Patience & Passion United: A Visit to a Balinese Art School

The Wayan Gama Painter Group sits on a dusty road connecting agricultural villages not far from Ubud, Bali. At the end of a day trip that took us to a Kopi Luwak ‘poop coffee’ plantation, the Elephant Cave and Rock Cave, our driver, Mowgli, suggested that we visit the quiet art studio directed by his friend, Wayan. Mowgli explained that much of the art that lines the walls of Ubud’s shops is mass-produced, whereas at Wayan’s art school, one can mingle with the artists and see them painting, exhibiting extreme patience and a penchant for painstaking detail.

When we arrived at Wayan’s family home, he led us into the tranquil courtyard and greeted us with a refreshing beverage – straight out of a young coconut via a straw. A bird gently chirped from a nearby cage. One of Wayan’s older family members wove vessels out of palm leaves, while sitting in the shade of the family temple; a young child toddled about.

“Patience is passion tamed.”

Lyman Abbott

Wayan, probably in his twenties or thirties, explained that he descends from a long line of artists. As we walked through the serene courtyard, Wayan told us of his passion to keep his village’s style of art alive. In order to do so, Wayan teaches young men how to meticulously put paint brush and colored ink to paper so that they can create art depicting Balinese Hindu gods, as well as agricultural and cultural vignettes. Small pieces may require three or four days to complete, whereas larger works will take months.

The courtyard’s walls are dressed in paintings that are each bordered by hand-carved, hardwood frames. The fire dance scenes and images of Balinese gods are impressive. When you look at the minute detail and consider the time required to do each painting, you can see why these artists reach their peak in their thirties or forties, due to their eyesight declining around that time.

In an age of short attention spans, omnipresent electronic gadgets and hectic schedules, the artwork is even more impressive. Observing the young men at work made me ponder what can be achieved if one is patient, time-rich and passionate about something.

Shawn and I purchased a small piece of art with vibrant tones and impressive detail completed by a student named Agus. The painting depicts Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and knowledge. We thought the painting would be fitting since we were in Bali on the day that’s devoted to celebrating Saraswati. Proceeds from our purchase will go to the art school’s cooperative structure, hopefully helping to ensure the continuation of this artistic tradition for generations to come.

Where in the World?

Planning Pointers:

  • The I Wayan Gama Painter Group is located at Keliki – Tegallalang – Gianyar, Bali. Contact them in advance either by email: or telephone: 081-5580009878 or 0361-981-283.
  •  During our 2 weeks in Ubud, we stayed at the pretty and tranquil Nirwa Homestay (affiliate link), run by Madde and Ayu. The family-run guest house was surrounded by a panorama of vibrant rice paddies, and our soundtrack was that of nature: soprano crickets, confident roosters and babbling canals. If you go, be sure to order Ayu’s legendary green banana pancakes for breakfast.
  • Would you like more planning inspiration? My Bali guide highlights our favorite moments spent on the island.

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

7 thoughts on “Patience & Passion United: A Visit to a Balinese Art School

  1. Trish- It looks like you are having a fabulous adventure in Bali. I trust your travels remain as delightful as you! Hugs from the land of gluwein- Jan

    1. How sweet, Jan! I’m so happy you’re stowing away on our journeys – in spirit! Looking forward to hearing where you trek to over the holidays. Can you email us some Kartoffelpuffer mit Apfelmuess? I’m really missing that Weihnachtsmarkt fare even though the Asian noodles and tofu dishes in this region are fantastic! Greetings to all and a big hug to you too.

  2. True – the commercialized shops in Bali’s tourist mecca Ubud certainly wouldn’t be doing so! It may look as though my husband got the bulk of that tasty treat, but I spirited the coconut away after documenting the moment. Thanks as always for your comments and encouragement, Marina!

    1. Coconut (from a carton) is huge here, especially in Bikram Yoga studios. If only we had the real thing to enjoy after every class!! I took the camera out today for a few hours – I didn’t realise how hard it was to gauge the light/dark of the digital screen, as all shots that seemed too dark are actually good when viewed on the laptop. Is there a method to this that you’ve learned about, especially photographing in sunny locales?

      1. Marina, I’ve read that one gets a more accurate image when framing it through the viewfinder and not the LCD. I generally don’t use the LCD for this reason. I think this especially helps when snapping in sunny spots, too.

        Fun to know that the coconut juice is popular in bikram yoga circles! We’re now in Bangkok and the juice (straight from the coconut) is even more plentiful here. We finally got our yoga workout in this morning. Perhaps in the spirit of your studio, we should have a post-workout coconut beverage! :) Glad to hear your photographic forays are still going well!

      2. I haven’t ever used the viewfinder as I feel I am squinting too much – it’s not that comfortable nor big enough! I will try again – thanks for the tip. I took some photos in central park yesterday and posted them. I am getting there – just need to get the combination of settings balanced. GREAT that you did a yoga workout!! I am drinking Kombucha tea these days, post Bikram. I am addicted to it!

Join the conversation.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: