This is a guest post from a student who dived into something new…Batik! She was kind enough to write about her experience with the process…

In 2012 I was taking a printmaking class and the instructor wanted us to try something under the general topic of batik. At the time all I could think of was fabric and I didn’t want to buy another whole set of supplies so I went searching online and found a wonderful tutorial by Kathie. I followed it once and was hooked!

In 2014 I had the privilege of spending an incredible painting vacation with Kathie at Le Vieux Couvent in France and then in 2016 I was finally able to take a watercolour batik class from her in Edmonton.  By this time I had been doing my own watercolour batiks for four years and it was interesting to me to see how I had started from her tuturial and evolved to use many of my own techniques. I feel honoured that Kathie asked me to share some of my discoveries with the rest of you. My hope is that this may spark something in your imagination. I’d love to hear from you about your discoveries as well.

As I write this it is the beginning of a new year and I’m thinking about the ways that each artist puts their own mark on their work.

As a watercolour batik artist it is all about making my marks with the hot wax. Once the wax goes onto a specific area the colour there is what will show in the finished piece. Yes, colour, and value are important but really it is the wax that creates the image.

To show you what I mean I created this sampler using a wide range of tools to put the wax onto the Ginwashi paper. I’ll tell you about my mark making tools right after we talk a bit about how to melt the wax.

Waxing a Sampler

Safety First:

Remember, wax is flammable so please take precautions to keep your studio safe. I like to keep a light plugged into the same power bar as my wax melting tools and only turn the light off from the power bar. That way I have a visual reminder and don’t leave it on unattended. A couple tips:

  • Make sure that whatever you are using to melt the wax has a temperature control and keep it low (about 180 F). If it is smoking, it is too hot. Turn it down.
  • Ensure that your room is well ventilated.

Tools for Melting the Wax:

While a wax pot or small skillet is great for melting larger quantities of wax to use with a brush I find it is essential to have a flat grill like surface for use with some of my other favourite mark making tools. My three favourite wax melting tools are:

  1. A wax pot. This one came from Kathie George. I like to put a small tin can inside it to make the sides higher allowing me to melt more wax and the higher sides give the brush a resting place.
  2. An electric griddle with a good temperature control. Remember to watch the temperature. It should be about 180 F and if you ever see smoke, turn it down.
  3. An encaustic iron which is designed for melting wax. I fold it down so that it makes a small griddle surface perfect for melting small amounts of wax at a time.

Tools for Applying the Wax:

Look around your house and you are bound to find things that can withstand a bit of heat and make interesting wax marks on your Ginwashi paper. Here are some of my favourites:


To make my sampler I used a large piece of Ginwashi paper and the brush in the wax pot to draw a grid. This prevented the colours from running between the sample sections.

The patterns in each grid are the way the wax looked on the paper after making my marks with the tools shown above.


Add Some Colour:

Now I needed some colour to bring out the textures in each section of the grid. Using just one layer of watercolour paint I let the colours run together in each section. Once the paper was dry I ironed off the wax by placing the batik between layers of newsprint.


Add Layering:

This is just the beginning! Imagine the textures you can create with overlapping layers of wax and watercolour.

The leaves on this tree were made with successive layers of wax applied with a pointed sponge and progressively darker layers of watercolour added in between. (See ‘Light Under Broadway’ at the end of this post.)


Or splattering the wax in layers can create the illusion of water bubbling up as it runs over rocks in the stream.


Putting it all Together:

As you experiment with different ways of making texture you will find ways to use them in your finished pieces. If you look closely you will see that I used many of these tools in this watercolour batik “Light Under Broadway”. For example:

  • The tree was created with layers of wax applied with a sponge and layers of watercolour in between.
  • The water also uses several layers, this time with the wax applied using a linocut (curvy lines).
  • The texture on the arches of the bridge was created with an encaustic sponge that I cut in half with scissors creating a rough side.
  • And then there are quiet areas to give the viewers eyes a rest.
Light Under Broadway ©Paige Mortensen Watercolour Batik 20 x 10”

Light Under Broadway ©Paige Mortensen Watercolour Batik 20 x 10”

Think beyond the brush, there are many tools that you can use to make your own marks. I have shared a few that I have used and now I would love to hear what you have found to make your marks your own.

Facebook: PaigeMortensenArt
Instagram: @PaigeMortensen

Thank you so much Paige for sharing your experience! It is always exciting to see students experimenting with something new.

Thanks for reading


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