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Bali has introduced the art of shape and plastic since 11th century or might be earlier if ethnic simple anthropomorphic form is to be considered. The art of painting on true canvas was only started in 16th century, during the reign of Bali famous king of Watur Renggong. He ruled Bali between 1500 to 1559 AD, with center of kingdom at Gelgel, near current city of Klungkung. It was said that the king requested the daugher of king Blambangan, East Java to be his wife. The princes in response to the request of the king sent an artist to draw the photo of the king, yet the artist got message from the king of Blambangan to draw the photo in ugly face, so as the princes would refuse to marry him. Kamasan PaintingThis was happened, which caused Gelgel to launch an attack and conquered Blambangan. The soldiers of Bali confiscated some properties of the palace, one of which was said a box of leather puppet. This leather puppet which waslater known as wayang has become the inspiration of the first Bali true canvas painting. Since the shape of the wayang is cut from thin leather it approximates a shape of one dimensional object, and it triggers the birth of one dimension shape. This first painting was started at Kamasan village, which is not very far from Gelgel, the center of kingdom in 16th century.

The Village of Kamasan

The village of Kamasan is only 1 km south of the current city of Klungkung or Semarapura. Semarapura was the last capital city of Balinese kingdom until 1908, after moved from Gelgel. Today Kamasan covers around 106.12 hectares with the land not too good for farming. For years the people of Kamasan worked on the rice field, construction, and other daily basis job, and other irregular job until 1970s, when their unique simple painting exposed to tourist. During the era before 1970s beside their main job as farmer, goldsmith, silversmith and blacksmith there were some people have been persistent in working for the painting. This artists spreaded this style of painting on almost all Bali by decorating temple walls. As late as 1960s almost all family temples in Bali were decorated with the painting of wayang, yet this work was not a business type of job, more or less as a dedication of the religion or belief and people did not consider it as the main subsystem for life.

Common Character of Painting

The character of the painting is flat, one dimension as mentioned above and does not introduces the concept of contours or perspective of light. Decoratively it is very rich both in color and meticulous patterns. The pattern are many with stamp style, yet flexible in size. This is in accordance with the nature of wayang, and it did the imitation of complete wayang shape. That is why the style of Kamasan painting is called " Lukisan Wayang Kamasan " or is more popular with Wayang Kamasan painting. Another information also mentioned that origin of the style that during the relocation of capital of the kingdom from Gelgel to Klunkung the king ordered an artist named Mahudara to make the picture of wayang. He was succeeded in making good picture and made the king so satisfied. Mahudara is considered the founder of wayang style painting of Kamasan.

Materials and Process of Painting

Canvas Production

The material used is rough fabric, mostly white color. The fabric is dyed in a rice powder porridge and dried under the sun. This is to close and flattened the surface of the cloth. After it is dried the surface is rubbed with fine shell to make the surface more smooth.

Sketch Drawing

Finished canvas then it is ready to be used to draw picture. The steps in drawing wayang picture is consist of dividing the whole canvas into a composition of assigned spots to place each figure and element of the pictures. Then for sketching of each figure with Chinese ink.


In the past they used carbon of wood or the sediment of oil burnt lighting called " mangsi " As the first sketch now is not rare that the artist starts with pencil, so it can be waived and redraw until getting a correct pattern or composition. A Kamasan style painting artist usually never draw line twice, as they have been trained to be in persistent or consistent stamp type stroke for every pattern of the picture. During learning process, the artist was formed to be automatically correct. For example to draw an eyebrow, the student must redraw it 400 times until the teacher says that the pattern is ok, or the shape has been considerably consistent, and can be considered authorized to draw a real picture for the public. Until now the traditional school like this can still be found at Kamasan village. This school is dedicated for elementary school children.
Their colors are made of natural materials such as black to blue is made of oil light sediment solved with water of rice washing ( Bali : Banyu ), Kamasan Painting 2 yellow color is made of stone found in Nusa Dua called " pere " Red color is made of areca fruit, called " barak", dark green color is made by mixing yellow and black, called " wilis " The terminology in the process of coloring then known as merein ( pere + in ) = coloring with yellow, ngewilisin ( wilis + in ) = coloring with dark green, marakin ( barak + in ) = giving red color.

