Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings


‘Interrogating Rock’ – intaglio & metal leaf

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I produced these images on paper by intaglio technique and black ink using a zinc plate. The process began two years ago having done the black and white intaglio I wanted to experiment with metal leaf as a composition element. It was a struggle to apply the leaf ( copper, gold and silver) with ink resulting in several mistakes and badly printed efforts with the leaf tearing and printing in places not intended.

But my disappointment lifted when I looked at them from a distance and saw in these altered random elements an unintended continuation of my environment/geology theme with human interaction as integrated part, not separate from it. So the messy metal leaf became ore bodies as I recalled a period in my life when I lived in mining towns and ventured underground at a copper mine in Tasmania.

The first 3 images worked with some trimming but the others needed chine colle as a composition element and in one I scraped away part of the leaf. In another 7/10 print I combined a plate from another series about Brachina gorge with the first plate as well as applying gold leaf and chine colle.

As a result this type of edition, because although the images vary I retain in each print an element of the first print ie the black intaglio, is termed a variable edition. I prefer this way of printing which can look painterly, perhaps, to traditional editioning where multiples of the same image make up an edition.




Collage and Texture

When I compare collage and mixed media compositions with oil painted compositions sharing the same topic, I become aware of how different media often suit particular topics.

In this case contemporary art about the environment and the forces of nature somehow is suited to the dryness of rice paper as well as handmade paper as they become simulations of the earth’s surface and landforms. The dusty terrain, desiccated rock surfaces, cracked salt-laden and powdery surfaces and dry sand depictions, although semi abstracted, seem so much easier to portray with various collages than with the lush textures and viscosity of oil paint. Impasto especially can look too lush when alluding to Australia’s ancient land.

One solution to attain the powdery delicate but ancient bleached look was when I mixed grated pastel into gesso and then applied liberally on top of gesso ground whether on canvas, paper or wood surface. I usually begin with this technique but am often not quite satisfied with the end result so I will keep on experimenting.

I feel as though this small series has ended for now and oil painting is calling once again back to psychological portraits where oil paint is a sympathetic medium in which to portray subtleties  and nuanced tonal values.

Timeline in Brachina Gorge 2, 2016

New Home Page Exhibition – Absorbing the Landscape

My new Home Page images are part of an ongoing fascination for a gorge in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia and the 500 million year old Ediacaran fossils found there. In previous posts I described some of the geology and fossils found around Brachina Gorge and the Golden Spike for instance.Brachina Gorge, Flinders Ranges, South Australia and Etching Collage about Brachina Gorge and Art about Heads in the Landscape (Brachina Gorge)

I have extended the theme into the idea of mentally absorbing the landscape.  I look at Nature’s shapes/landforms/geomorphology from which I create preparatory drawings that lead into a type of deconstruction and  then a re visualisation of geological forms as I try to depict a visual simulation of Nature’s narrative, timeline and transformation and my thought process involved in learning about Nature and mind in flux.


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Old and New Images

At Muddy’s She Shed during the weekend Surf Coast Arts Trail event, the studio, temporarily transformed into a gallery, had a steady stream of viewers on both days. Interested participants created gelatine prints using Anglesea flora. Several items that included Maggi Jean’s ceramics, small sculptures – (a small elephant herd) and artists’ books – ( Anglesea flora and seaweeds) found good homes as well as Evie Wood’s poetry books, cards, watercolours and an acrylic still life titled Pink Lady Interior, 2016.


Point Addis Daisy, 2016 by Magaret Jean.

Point Addis Daisy, 2016 by Margaret Jean.


Pink Lady Interior, 2016, acrylic, 40×40 cm by Evie Wood.

Several of my digital prints were also purchased. The oldest had been part of my PhD exegesis, titled Natalie (Demeter/Persephone) and the most recent was a reproduction of a viscosity printed collagraph that started as an experiment with the viscosity printing technique but also required additional chine-colle as a way to give the composition some space and atmosphere.

Natalie ( Demeter / Peresophone), 2016, ( original 1995, intaglio, ink and wash, 98 X 66 cm.)

