Ann Sullivan has always loved a challenge. When she was a young mother of four, she decided to go back to school and finish her college degree. “I wanted to do something else with my life than stay home,” she says.
Sullivan had earned an associate degree from Temple Junior College, but she loved education and wanted a bachelor’s degree so she could teach. Still, she admits it wasn’t easy juggling a large family and a commute from East Dallas to Denton.
But Sullivan reached her goal and received her degree in art education from Texas Woman’s University in 1968. It enabled her to teach the subject she loves most — art. “I shared my love of art with students in the Dallas Independent School District for 23 years. Mostly I taught junior high and high school students,” she says.
For many years, Sullivan used her skills for students in alternative schools in the area, which she enjoyed. “I liked those students because they were a challenge,” she says.
Even though her schedule was hectic, it was during this time that Sullivan also commuted nights to East Texas State University where she received her master’s degree.
“When I retired in 1991, I decided I wanted to get serious about my art,” she says. This was the beginning of a different era in Sullivan’s career.
Sullivan decided to transform a spare bedroom in her Lakewood home into an art studio. Over the past several years, this is where she has spent many hours letting her imagination and creative talents soar. While she loves to paint, she says one of her favorite forms of art is batik art.
Sullivan decided her new challenge would be to create this ancient form of art on silks. For those unfamiliar with batik art, it is a resist process for dying fabric, which today is mainly done in Indonesia.
To explain it in simple terms, Sullivan says, a design is drawn onto the cloth and wax is applied over the various areas of the design. The object is to cover all areas of the design with wax except for the areas that will receive the color that is being applied in the dye bath.
After the first color is applied, wax must then be applied to the dyed area to keep it protected from the colors of dye baths to follow. Wax is then removed from the design in areas to be dyed the color of the second dye bath. The entire process is repeated continually until every color in the design has been applied.
Depending on the number of colors used in the design, batik can be a lengthy process since wax continually must be lifted from the fabric and then reapplied to keep that area of the fabric true to its color. The number of colors in batik represents the number of times the fabric was immersed in the dye bath and how many times wax had to be applied and removed.
Step into Sullivan’s art studio and you will be mesmerized by the patchwork of batik botanical gardens that line her walls. Sullivan’s love of nature is the backdrop of her creations. She says she is forever inspired by the diversity and luminosity of the Texas scene: big, beautiful skies with a variety of roads, rivers, trees and flowers. While some of her batik pieces are new designs, others are recreations of her favorite watercolor paintings that also hang on her walls.
Intricate hand-drawn designs are done in bold and brilliant colors as well as soft pastels. While suitable for framing as stand-alone works of art, some have been made into pillows, quilts, scarves and even pieces of clothing. Currently, Sullivan is in the process of making a quilt with a stained glass motif.
Sullivan’s unique works of art are on public display and for sale at the Empty Walls Gallery in the Preston Royal Shopping Center in North Dallas. Sullivan and her husband, Jim, have resided in the East Dallas and Lakewood area for nearly 40 years. They have five grandchildren.
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