Thursday, March 15, 2018

Lions and Tigers and Elephants, Oh My!

15 March 2018

We're still in Kuala Lumpur, enjoying Malaysia but not really getting out and around the country much.  Richard is faithfully going to physical therapy and is doing much better.  And I go with him to be supportive and helpful and all that.

Between appointments, though, we've managed to see some of the city.  Not much, and not as much walking as we're used to.  But we don't just sit in the hotel.

And of course I spend a good portion of my free time at the batik shop in the Central Market.

So I thought I'd share a couple of the batiks I've made.  Now, I need to explain the process here.  The young man who owns the shop draws the images on the white fabric, using melted wax in a sort of tubular stylus that has a well for the wax.  He stretches the fabric on a frame, divides the fabric into the sizes that will be cut out, and draws each image in liquid wax.  The wax dries, the fabric is cut into rectangles of various sizes, and either he and his staff paint in the dyes and sell the batiks, or the fabric is stretched on smaller frames and set up for tourists and locals to paint their own batiks.

So it really is a very easy process.  The wax outlines prevent colors from bleeding into each other.  In some ways, the pictures we paint are somewhat like a coloring book, and we paint the dye inside the lines.

On the other hand, the dyes act like watercolor paint, which is notoriously difficult and uncooperative.  If someone knows how to use watercolor, it's easy to get gradients and fades and color blends.  (You can see that I used some watercolor techniques on the clouds behind the traditional Malaysian kites.)  For the person who is not experienced in transparent paints, it can be frustrating.  Plus these dyes aren't permanent, so the batiks are for wall display only - not for any kind of usage or washing.

One afternoon, I was merrily mixing colors and painting four batiks at once.  (Paint all the yellows on all four batiks; then paint all the orange areas; etc.  That way I don't have to wash the brush as often.)  Anyway, a group of college students came in and exuberantly painted a series of animals for their dorm rooms, chatting away and eventually talking to me.  Two were from Malaysia, but one was from the Seychelles and the fourth from Mauritius, so we talked a bit about their lovely islands.

After they left, it was quiet for a bit.  Then several young men came in with video cameras, and they talked with the owners and staff.  They came over to me explained that this was a class project about the arts and culture of Malaysia, and would it be okay to film me as I painted my Malaysian kite designs?  I laughed, and said okay - thinking how funny it is to have an American traveller painting batiks for Malaysian arts and culture!

I'm apparently on some family's photos, as well.  Our hotel includes breakfast, and I was down there eating the other morning.  There was a family with a baby who just stared at me.  So I smiled and waved at him a few times.  One of the parents noticed, and picked up the baby's hand to wave back at me.  Baby thought this was funny, and pretty soon he's laughing and smiling and sort of waving back at me, and I'm waving at him.  They finished their brekkie, I was still enjoying my tea, so the mother came over and sat next to me, holding the baby, while the father asked if they could take their photo with me.  Well what could I say?  Yes, and the baby was so excited by the whole thing that he continued to wave his little arms around, only he was pretty much just smacking me!!!  It was really funny, and I can't imagine how the photos turned out with me laughing, getting smacked by the baby who's smiling at me, and the mom is trying to smile for the camera!!!

My favorite batik, though, is my lion dancers.  I drew the actual lion dancers, then brought my drawing down to the batik shop.  The owner and artist either recognized me or the drawing (I'd say he remembered the drawing, it's an artist thing), and asked him to draw it again for me.  That my previous batik was stolen out of the mail.  So he drew my lion dancers, and added a border of the traditional Malaysian kites.  LOVE it, and this will be my special souvenir from our time in Malaysia.

Oh, the one with the buildings shows the KL Tower and the Petronas Towers - they aren't this close together, but really are emblematic of the KL skyline.

The two goldfish or koi swimming among the lily pads is a typical Chinese symbol for good luck, especially at the New Year time.  I was painting this batik, and an older Chinese man took my photo.  His son eventually came by, and he spoke some English - he explained that they were from Guanzhou (formerly Canton), and that his father spoke no English.  And that the koi were for good luck in the coming year.  He said it was good that I was painting them red and gold-ish orange, that those were lucky colors. 

And that really is the sum total of our excitement since the last post.  The Chinese New Year is over, things are getting back to normal, and we're keeping ourselves amused between PT sessions where Richard works hard at getting better.

And we hope we can move on by next month.