During the middle stages of the painting I gradually thickened the paint by pouring together different colours mixed in different medium consistencies. For instance the transparent colours were poured over opaque lighter colours to produce a glowing surface that alluded to a winter time shaft of light that appeared over a section of ocean making it turquoise. This colour contrasted with purple and indigo cloud shadow.
Winter seas buffeted the coastline washing away part of this land form so I depicted remnants of this structure as they disappeared beneath wild seas. Flowing and bleeding texture, edges and boundaries blurred over the structure beneath in the under painting so that only earth coloured remnants of the land form appeared to be above the water’s surface.
At this stage the subject matter also ‘talked’ to me and the essence of the composition revealed itself more clearly. This process happened to me when my paint application became freer which produced nuanced and random texture and light contrast effects. The composition appeared to change and instead of my planned vertical format it changed to horizontal. The colour reproduced is a little inaccurate, instead of the grey on the left the colour is a neutral soft blue green with a touch of raw umber and Naples yellow. These combinations gave a sense of an approximation to shallow water with sand not quite visible.
Oil Painting Commission continued into middle stages
I always cited the sources of my imagery or iconography derived from art history books, museums or archaeology to have derived from so-called high art both old and new masters. But re thinking was in order as some unconscious images came to the fore. Yesterday on eBay I scrolled through posters on display. They were arranged in chronological order ranging from recently dated reaching back to the 1950s. I found the change of style over time quite interesting as both ends of this spectrum showed how technology changed designs and their content.
Today it is possible to create tonally complex figurative imagery where a protagonist in a particular scene selected from the movie and situated in a complex perspective realist or hyper realist styled background constituted the poster format design. However many of these literal images selected as part of a narrative, often depicted using tenebrism, a darkened Caravaggio style enhancing the feeling of action, were often hard to read in an eye-grabbing instant compared to the designs of the 1950s. The shiny glossy surface was also a point of contrast placed next to the opaque day bills of the 50s.
Gina Lollobrigida starring in ” Anna of Brooklyn “, 1958, Vintage Daybill movie poster.
Recent movie poster
Even though the latest imagery is detailed (regardless of content which is another story), realistic, atmospheric, tonal ( the figures have weight and volume ) and are placed in a fairly realistic perspective space, the visual impact came from first posters for me. Disregarding the subject matter, the formalist values, the flattened figure with hard edges and bright colour caught my attention immediately.
The text showed polished almost glowing 3-D lettering arching along the bottom line in contrast to the text in the early poster that is simple, flat probably done by hand or type set ( Letraset a few years away ? ) with no attempt at atmospheric perspective. However by placing secondary figures and other aspects of the narrative almost in miniature compared to the figure of the protagonist the sense of distance fell into place.
One type of dramatic action was about an adventure and the other was about a romance rendered with flat contrasting colour.
I wondered why these old style posters apart from the nostalgia they evoked of a by-gone era played on my mind. In that era without colour television my main sources of imagery from popular culture were these posters, the movies, comics and comic strips in newspapers, Time and Life magazines and The Saturday Evening Post (Norman Rockwell). I became aware a strong influence some of these posters had on the unconscious formatting of my imagery in a formalist sense.
For example the image from a mural titled Women of the Interior while being about a protagonist who explored the Australian Outback had a composition imprint related to the first image though the colour related to the desert.
Elaine d’Esterre. Detail from a mural titled Women of the Interior, 1992, 12 feet by 30 feet. acrylic on plaster board
This image was also similar in that figures placed in the foreground had smaller images placed around the main figure positioned in a way to heighten the sense of drama. In the far distance, through the keyhole the artist engaged in the act of painting took second place to the foreground fantasy figures.
Elaine d’Esterre. The Original Sudarium, 1994 – 1995, diptych, 132×180 cm, oil on canvas, from my PhD exegesis titled Feminist Poetics: Symbolism in an Emblematic Journey about Self and Vision
Influences from the classroom portrait
Another unexpected source of imagery derived from old master prints was The Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals and Vincent Van Gogh self portraits that appeared to stare down from above a classroom mantle piece.
Face and Horn, 1994, 76×66 cm, oil on canvas, from Feminist Poetics
Influences from the school chapel
As well as the format of the 3/4 view classroom portrait the prints in the school chapel included The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci . The frontal portrayal of Christ was also a well used iconic image.
Elaine d’Esterre. Through the Window 2, 2000, 50×75 cm gouache, from the series titled Eye and Site 1
Placed beside the altar in which hung the da Vinci The Last Supper print was a framed print of The Annunciation by Fra Angelico.
The Annunciation in Florence, 1440 – 60, Fra Angelico. Florence, Museo di S. Marco. Fresco. ( Source: Baxandall, Michael, 1972 )
d’Esterre. Subjectivity 2, 2004, 92×108 cm, oil on board, from Eye and Site 1
This painting was about the relationship between artist and model. The model’s assertive behaviour reversed the usual procedure where the artist had control of the gaze.
Influences from the comic strip
My compositions some times constructed in triptych or diptych format hark back to an era of comics and comic strips. The topic may be complex and have embedded in the imagery reference to history, myth or allegory. By dividing the composition into segments the artist can suggest many dimensions and layered meaning to the viewer where each segment became part of the whole composition.
E. d’Esterre. About Durer’s Witch, 1995 – 1997, triptych, 90×252 cm, oil on canvas, from exegesis titled Feminist Poetics
On the other hand an artist may want to portray several versions of a topic and paint a series of related images but each image can exist on its own.
Momento mori 1, 2006, 50×770 cm, oil on gessoed paper, part of a series titled Eye and Site 2
Momento Mori 2, 2006, 52×70 cm, oil on gessoed paper, from Eye and Site 2
Momento Mori 3, 2006, 52×70 cm, oil on gessoed paper, from Eye and Site 2
Although the comic strip derived images read horizontally I also enjoy suggesting to the viewer a sense of depth in parts of the composition that could be read as though looking through a window. I enjoy fusing together different ways of looking.
Having waited several days for the top layer to dry I began another layer that built up the texture, strengthened the composition, adding weight to pictorial elements and added more colour and gestural brushstrokes. By using gestural brushstrokes made with a palette knife for small areas and a trowel for larger sweeps of paint I can give the composition a more dynamic structure. The structural configuration is the way I depict a type of narrative by dividing the composition into different time zones where the stages of erosion by water, mist, wind and rain change the land form.
Oil Painting commission, another mid-stage of the multilayer process.
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