Snowfields 2, 2016, viscosity print and hand made paper, 50x35cm

Snowfields 2, 2016, viscosity print and hand made paper, 50x35cm

Etching collage


‘Where Sun Met Rock at Point Roadknight, 2016, intaglio, handmade paper and chine-colle, 24×40 cm


Toward the Rock Ledge, 2016, intaglio, drypoint, chine-colle and handmade paper, 60x40cm


Between Sand and Rock, 2016, intaglio, chine-colle and handmade paper, 2016, 50×35 cm


The Swell, 2016, intaglio and pastel paper, 48×54 cm

A continuation of collage consisting of intaglio and drypoint mixed together with various types of paper into compositions about local environment and human interaction.

Artwork on Paper at Shopify

I’m trying a new approach to selling artwork. I still have exhibitions at galleries, certainly with large oil paintings, but moving with the times why not try an approach augmenting the gallery exhibition? The main point about websites and blogs is that viewers get a detailed description about how a particular work came about, they can pursue an image and ponder its pros and cons in their own space without being rushed or pressurised and can contact the artist with any pertinent questions.

Works on paper are a convenient medium owing to size and weight which can be shipped, cost effectively, to any destination quite easily.

The works chosen are from a series of etching, chine-colle and collage titled And then the Ocean Rusted, 2014. The title refers to when, 2-3 billion years ago, the World’s  iron laden oceans began rusting, laying down sediment, as oxygen from cyanobacteria entered the atmosphere causing the rusting process. I visited this location, taking rubbings/frottage from these metamorphosed sedimentary deposits from different gorges in Karijini National Park in West Australia which I combined with intaglio, an aspect of etching technique and printed in my studio. The whole series can be viewed at http://pinterest.com/elainedesterre/etching-and-chine-colle-titled-and-then-the-ocean/ 


The largest dimensions of the handmade prints can be viewed at


“Littoral” Blurb

Some artists say that paintings ‘speak’ for themselves but, while I partly agree, I feel that information about artwork increases viewers’ enjoyment and curiosity. I don’t think I’m illustrating words verbatim but I do get inspiration from written source material as well as from other inputs- observation, memory, dreams and many emotions. I like to read blurbs when I look at the work of other artists as it increases my sense of engagement. However my first engagement with another artwork is through its visual impact and my emotional reaction, then I search for the words.

Chatting with the artist- always the way to go. Saturday March 5 from 4- 6pm at:









LITTORAL – Point Roadknight




Particular rock formations on the bay side of this small promontory have resulted in the action of mineralization and seepage over thousands of years. This calcified a system of tree roots that reach through an extensive dune. In this series of oil paintings, mixed media and etchings, my particular focus is on Port Roadknight’s seashore and landforms, an intertidal zone known as “littoral”.





Firstly at this site I recorded by sketch and photograph the changes driven by the forces of erosion. While charting these images over a five-year period I felt a sense of quiet desperation, loss and distress at the evident effects of climate change. The slow disintegration of this intriguing place expresses itself in the oil painting, Point Roadknight Erosion, 2007.



Point Roadknight Erosion, 2007, 92x180 cm, oil on canvas

Point Roadknight Erosion, 2007, oil on canvas






I then focused on a feature within the cliff face, often referred to by locals as “the petrified forest”. Rows of trunk-like ‘columns’, now almost lost to the sea, resemble ancient ruins. Colonnades, porticos and an entablature appear to emanate from the cliff face. An orange layer of horizontal rock runs along its length above the ‘columns’, a vibrant essence I set out to capture in Entablature, 2012.

Like an Entablature, 2012

Entablature, 2012, gouache 52×73 cm








Resurface 2, 2010 and Sand Cradle, 2010 are an allegory, representing how a diver physically and an artist mentally descend into places real and imagined and resurface with treasure or inspiration.


The heavily textured elements in Petrified Forest 1 and 2, The Sun Rises and Sand Reflection, are an example of my handmade paper, which I made from marram grass picked from local sand dunes. I combined these with frottage, using graphite to make rubbings from broken ‘columns’ scattered along the intertidal zone.


In Aglow and Column Shadow, I aimed at how mid-winter sunlight at dawn falls on to the chalky cliff face, making it appear to glow before casting deep shadows on it. As the sun continues to rise this contrast defines the many imaginary shapes that emerge from this section of shoreline.


All welcome to come and chat about the work and that of other artists also exhibiting at 69 Smith Street Gallery in Fitzroy.