Tradition followed the certain figure of wayang be colored differently such as Arjuna, Baladewa, Karna, Pandu are to be colored in yellow, Krishna and the clumsy Tualen in dark green, Duryadana and the serant Merdah in red and others. Picture of trees also introduced using the color of wilis and blue. In the process of coloring also known the steps such as yellow first, followed by red, then dark green and black. This is to keep the earlier color not to mix up with later colors, the nature of these material with water solvent is transparent. Error in following the correct process will result in changes of all color already on canvas. When all coloration of the first level have been finished, comes the process called ngewayahin, means sharpen the color by re-write on it repeatedly. Next is the process of ngampa a process to sharpen the lines, then sharpen the red color and giving black color to the hairs. So black must be the last step of giving color. After this second step is finished the picture again rubbed with fine shell surface to make the surface of the canvas now with the picture more smooth, which is needed during third process called "Nyawi " meaning decorate in detail.

Decorating in Detail or Nyawi

This is the last process to refine all accessories and delicate patterns, and certain decoration according to the places as the back ground of the picture. Some accessories to decorate the picture are jewelry ( Bali : soca ) appear at many places such as on diadem, head dress, bracelets, earrings, waist belt, and others. The process of giving soca decor is called nyocain, and giving the shiny impression of soca by white blend is called mutihin. This is the last process of the painting.

In the process of the development, the materials used not only canvas, but also wood, eggs, coconut shell and bamboo. Special for hardboard and wooden board, the surface is whitened with boze powder of pig, cow, and deer horns. The bone or horne is made into powder, mixed into a porridge of glue which is swept on the surface of the board, to make the surface more whiter and stronger color. Some times it is needed to mix the porridge with lime stone which can result more stronger white color.

Painting Tools

Until late 1960s, the tools of painting was made locally with bamboo. The shape are various from hard brush to sharp blade and pin. The name and function of each form can be shortly described as follows:

  • Penelak, is a type of brush made of bamboo with various sizes on the brush top. Its function is to sketch, coloring, ruling and drawing line. The point of brush from a sharp point as pin called " penyawian". More bigger size of brush top to bold the line called " Pengampadan ", more bigger size then pengampadan which top is rounded to be very subtle and flexible which can be compared to a fine painting brush called " peperean " This is used to color wide space
  • Temutik, is a knife to cut and make penelak
  • Panci, a bowl to boil the water and cook porridge glue
  • Paso, clay pot to mixe up cooked porridge glue and dyed the canvas in it
  • Plate and batu, to pound and mix up the color. The plate is usually made of clay and batu is stone pounder
  • Botol, a bottle to contain the finished color, which is ready to use for drawing
  • Besek / bakul, is pandanus basket in quadrangular shape to put the material of glue.

With above tools and materials the painting of Kamasan has introduced itself as a unique style and can only be found in Kamasan, which is later known as the painting of Wayang Kamasan. This is considered at the beginning of Bali introduces the true painting on canvas.

From above style of painting then developed another style such as Batuan painting style, a place around 40 kms away from Kamasan village, and the style of Ubud painting. One can visit Kamasan village while joining daily tour program such as Besakih Temple tour which is on the way from Klungkung to Besakih or tour to east Bali such as Scuba diving or staying at the quiet destination such as Candidasa Beach Resort the complex of small and medium hotels on the Candidasa beach, or stay close to the diving site such as Tulamben Beach Resort with some beautiful bungalows, and Amed Beach also a beach resort and famous as the base for scuba diving trip.

Garis Bali

Arma Fine Art
Art Center Denpasar
Gold and Silver Art
Wooden Sculpture Mas
Balinese Artists
Kamasan Painting
Ubud Art and Artists' Organization
Ubud and Batuan Unique Painting Style


Among various tour packages and tour options in Bali there are some tours which can be said always on the publications and interest a large part of travellers to Bali. Kintamani mountain tour sits at the first number as the most popular sightseeing tour, second is Taman Ayun and Tanah Lot tour, third is Uluwatu temple tour.