I recently completed this approx 24″ by 36″ ink-on-paper work inspired by a trip my wife and I took to Bali in May of 2016.
In addition to a relaxing vacation, the trip was an artist’s sabbatical for me. I was excited to explore the rich visual artistic traditions of the island, now part of Indonesia.
The wood, stone and concrete sculpture especially are incredible and wholly alien to Western eyes, though just as rich and complex as any artistic tradition in the world.
How did I create this Bali poster?
As far as the media and method for this piece, I was inspired by the incredible brush-pen work of the master Korean illustrator Kim Jung gi (see video ).
So for this piece, I tried in my own limited way to ape the expressive, freehand line work Kim Jung gi uses. The only underdrawing I did with a pencil was for the Balinese script (which reads “Monkey Forest; Ubud, Bali) and the checkered pattern at the bottom.
By the way, my friend from the trip Ngurah Widnyana did the translation for me. He runs a tour service on the island, so like his Smile Bali Tours and look him up if you ever go.
The paper I used is from discarded blueprints. Because the paper is designed to be slightly weather/water resistant on construction sites, it doesn’t let the ink bleed too much. An excellent, cheap and green resource!
How did I frame the Bali poster?
For the framing, I developed a novel method. I cut a sheet of plywood to size, then carved out holes through which I inserted standard metal binder clips you can buy at any office supply store. The clips hold the paper without using any glues or adhesives which might corrode the piece or make it inextricable from the plywood if the purchaser wants to change the frame in the future.
Over top of this bolted a piece of plexiglass, held away from touching the paper by several millimeters of washers stacked on the bolt.
What do the symbols in the Bali poster mean?
The image in the upper left is a Barong, depicted based on photo research into parade costumes used during various Balinese festivals. The Barong’s function in the Balinese religion — which borrows from Hinduism to layer on top of tribal animism developed uniquely on the island — is that of a protective spirit of good. His frightening aspect helps ward off demons. Think of the Barong’s function as (very loosely) analogous to a gargoyle in medieval Europe.
The underlying philosophy of Balinese religion focuses on the dichotomy of good and evil, dark and light. That’s why the checkered pattern seen at the base of the poster is ubiquitous at temples throughout the island — it functions to convey the same idea as the yin-yang symbol also seen around Bali.
The folkloric significance of the statue in the middle has me stumped, but I can guarantee you it’s an accurate representation of one of the many sculptures in the Monkey Forest in Ubud, located near the center of the island.
The people are based on photos of local Balinese people I took while touring the island — that and some fictional aspects I added to fit the layout. If you look closely, you may see my wife and I in the background.