Drought Imagery on my Homepage

I completed these eight etching collages last year when I sensed that atmospheric conditions could herald another drought, hopefully without the severity of the last unforgettable one.

The mind/scape iconography of floating heads and ears especially are meant to indicate the way in which some sounds set off an unexpected stream of images – an underworld where fears and insecurities reside.

The existence of the images was almost like an omen, as I took them from my plan draws after a year, that jolted me now that an El Nino weather event is now controlling our weather system in 2015. And as I re-photographed them on my verandah, large spots of rain spattered them but very, very briefly, as true to form, the rain fall abruptly ceased.

Hardly projecting a sense of joy, they resemble a drought ravaged landscape – a bit withered and colourless.

Sounds of Drought 3, 2014, etching collage

Sounds of Drought 3, 2014, intaglio, drypoint, chine-colle and collage  


Behind the Scenes at LANDforms Exhibition

Many friends behind the scenes ensured that all preparations for my LANDforms Exhibition ran smoothly. Apologies for my very average photography in this blog.

Amazing amounts of organisation: labels, “Artist Statement”, “CV” and blurbs placed on core board, the catalogue accompanied by a list of my artworks in “Public Collections” as well as the packing, transporting and then the hanging of 35 items, are thanks to Natalie Utmar and and Gavin Cross who also arranged the lighting and highlighting of the paintings and etchings.

The gallery provided input from their curator, Patricia Goldby whose suggestions about artwork placement, lighting and the finer points about presentation were invaluable. (More about this in my next blog.)

Added to everyone’s focussed efforts,  the gallery committee members were helpful and collaboration at all stages ran smoothly.

Preparations for Saturday’s Opening, October 24  from 4 – 6pm are under way. In gallery 1, guitar soloist Gavin Cross will be performing a mixture of Classical, Latin and Jazz compositions to add to our enjoyment as well as tapas, olives and nibbles and the wine sourced from the Wolseley Winery situated in the Surf Coast hinterland behind Bells Beach and Anglesea at Paraparap, as well as bubbly and mineral water.  Hopefully good music combined with wine, food, conversation and the artwork contribute an entertaining and stimulating afternoon.


LANDforms Exhibition – not only Lake Mungo

Other significant places including Lake Mungo featured in my exhibition are found in Nitmiluk and Kakadu National Parks, the Karijini National Park and at Point Roadknight, a small promontory along The Great Ocean Road.

It is Written, 2007

It is Written 2, 2007, oil on board

Along the sides of the Katherine Gorge passages of sediment configured in ways that reminded me of ancient texts in stone.

Downward Drift, 2014

Downward Drift, 2014, intaglio and chine-colle

As oxygen entered Earth’s atmosphere it caused iron laden sediment in the ocean to rust, fall to the sea floor and over eons compress into The Banded Iron Formation found in the Pilbara. In this etching – intaglio and chine-colle I imagined the process of sedimentation.

Tidal Surge, 2010, intaglio and collage 26x16 cm print, 48x35 cm paper

Tidal Surge, 2010, intaglio and collage 26×16 cm print, 48×35 cm paper

A  mineralised root system, part of the Point Roadknight promontory, called the “Petrified Forest” resembled an ancient ruin complete with columns, portico and entablature. Now non-existent due to high winter tides, sea spray and wind.

LANDforms exhibition invitation. October 21- November 8

LANDforms exhibition invitation. October 21- November 8

Pilbara Revision: “memento mori”

I returned to last incomplete artwork about the Pilbara in Western Australia where ancient rocks termed the Banded Iron Formation, 2-3 billion years old reminded me of memento mori  paintings. In the traditional versions of this topic a figure holds a skull contemplating life’s fleeting span. As an alternative, I get a buzz from observing geological layers in particular landforms that like a type of calendar remind me of my mortality.

Etching Collage about Lake Mungo

Two more images about Lake Mungo that refer to the landscape and how it may be understood in relation to its geology.

I have continued combining metallic leaf, handmade papers and intaglio with some intaglio as collage.

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Etchings about Lake Mungo

The images are about Lake Mungo, its environment and how I reacted to it. Once again I continue the experiments with metallic leaf, this time silver leaf combined with intaglio and collage.

The Sounds of Mungo refer to the comparative silence of this flat dry lake surface and large lunette – shaped dune. The ear is almost eye – like as it ‘sees’ into the landscape and the blinded eye ceases to register outer observation as an inner sense of the place or mental image prevails.

