The Daily Courier, Les Stukenberg, Associated Press
Elizabeth Urabe is seen in Prescott Valley, Ariz., on Dec. 29, 2011. Urabe placed first in the 2011 American Batik Design Competition, which draws from fabric, graphic art and fashion design. The competition encourages cultural fusion between American and Indonesian cultures. Urabe won a trip valued at $15,000 and $5,000 in cash.

PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. — Boston native Beth Urabe has never taken art classes, but she began an unusual drawing style in 1995 while living in Japan.

Urabe, 50, said she started drawing pictures with fabric designs "quite spontaneously" using water-based pens.

"I started drawing one a day," said Urabe, a graduate of Carleton College in Minnesota who lives in Ash Fork. "I did 350 pictures in four years. They started coming and they did not stop." She displays some of her artwork at her store, Cobe Collectibles & Jewelry, in Prescott Valley. A customer bought an 8-by-10-inch drawing from Urabe, and took it to frame-shop manager Marjorie Claus at Michael's Arts & Crafts in Prescott.

Claus was impressed with Urabe's work, having studied batik art in Indonesia and Singapore. Batik is a method of dyeing designs on cloth by coating the parts that are not to be dyed by removable wax.

"What stood out is she had a spiritual nature to her work, and that is what I was investigating," Claus said. "It was not the spirit so much as the style. The style translated into batik very well. The lines and the dots and the flat color, not shaded."

Claus said she visited Urabe, and later urged her to enter the American Batik Design Competition, which the Indonesian Embassy sponsors. The contest is in its first year.

Urabe took a digital photo of an original design from 1995, and submitted "Divine Unity" electronically. She provided an explanation of how the entry reflected Indonesian culture and the spirit of America.

"A little bell went off inside my head, and I knew I needed to enter," Urabe said.

Contest officials received nearly 100 digital designs, Dara Yusilawati, third secretary, economic affairs, at the embassy, stated in an email.

Yusilawati stated Urabe's entry was the most favorable design exhibited at the Indonesian Festival July 9 at the National Mall in Washington, and won the audience votes.

Contest officials notified Urabe and two others Nov. 8 that they won first place. The prize comes with $5,000 in cash and a two-week trip to Indonesia, which Urabe plans to take in March.

Urabe's husband. Cody Lassell, advises viewers not to focus on the circles and other shapes in her drawing.

"Don't look with your eyes. Feel with your heart," he said. "Now breathe some life into it and make it breathe, which is what batik is."

Information from: The Daily Courier, http://www.dcourier.com