Cloth, dye, wax? All in a day's work for Scottdale artist
By Patrick Varine
Published: Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 6:47 p.m.
As a student at Seton Hill College, Leslie Sorg recalls an informal introduction to the ancient art of batik cloth art.
“They didn't really teach us, they said ‘Here's the wax, here's the dye — have at it,” said Sorg, 53, a Scottdale resident who grew up in Irwin.
Years later, Sorg said she would occasionally pull out the old materials “and work for three days until I couldn't take the frustration anymore.”
Today, a gallery of Sorg's horse-and-rider-themed batik works is on display throughout June at the Boulevard Gallery in Verona.
The techniques necessary for batik can be traced back to Egypt in the fourth century B.C., according to author Nadia Nava's book, “Il Batik.”
Batik relies on a “wax-resist” technique in which melted wax is applied to cloth, which is then dyed.
Where wax penetrates, dye does not, creating a background. Sometimes the process involves multiple instances of waxing, dyeing and drying.
Sorg struggled with her batik work until a chance meeting at the Three Rivers Arts Festival.
“I met Saihou Njie, (an artist from Gambia in west Africa), who had learned his method from his mother,” Sorg said. “He taught me to do it right at a Pittsburgh Center for the Arts class.”
One of the key features of batik is its “cracked” look — Sorg puts her works into a freezer and then cracks the wax before using black dye, giving the whole canvas a sort of weathered, aged, look.
Once she refined her technique, Sorg — who also creates oil paintings — began applying some of the old-master oil techniques she'd learned in school to her newfound batik knowledge.
Specifically, she found that creating an underpainting — a layer of paint used as a base for additional layers of color — helped add a new dimension to her work.
“The underpainting is then overlaid with other colors, but you can still see some of the darker colors and shadows on the whole painting,” she said. “Once I got the underpainting part down, it took me another few years to work on my wax control.”
The end result of those techniques, combined with Sorg's love of sporting themes such as horse-riding and foxhunting, are on display at the Boulevard Gallery: slightly-abstract scenes of Americana. Sorg said part of her inspiration comes from a love of history.
“I love the old black-and-white hand-colored photographs,” she said. “But I also love modern photography, digital especially. I do commissioned work for people, and one was a painting of a pet dog. It was great to have a digital photograph that I could use to zoom in on tiny little details.”
Part of her inspiration also comes from a lifelong obsession with horses.
“I'm a little horse-crazy,” she said. “I went to college originally for horsemanship, but realized that it wasn't really preparing me for a career. So I got my degree in art, but then I tried to avoid an ‘art career' for years. I didn't want to be that cliché, the starving artist.”
In her website biography, Sorg says her goal was “to do something that no one else was doing” — combining an ancient eastern art form with western sporting themes and traditional oil-painting techniques.
Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penn Hills transportation undergoes second round of outsourcing
- At Penn Hills High School, ‘Oz’ will be ‘trashy’