Looking Both Ways: Beth McCoy Evans’ Passage to Creativity
By Beth McCoy Evans
In a convergence of brilliant colour and compelling visual narrative, Beth McCoy Evans reveals a batik-making method known as batik pointillism. Rich in detail and elegant composition, Evan’s works immerse us in a world of familiar depictions capturing natural beauty and simple humanity. Each time she creates a piece of art, she does it through trial and error ~ Jeannie Cotter, October 2009
Of all the art mediums I’ve dabbled in over the years- oil and acrylic painting mostly- drawing has been the constant and batik my passion. I first tried this beautiful, intriguing medium of batik in 1990 when I was designing and selling hand-painted apparel in my shop in Cuchara, Colorado, in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. I began experimenting on clothing and table linens and was enthralled by the process and its results. A couple of years later, I saw some very realistic batik paintings in a gallery which moved me to take my work beyond simple decorative motifs. It was good to be able to fully utilize my drawing and painting experience and combine it with batik.
I find batik a lesson in patience, acceptance and the importance of process.
In my little studio nestled in among the pinion trees, I experimented intensively with wax and dyes. Living in rural Colorado, I did not have easy access to any batik classes or even anyone else doing batik. Fortunately, I learn best by trial and error (lots of error) so that every lesson is truly learned. I enjoy the challenge of bringing all of the facets of batik together, the drawing and planning, the waxing, the dyeing and the over-dyeing. Each is an art in itself. The element of surprise as the image begins to reveal itself with each successive dyeing still excites me. I find batik a lesson in patience, acceptance and the importance of process.
Always looking for new challenges, I began exploring batik pointillism in 2006. I’d long admired the painted works of the Neo-impressionists Seurat, Signac, and Cross. Division-ism is a general term to describe the separation of color and pointillism is the specific use of dots. The process involves “optical color mixing” rather than the physical mixing of the colors before applying them to the canvas. Pointillist paintings consist of thousands, if not millions of tiny dots (Seurat’s “Sunday in the Park” has 3,456,000 of them!) all mixed to a fuller range of tones in the eye of the beholder. I’m sure that the painters a century ago never got asked “is this done digitally?” Tiny dots of primary colors render the color on our computer and TV screens, and in any 4-color printing process, these can all be considered forms of pointillism. Or maybe in the 21st century the term”pixellism” might make more sense to people! I’ve adapted some of the scientific color theory used by these oil painters to my batik paintings and have been excited by the results and the luminous effects it creates. It is also a way to create subtle shading with batik without resorting to doing gradated dye painting. Instead of doing dots of oil paint I do dots of wax on the dyed cloth. For instance, an area of yellow and blue dots from a distance looks green. The further use of a few complimentary colored dots within that area intensifies the colors and light. It is a very slow process and takes much more time than other batiks that I do, but I find dotting quite meditative.
I feel as though I’ve only cracked the door on this technique…
I begin by drawing my design on paper and then tracing it onto white Pima cotton with a black Cretacolor pencil which will come off completely in the final dry clean, but not before. I then use a tjanting or a kistka to apply dots of a paraffin-beeswax mixture in the brighter areas of the image. The brightest areas get the most coverage, but are not fully filled in and the exceedingly darker areas get fewer and fewer dots, the dark areas getting none. In this first step, the bright and dark areas are already becoming delineated. I then apply ProMX dyes either over the entire piece or with a brush to certain areas. For example on the batik Jam & Oranges the first dye was very pale blue and I painted only the background, the cup,the jam, and the red and green jar lids, as this would influence their color later in the process. After the next waxing came a pale yellow dye on the lower part of the painting, the table, oranges, and jar lids. The bright spots on the table were dotted heavily with wax and the shadows less. The yellow over the blue jar lid gave me the lightest green. I painted more blue over the whole piece, wetting and avoiding the oranges and yellow jar lids. After that blue was dotted in, I dyed and waxed the bright yellow and then progressively worked my way through pinks, reds and purples to a deep navy and then to black, though the black is made up of mostly very dark purple and blue dots. When the reds were applied to the entire piece the background which had been previously dyed blue took on purple tones whereas the yellow under-dyed foreground took on peach and orange tones.
I feel as though I’ve only cracked the door on this technique and look forward to further experimentation in the use of the basic color theory and the use of different sized dots.
Currently I live with my husband , batik artist Jonathan Evans, between homes in the Southern Colorado Rockies and the Northern India Himalayas. Living in two such diverse locales and visiting new places in between provides great inspiration for my art and keeps my subject matter varied. I work mostly from the many photographs I take and I look for interesting shapes, shadows, and color combinations for my batiks.
Beth McCoy Evans exhibits her batiks and teaches adult and children’s classes in the US and abroad.
Visit her website at: www.batikartbybeth.com