The mention of “red soil” in the titles about trajectories refer to how the colour of the dunes opposite the red hills became an earthy pink colour. Blown from the west across the dry lake, the red earth deposited on the dune seeps down as it rains producing a washed out pink colour which at sunset creates a stunningly beautiful glow.

Other artworks started from the same plate but developed into a variable edition.

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Etching and silver leaf continued

First Stages 

In these small contemporary landscapes based on Lake Mungo I am still experimenting with silver leaf and chine colle layering.

Second Stage

Gold leaf in the first image required toning down with layer of semi transparent white. Silver leaf in the other two almost invisible.

In the second version of the second image I wet the chine colle and scrunched it into a folded shape reminiscent of folds in the landscape. The second version of the third image looked better in vertical format also with changed chine colle.

I aimed to capture particular elements of this eroded and parched long lunette shaped dune weathered by rain and wind then shaped into small pyramid shaped hills.

Experiments with Etching Proofs


I  scraped off an earlier image  from the copper plate which was a variable edition titled A Search for the “Golden Spike”, 2014A Search for 'The Golden Spike', 2014 The changed plate, now destroyed finished that edition. However it lay in my studio for a few months as I intended using the back of the plate for another etching. Then, as frequently happens, another image popped up –  pre-conscious imagery where a seemingly complete mental picture in my mind’s eye seems so real and demanded attention.

The dark areas in the earlier image were made using the aquatint and acid process.I wanted to try out a new tool that creates darkened areas and is called a rocker which doesn’t require an acid bath. Basically its a drypoint method called mezzotint.

Small rocker

Small rocker with fine grooves

Large rocker

Large rocker

Using rockerUsing rockerUsing rocker

The rocking motion and pressure applied both make dotted ridges that imprint into the copper so that when ink is applied it is forced into these depressions as a way to produce a dark section.

In this next stage where I destroyed the image on the plate my main tool was a scraper whereby I removed much of the mezzotint and then burnished the scraped area so that ink could not adhere to the surface before printing.


The horizontal formatted image above changed into a vertical composition. The head and landscape seemed to dissolve into each other within my mind’s eye – less head, less structure all over and a more atmospheric look.The mind’s eye image seemed to be about facial features that mimic aspects of the landscape.  I scraped and burnished the central area and then reestablished small areas around the head with roulettes and etching needle as well as strengthen the linear highlights.


Several proofs depicted in the vertical formatted image.

The second print shown here was proofed first and the first was the ‘improved’ version which was too fussy. I liked the more ethereal first effort. So I scraped off the top and part of the central ‘horizon’ , simplified the busy bits and added a chine colle.

Proofs 1 and 2


The first image with off-white coloured chine colle is quite atmospheric and in the second version the chine colle didn’t take and peeled back, away from the surface making a line gap dividing the top from bottom.  I used orange pastel to join the gap. Still not happy with the sky area, I turned it upside down which gave me another idea that may be suitable for an oil painting. More proofs are required to resolve the image.

The Sun Descends, 2014

Artwork about Images of Change at Point Roadknight

From 2012 to 2014 

In this expanding series I always seem to return to this particular landform (apart from the others in far reaches of the continent mentioned in previous blogs). Sometimes this rocky protrusion, jutting into the ocean making a sheltered bay on its northern side, is referred to as “the petrified forest”.

I have tried to illustrate how an early morning photograph taken in 2011 titled  Erosion informed the gouache titled An Abrupt Transition, 2012 and then later quite unexpectedly last year I found layers of handmade paper made years ago at a university weekend workshop. Their textures suggested the appearance of rock. Also found were several frottaged pieces of rice paper taken from the surfaces of these rocks as preliminaries to a commissioned seascape.

The breach at Point Roadknight

The need to return at intervals gets a bit desperate as I hope that the erosion will slow. My quiet desperation comes about as I witness and find myself inadvertently recording gradual and not so gradual destruction of this beloved landform.

There is a transition in the work from the 6 shiny photographs to 5 gouache matte simulated textured images to 3 handmade textures reminiscent of rock and a collage with a piece of failed viscosity etching titled The Sun Descends.


I like to observe the way transitioning through different media, using the same or similar subject, often leads into another awareness and reinterpretation about the interaction between structures and conditions. While not a plein aire painter I alway sketch and then carefully draw a subject as a way to sharpen my memory.

