By Jake Fertig
On a quiet fall afternoon, I ventured up the wide stairs that led to the second floor studio of one of my favorite local artists. At the top of the stairs is a beautiful high-contrast batik covering the window, with soft yellow light shining through. I have just walked into the studio of Dave Pahl.
In one form or another, Dave has been doing art for the better part of six decades. His most recent work has consisted of hand-dyed batiks (dyed fabrics) that are designed to catch the light and illuminate their vibrant color.
The subjects of these pieces range from realism (cats) to the abstract (tribal inspired works). Dave’s work tends to play with contrast. His fabrics feature dark blacks with vibrant rich colors, organic shapes, and lots of repetition.
“Usually batik artists hate when the wax cracks and you get ink in it. As you can see, I like to do it on purpose because I like the texture it gives them,” says Dave Pahl.
Batik dying, as he explains to me, is a process by which the artist paints with wax on a piece of fabric, then dyes the fabric in layers. Wherever the artist paints with wax resists the dye, creating the patterns. Once the dying process is finished, the fabric can be boiled or ironed to remove the wax and excess dye.
“I like to iron mine. You sandwich [the fabric] between two pieces of newsprint and iron it. I find boiling it removes some of the dyes richness. Whereas this is for display and not a piece that is worn, I am not worried about [excess dye]. Ironing lets me keep 100% of the dye’s richness.”
Outside of batik work, Dave is also a musician (formerly of Ersel Hickey and the Squirrels from Hell) and an amazing pen and ink artist. He was an art teacher for many years, and after he retired, exploded with the productivity he is enjoying now. As I looked around the room, I counted somewhere from 30-40 batiks, along with paintings, prints, and pen and ink work that he had done.
Two of my favorite pieces of his are done with pen and ink – black and white drawings of Hunter S. Thompson and John Lennon, made entirely of tiny abstracted shapes and quotes from their work. Samples of his work are currently on display and for sale at the Little Creek Mercantile on Main Street in Hurricane. For questions or commissions he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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