventing colours from penetrating the cloth. Using hot wax, an image can be “drawn” onto the fabric using a small device called a canting, allowing each individual section to later be painted in a myriad of colours.
Learning Batik Painting
There are many places around Kuala Lumpur where one can learn Batik Painting, however, many are long, detailed and relatively expensive classes, not exactly what I was looking for as a first-timer.
Luckily I discovered a cute little store at the Central Market – where canvases lay awaiting their colour… and at only 20MYR ($USD4.90/$AUD6.60) for a 30cmx30cm canvas, a space with all of the tools you need, and as much time as you could want, it is the perfect way to learn batik painting and enjoy an afternoon together.
When you begin painting a canvas, the instructor presents you with a bunch of paint brushes (choose a small one), a tray of 6 different coloured paints, some tissue or toilet paper (for testing colours or drying your brush), and a plastic cup of water. The canvases have already been waxed, so the image is ready, you simply select your favourite.
The process is remarkably easy, and somewhat tricky at the same time! I visited with Cam, Mum, Brody and Sienna, and the first thing we all needed to do, was let go of the idea that we were painting! We felt like we were, but that is not the correct technique!
“Batik” comes from the Javanese word “tik” which means “to dot” – and that is exactly what you do. You soak a little colour into your brush, add a little water (to reduce the intensity of the colour) and then dot the fabric, holding the brush against the canvas so the colour can be absorbed. The colour is literally absorbed by the batik cotton and you see the beautiful colours soak into the fabric, spreading to fill the bordered area, stopping only when it reaches a wax edge. Once you have the desired colour, you can continue to dot the fabric with a little more colour for intensity, or nothing more than water, which helps the original colour “bleed’ into the full section, and lighten in colour towards the edge.
The difficulty most of us faced was that we tried to paint the canvas… which pushed a lot of dark colours throughout the areas. By eliminating a brush stroke, and simply dotting, a beautiful gradient of colour appeared, and ultimately a beautiful work of art.
At the end of the class, your instructor dries your painting, unmounts it from the canvas frame and seals it in a plastic bag. For a little extra, you can even have your artwork framed!
How long does Batik Painting take?
The first time we took a class, we sat for about an hour. The class is completely self-paced. The instructor is always on hand to assist, however after the initial instructions, the class is simply time for you to try different techniques and refine your skills.
We’ve since taken a second class and chosen much more intricate designs. On that occasion, we sat for closer to an hour and a half.
Where can you do a class?
We did our class at the Central Market in Kuala Lumpur, just a few minutes Uber from the city centre! When you arrive at the market, simply walk through the main section (or enjoy a little shopping on the way through), exit the main section on the far side and the Batik Painting store will be directly in front of you!
Did we love it?
Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the class… in fact, we’ve been back a second time, and writing this post makes me want to go again! I found the experience very relaxing and loved playing with the colours. Learning the techniques can result in a few minor issues, but overall, it’s a cheap activity, and a lovely opportunity to learn a new skill.
Would I recommend it? With or without kids, I would certainly recommend it, but if you do have kids travelling with you, I would highly recommend it. We had a lovely afternoon – the kids enjoyed every moment of it, and as a parent, I thought it was a great learning activity!
Batik Painting at home?
If you love your painting, as I did, the guys at the Central Market sell all the tools you need to be able to do Batik Painting at home, and it’s really affordable! You really don’t need too much – canvas, batik paints, a pencil, canting tool and a paint brush!
I’m in the process of sketching my first larger canvas – can’t wait to see how it comes out! I can see a lot of Batik Painting in my future!