It is from memory and contemplation that my imagery arises, placed in an abstracted format with reference to the material object. The texture of the objects can be simulated in paint or another type of simulation that is, either rock-like handmade paper or frottage taken from the rocks in question.

Feelings are not all gloom and doom as my romantic side loves the colour of sunrise, glow of sunrise on rock faces, rock faces reminiscent of ancient ruins and then about 20 minutes after sunrise when the winter sun is in the best position and intensity I photograph their reflections in rock pools and wet sand.

My first attempt at capturing this aspect of the place is not quite as I would like it – a bit pale and wan.

Sand Reflection, 2014

Sand Reflection, 2014

The start a another direction perhaps?

Also at Pinterest

Etching with Gelatine Prints and Decoupage by Lee Powell

I would like to introduce Lee Powell to viewers. Lee, our tutor at the Anglesea Art House has introduced several contemporary printmaking techniques that include etching using a gelatine plate and experimentation with metallic leaf where she combines a decoupage approach to sculptural construction. This approach is where the application of printed papers to different objects produce a sculptural quality. The technique termed decoupage is similar to collage, that is, applying cut out pieces of paper and tissue to a surface that can also be two-dimensional.

In the first image and slide show, Lee constructed an open box that while containing a series of connected fold out images also functioned as a frame when the images retracted into a single image.


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In the second piece of artwork the opacity and shiny surface of copper leaf was visible but not over powering through the semi transparent multi layerings of thin tissue paper and Hoshu paper.


As the plate is gelatine (water and gelatine set when placed in a lined flattish baking dish or similar container) the artist does not require an etching press and simply flattens the paper receiving the print by hand. Objects such as plant material, seaweed or fine filigree textures and any shape desired adhere to the gelatine ‘plate’ over which colour is rolled.

The rich textural layers of colour give the image an abstracted appearance but at the same time suggestions of the figurative are also evident. There is a harmony between both aspects of image making that makes it read as a landscape. I think this convergence is produced by the hands on way the image. That is from disparate found images on paper fragments where the imagery “just happens” in a serendipitous way by firstly,

. the random selection of these fragments of previously printed images,

. multi layering,

. layers of tissue torn back to reveal earlier layering,

. tonal and textural nuance coalesce as layers are coated with a glue,

. the copper leaf shows up through the over layering and harmonises with the yellow and brown in this landscape.

The term analogue art perhaps describes the artwork produced by our group because as demonstrated by Lee’s influence, truth to materials, the love of handmade papers, experimentations with inks and their application as well as mark making are central to her practice.

Rock Face 1, 2014

Etching and Metallic leaf (update)

In my last blog I described various attempts at tackling copper leaf combined with intaglio.  I thought that the process would be similar to applying chine colle to the image. However it was quite a tricky process handling the elusive leaf and its adherence to the the paper. At first the metallic copper leaf adhered to the zinc plate and so I had to make sure that it stuck and dried to the printmaking paper before printing onto its surface. However a chine colle process would have been successful if the plate was a non – metallic collagraph.

First attempt

Rock Face 1, 2014

Rock Face 1, 2014, intaglio and copper leaf 10×25 cm

Second attempt

Rock Face 1, 2014

Rock Face 1, 2014, intaglio and copper leaf 10×25 cm

The etched section of the second image was a ghost print.

First attempt

Etching with copper leaf proof

Second attempt

Rock Face 2, 2014, intaglio and copper leaf

Rock Face 2, 2014, intaglio and copper leaf 10×25 cm

The third image began as a mis-print because I had misjudged the register. I masked out most of the image and printed in the top right hand corner.

First attempt

Etching and copper leaf  proof

Second attempt

Rock Face 3, 2014, 10 x25 cm, intaglio and chine colle by Elaine d'Esterre

Rock Face 3, 2014, intaglio and chine colle 10×25 cm

l ‘m not to sure about the last image but I was surprised at how the combination of etching and copper leaf produced an antique look that reminded me of maps from the sixteenth century, as though the shapes resembled fragments of lost continents.  All the imperfections; torn edges, edges over lapping the plate embossed edge, decal and excess ink bleeding outside its boundary could have resembled an old parchment that may have been in an attic for a few centuries.