Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Batik artist captures Scottish Highlands

Posted October 20, 2013

Scotland is a magnet for artists because of its haunting beauty and its fleeting forms of light. I recently interviewed a very talented woman who takes advantage of these qualities. Jane Lannagan is drawn to the Scottish Highlands for the multiple colors and textures which give her a constant source of inspiration.

Jane grew up in an artistic family in Edinburgh. Family vacations were centered around the ramblings of her father who made a living sketching and painting images across Scotland. Eventually Jane would follow in her father’s footsteps. However, she would dabble in a different medium than her dad. The result is a unique and glorious gallery of work.

Jane Lannagan’s art seems like a perfect partner for a song I wrote about Scotland. The tune is titled “Bridge of Lochay.”

Jane Lannagan artwork Leslie's 'Bridge of Lochay' set to art of Jane Lannagan

Q&A: Jane Lannagan

Bill: What about the Scottish landscape excites you as an artist?

Jane: The varying hues and textures of the Scottish Highlands where I live have greatly influenced my work. With its ever-changing light and shade, hues and textures I am never at a loss for subject matter.

Bill: How did you learn to paint such beautiful and evocative scenes? Tell us about your training and your artistic process.

Jane: During a course in Dress and Design in the 70s, I discovered the delights of batik.

From an artistic family I learned very early to enjoy sketching and painting and still remember the pride I felt when my father framed one of my efforts.

My father, Tom Guise, was a prolific painter in oils, acrylics and watercolor and despite himself being self taught, successfully exhibited in the RSA in Edinburgh and had many one-man exhibitions in this country and in America.

I can remember watching him from an early age as he sat at his easel in the countryside. All our holidays were arranged around his painting!

Bill: Did your father get to see your work as an artist?

Jane: I am so sorry that he died just as I started to produce my own work.

I really think that batiking would have appealed to him. Born and brought up in Edinburgh, I spent my early working life as a medical laboratory technician. I did not go to Art College as my two sisters did, but later on during a diploma course in dress and design I discovered the art of batik and fell in love with its concept and have never stopped producing work during the past forty years.

Bill: Tell us more about your inspiration for this art form.

Jane: I was influenced by my father and by my friends, who are also members of the Scottish Batik Guild. We meet twice yearly to share ideas and hold exhibitions.

Originally batik was an Eastern art form and used to decorate clothing materials using wax and dyes and until recently has had no recognition in the West.

I developed my own particular style over the years starting out with old white sheets, candle wax melted in a double boiler and applied with brushes and shop-bought dyes, and over time I sold my art. I bought a wax pot, proper batik wax, wax pens from Java and the Ukranian Bookshop and now use the finest Primissima cotton.

Bill: When do you know that you want to paint a particular place? What has to happen before you commit to an idea?

Jane: When a particular image or scene appeals to me, it has to have interesting light, colour, movement and texture. I immediately start to translate it into a picture in my mind.

As the last colors achieved are the darkest, I have to think in the negative to get the final results, all the time bearing in mind that the resultant shades are an overlaying of dye colors.

In the image I select light could be constantly changing and so too will the scene. I use my camera to catch that exact moment and to record the light and color which had so impressed me. I do not slavishly copy the photo as I like to think that my picture is my interpretation of how I view the scene. By the nature of the technique I have to work in a studio where there are electrical points for my wax pot.

Bill: What are the nicest things people have said about your art?

Jane: People are mostly complimentary about my work. They admire the color and atmosphere I have captured. I never fail to feel excited when I sell prints and originals, for that is praise in itself.

I felt very proud when I sold a picture in the Scottish Society of Artists in 2005 in Edinburgh and when the "Artist" magazine awarded me the Royal Talens Award in their annual exhibition.

The fact that you, Bill, want to link my art with your lovely music makes me happy and proud.

Bill: What is the best part of your job? What is most challenging?

Jane: One of the best parts of this job is that my husband and I can make a living out of it – something that most artists have wished for. Without him, my art would be nowhere.

Apart from his encouragement, he scans my original work and makes prints and cards from them. He frames them, organizes exhibitions and wholesales the cards.

For me, the most amazing thing with this technique is that no matter how I have in my mind what the finished work should look like, it always ends up slightly different. I call it a technique with attitude for it comes out as it wants to and gives my work great fluidity.

My challenge is to have the public accept batik as a medium which can be fully appreciated alongside the more conventional techniques of oil and watercolor.


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