An Interview With Batik Artist – Lynn Blaikie

Batik artist Lynn Blaikie was born in Southern Ontario. She moved to the Yukon Territory at the age of 18. It was in the small mining community of Elsa that she first discovered batik: a ray of colour in a long dark winter. A nine month mining strike gave an opportunity to fall in love with the huge vats of liquid colour that she used to create her earliest works of art. Lynn Blaikie’s exposure to other batik artists has been limited in the far North; however, Lynn feels that in some ways her isolation has been an asset. The many years of private development and discovery has resulted in a very unique personal style. Employing both the traditional vat dying methods as well as inks and pens, brings to her art a joie de vivre, and an exuberance which celebrates life, living, and nature. Lynn’s career choices include both her art and teaching children, youth, and adult batik programs and workshops.

Thank you Lynn for taking the time to talk us.

IAP: We’ve read your bio and read how you discovered Batik during a mining strike, but were there any signs or inclinations towards you becoming an artist prior to that…when you were a child for example?

LB: As a child I was always sketching, carving, knitting, creating and doing any kind of art and craft that I could. My parents bought me all kinds of art and craft books and spent most of my leisure hours trying everything in the book. I used to sell my crafts at any event possible, local festivals, even church bazaars when I was very young. For a while I was doing carpentry, I got a skill saw and drill for my 21st birthday. I am happiest with a creative project on the go.

IAP: Why Batik and not oils, pastels or another medium?

LB: I was not confident with my drawing ability and batik was the medium that I found that allowed me to focus on the tactile and technical aspect of art. Being able to draw was not really in the criteria. I had never taken art in school past grade 9 as I didn’t like having to draw or produce a finished piece of art that someone else would say was good or not based on their idea of perfection. Batik allowed me to create with my hands, brain, and from my soul. I enjoy creating with water colour and acrylics but my first love is batik.

IAP: Did you develop the style we are familiar with, early on or does your early work vary greatly from past to present?

LB: My style was evident from early on. The images that I draw have become more technically true to life as practice has improved my figure drawing, but the feel of the work is still the same as early on. I draw what I feel, not what I see. That is why I don’t do location painting as a landscape artist might.

IAP: What artists have influenced you, and how?

LB: I don’t know that any artist in particular has influenced my art. My art developed while my children were small, I worked directing a child care centre. If anything, my influence came from the eyes and hearts of children. I taught myself my art form through trial and error in between working and raising my children. I didn’t know of any other batik artists and there was no time to research art history, there was certainly no internet at the time.

IAP: What other interests do you have (besides painting)?

LB: I love to garden and work in my greenhouse. I am a hands on person who lives on an acreage. I am always putting in a new garden, building a screen porch under the horse stable, remodeling a bathroom or just chopping wood for the winter.

IAP: How have you handled the business side of being an artist?

LB: Fortunately I seem to be able to do most of the business side of my art. I am a concept thinker, so I can see where I want to go and what I want to do. My weakness is in completing the detail side of business. When possible, I work with others who are strong in this area. When I am forced to deal with the details myself, it definitely bogs me down creatively.

IAP: There’s the old saying: “In ______ presentation is everything!” How do you typically present your work at tradeshows, galleries, etc. and is the “presentation everything”? i.e. How much would you says the presentation of your work contributes to it’s sale?

LB: Presentation is vital. An emerging artist who is professional and confident in the presentation of themselves and their work will instill confidence in a buyer. Promotional materials, a good bio, signage and presenting your art in its best light is very important.

IAP: Do you use mats and frames to present your work and if so in what ways?

LB: I always offer both framed and unframed work when I do a show of any kind. I want the walls to make a statement. Any work that is not framed if original is either matted and packaged of I have available for viewing on request if the work is “raw” As I work on cotton, I find that I can keep originals in a tube and unroll them for people to see. Showing raw work to a buyer is a very personal interaction and a natural connection is made. I never, however only bring unfinished or unframed work to a show; the first impression has to be polish. The exception to this is if I am doing a wholesale trade show for my reproductive work. As I only wholesale my LEP’s unframed, I display them unframed. I find that if I frame the work, people expect to receive them that way. I may have 1 or 2 of them framed to let the store know how nice they will look.

IAP: What inspires you to paint and how do you keep motivated when things get tough in the studio?

LB: Things never get tough in the studio; inspiration for my art is rarely a struggle. The thing that I struggle with most is time. I can get bogged down organizing a upcoming trade show or sale, ordering mats, walls etc. I spend more time on my computer than I would like. I am usually itching to get working at my art. I find that I need to really force myself to get down to completing all the details of business so that I am free to create.

IAP: What advice would you give to an artist just starting out on how to market and/or present their work to the world?

LB: If there is a marketing and presentation workshop available to them, take it! Talk to other artists; just phone them up, lots would be willing to share their experience. If possible, attend as many art sales, tradeshows etc as possible and look at the way work is presented. Ask permission to photograph from the artist so that you have a reference to what you thought worked. And remember; be professional in your appearance and presentation. Brochures and handout materials are also very important. If you want to work have your work in a particular gallery, phone and ask for an appointment and bring them something professionally presented to look and leave behind.

IAP: Are there any interesting pieces/projects/commissions you’ve worked on over the past few years that you can share with us?

LB: I loved being one of the selling and demonstrating artists at the 2007 Canada Winter Games last winter held here in Whitehorse. I was commissioned to do the host gifts for the VVIP’s that attended. The Great Northern Arts Festival in Inuvik was also a highlight, 10 days of demonstrating, workshops and gallery sales and connecting with other artist from the circumpolar north. I hope to attend the Arctic Winter Games in Yellowknife next spring as part of the cultural program. I also had a dream come true for me with the publication of my first children’s book “Beyond the Northern Lights.” It was published as a hard cover gift book by Fitzhenry and Whiteside of Toronto, Ontario, who did a beautiful job. It is marketed as an art book as well as a children’s story book and has already gained some recognitions. It is available in book stores and through Island Art Publishers.

IAP: Any parting comments?

LB: I feel very fortunate to be able to get up everyday and look forward to being in my studio. Quality of life is very important to me. The choice to have art as a career has not always been easy, but I would not change it for the world.