Ubud is absolutely overflowing with opportunities to gain new skills and explore potential hobbies. Advertisements for Balinese dance lessons hang from resort windows and art class offerings are sneakily stuck into local galleries. A significant portion of the expat population is enrolled in yoga teacher trainings and classes offering barista lessons and raw food chef certifications are easy to find. Overwhelmed with my options, I decided to narrow it down and take an art class to better understand the local culture.
Art is Everywhere
Art galleries populate the streets and every restaurant and hotel seems to incorporate a few inspirational pieces on their walls. Roads are lined with hardworking men and women, carving wooden sculptures with worn hands, not even phased by the sprinkling of dust left over from passing motorbikes. Homes double as store fronts and it isn’t uncommon to see a family washing dishes beside the paintings they are trying to sell.
A Little Balinese Art History
Since the 14th century, art has been a huge part of life for the Balinese who used it to express their religion as well as craft objects necessary for everyday living. With the temples and royal residents, painting in Ubud became particularly utilized to express the local belief system. Before the influx of tourism, art and craftsmanship were primary professions of Ubud’s residents.
Why Five Art Studio?
Out of the hundreds of art studios in Ubud, I chose to take my class with Wayan at Five Art Studio. I chose to learn from Wayan because he has a dream, an undeniable passion for art, his community and tradition. With skills and appreciation passed down from his father, Wayan spent his youth studying art and experimenting with both modern and traditional techniques.
Now, out of school, he hopes to keep traditional art within his family, and help other young community members hone and learn artistic skills in order to support themselves without needing to work in the hotels and resorts popping up all over Bali.
“Painters stop painting because they can’t make enough money with their work.”
He currently keeps his studio open to the young Balinese who are looking to learn the craft of traditional artwork for their own financial futures as well as the future of tradition.
“Villas and hotels have taken all the rice fields, now there is less water to swim in and all of the young locals are on their phones.”
There is a divide between the front put on by the tourism industry and the authentic Balinese way of life that Wayan would like to bridge with his work. By teaching tourists traditional Bali art, he hopes that they will gain an appreciation for the culture and possibly bring the newly learned techniques back to their countries to incorporate into their own work.
“My class can help the Balinese and tourists connect.”
Keliki Art Overview
While Five Art Studio has a collection of modern and traditional paintings, they mainly focus on Keliki art. Coming from the small Keliki Village just north of Ubud, this art work is categorized by its small paintings that are sketched in ink, brought to life with watercolor paints and pay strict attention to detail. These paintings contain so much detail in fact that the artists are well known for their patience.
The art studio looked like all of the others when I had arrived. Off of a busy road, the tiny storefront had paintings for sale, a few Balinese men chatting outside and no clear indications that they offered art classes. Wayan came strolling out with the posture of a professional but the demeanor of an artist, laid back in that easy going way of someone living a life on their own terms. What looked like nothing more than a road-side shop turned into a noticeable passion project, brought to life by Wayan’s excited tour. The chatting Balinese men, they turned out to be young artists, taking a break from practicing their craft.
The modest studio was more than it seemed, and an entire world was opened up to us as we were invited into Wayan’s housing complex, where the real lesson would take place. His traditional home proudly wore his art work on the walls and he taught us about each of his home’s 6 buildings and what they were used for. We learned of the Balinese building law that kept houses traditional and learned about the ceremonies that took place there, one for every major life event.
We met his wife and baby, and his mother brewed us traditional Balinese coffee, grown in their backyard, and roasted in their kitchen. Wayan confessed to being a true coffee addict as he prepared the paint mixture on a broken dish. He asked me which figure I wanted to draw, based on his examples decorating the back wall. He told me of Saraswati, the goddess who represents knowledge and education. I chose her as it seemed fitting for this moment, in which I was learning about art and tradition.
A yoga mat was our cushion as Wayan directed my sketching and we welcomed short interruptions for coffee sipping and discussion over Balinese art, life and comparisons to the U.S. I learned how to shade and properly draw a hand and I also learned that Wayan was once an art teacher, but has since given it up to live a simpler life that he loves.
Josh took photos and petted the baby chick that waddled over to say hello and I watched as Wayan mixed Chinese ink into a coconut shell, showing me how to properly dip my brush.
Five Art Studio is located about 15 minutes from Ubud and will arrange for free transportation to and from your hotel or home.
• Keliki Painting Class (Rp. 400.000 OR $29 USD for 3 hours ) • Egg Painting Class (Rp. 400.000 OR $29 USD for 3 hours) • Batik Class (Rp. 400.000 OR $29 USD for 3 hours) • T-shirt Painting Workshop (Rp. 400.000 OR $29 USD for 3 hours) • Silver Jewelry Class (Rp. 400.000 OR $29 USD for 3 hours) • Wood/Stone Carving Class (Rp. 400.000 OR $29 USD for 3 hours) • Fruit Carving (Rp. 300.000 OR $22 USD for 2 hours) • Balinese Dance (Rp. 300.000 OR $22 USD for 2 hours) • Balinese Offering Class (Rp. 300.000 OR $22 USD for 2 hours) The studio is open every day from 9 am until 5pm but start times are flexible and according to your schedule. Bookings can be made over the phone or online.
Contact: +6287861984083 Email: Five_artbali@yahoo.com Website: fiveartubud.com Location: Jalan Raya Keliki
Who would like this class?
• Artists • Aspiring artists and students • Visitors who want to get away from the tourist trail • People with an interest in Balinese culture
Volunteer in Ubud at Five Art Studio
If you want to experience the culture of Ubud a little deeper and give back to the community, Five Art Studio is looking for volunteers to teach English. These small group lessons will include children from the local community as well as artists who would like the opportunity to teach classes to English speaking tourists. No experience is required and no commitment needs to be made. Simply arrange to pop into the studio on an evening or weekend and teach the students any way that you choose. Wayan has also committed to offering volunteers an art lesson in exchange for their time.
Planning a Trip to Ubud?
If your planning a trip to Ubud and are looking for unique accommodation, I can recommend Pangkung House, a family owned temple complex with home made breakfast delivered each morning. For a more unique stay, try Airbnb for an authentic Balinese home experience. Book HERE and get $20 off!
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