Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings

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


Art about Heads in the Landscape (Brachina Gorge)

Titled Maria Located the Golden Spike, 2013, 54x72 cm, oil on gessoed paper

Maria Located the Golden Spike, 2013

Detail from oil painting titled Maria Located the Golden Spike, 2013

Detail from oil painting titled Maria Located the Golden Spike, 2013

When I place a head in the landscape-type of background I try to depict a momentary thought as it appears to cross the subject’s face. This process is about how I think and understand the way that time, the ages and history are recorded in rocks. For me gorge formations are like reading and imagining a story about the earth’s history.

The Golden Spike mentioned in the artwork titles is a particular rock formation dated about 500 million years old located in Brachina gorge in the Flinders Ranges. This locale is also home to fossils that are examples of the first animal life. 

The head-images, abstracted and partially exaggerated anatomy meld with parts of the landscape as though the skull and earth’s crust both hold beneath them the forces of creativity and nature. The abstracted shapes that seem to happen come from an imagined element of the thinking process.

Segmented Glance 2, 1/1, 2010, intaglio, drypoint, chine-colle and collage

Demeter and Persephone Re-visioned in Double Portrait form

Artists, myself included often refer to myth, history, archaeology or religion when depicting imagery as a way to include several layers of meaning with everyday subject matter. Messages can be conveyed through obvious symbols or by disguised symbolism for example the Demeter and Persephone myth can provide an allegory for narratives and images depicting mothers and daughters.

The well-known story about a mother (Demeter) and daughter (Persephone) relationship described as a tragic and cruel rape, abduction and kidnapping of a child from her mother is often referred to as an allegory for spring in the patriarchal culture of Ancient Greece.

 I referred to aspects of the Demeter and Persephone myth but re-visioned it by tracing some of the symbols back to their original location in earlier rituals as a way to re-vision the disempowerment of women in this rape and kidnap cautionary tale. Often symbols remain but the story told about them changes. Their Minoan-like origin can be seen in an excavation by S. and N. Marinatos at Akrotiri in Thera. So I retained several aspects not in their narrative form but in a type of disguised symbolism.  In that way I could depict through a double portrait my understanding  and formation of a daughter’s identity by referring to this allegory about renewal and transition.

Briefly I referred to frescos that depicted a narrative ritual where women protagonists descend into an adyton (holy of holies) depicted within the architecture of the Thera excavation.  The frescos make reference to the underworld, vegetation, growth and the cycle of nature as does the rape of Persephone and abduction to the underworld by her uncle Hades. 

The sketches and Theran frescos below illustrate part of the ritual activity at Akrotiri (destroyed in 1500 B.C.) in Thera (Santorini).

The shaved head of a young girl painted on this fresco suggests that she may be engaging in an initiation ritual.

Tentative reconstruction of the entire room 3 showing the pictorial programme on both floor levels.

Tentative reconstruction of the entire room 3 showing the pictorial programme on both floor levels including the steps descending into the adyton.

The sketch depicts a girl with a bleeding foot and a crocus. All heads turned to the blood on the altar.

I extrapolated imagery from elements of this symbolism as a way to create abstracted backgrounds that refer to blood and the dark atmosphere of an underworld ritual where in my imagination often unconscious and inarticulate emotions rise between a mother and daughter. This is a privatised world not a public and sacred ritual however I avoid direct reference to the rape and violence of Greek myth.

I also used this narrative of underground ritual as an allegory about vision, insight and inspiration.


Marinatos, Nanno,  Art and Religion in Thera: Reconstructing a Bronze Age Society. Athens, D. & I. Mathioulakis, 1984


Art techniques / different media

I selected these works on paper and large oil on board completed in 2010 as different versions of the same topic as the Point Roadknight influenced commission and its companion. The selections ( horizontal) are part of a series of artworks titled Return to Sand and Water. The different media also emphasised the processes of erosion at a special place called Point Roadknight.

Revisit sketchbook from Kakadu and Nitmiluk continued

From sketchbook to work on paper

My sketchbook images were reference for larger images mainly because I usually capture energy and movement in the initial mark making. Several images done on folded Fabriano print making paper meant that being absorbent the fibers would retain my application of pastel staining. Large pastel stick grated with my Stanley box cutter knife stained and bled into damp paper but also mixed in water like a slurry. Because the paper was tough and absorbent I made lines into which colour accumulated by gouging into the paper with the blunt side of my knife. For example:

Flood plain at Anbangbang Billabong

Sketch in ink pen from Anbangbang Billabong

Sketch in ink pen from Anbangbang Billabong

Two parts of this landscape captured my attention. Firstly the hole in one end of the background rock formation that reminded me of an eye. It felt as though we were being watched from afar. The other part was the dry billabong where triangle-shaped debris made of dry vegetation caught on sticks and branches. Swept into these shapes by a raging torrent in the previous wet season, they scattered across the flood plain . The other element captured was heat haze on the plain with blue sky. The pastel image with jagged lines resembling teeth may have been influenced sub-consciously by warnings to watch out for crocodiles.

Ancient rocks, Banded Iron Formation on the floor of Dales Gorge, Karijini National Park in the Pilbara Western Australia

Landscape, Ancient Rocks in the Pilbara

Etching technique consisting of intaglio and chine -colle enabled me to express and evoke a feeling of mystery and the sense of the sublime when confronted with the age of rocks and their significance. When in Dales Gorge in Karijini National Park I felt awed by the depth of the rock-forming steep gorge. On the gorge floor strata within the rocks alternate from pink brown and red purple. This layering caused by oxidation of the iron laden ocean when oxygen produced from stromatolites photosynthesis gradually entered the Earth’s atmosphere.  The striped pattern built up from the ocean floor as early as three billion years ago. Water cut through the gorge over millions of years as  land gradually uplifted.

Several etchings are artist’s proof  and  require fine tuning before I print an edition. I print small editions because I prefer to change the plate and produce one off images because it enables me to see the subject in many different ways.

Etching about ancient rocks in the Pilbara,

….…and then the Ocean Rusted 4, 2013, etching and chine – colle 25×12 cm

Landscape etching titled ...and then the Ocean Rusted 3, 2013 by Elaine d'Esterre about ancient rocks in the Pilbara

...and then the Ocean Rusted 3, 2013, viscosity technique and chine – colle 25×12 cm

Landscape contemporary etching titled ........and then the Ocean Rusted 2, 2013, about a process of ancient rock formation influenced by a trip to the Pilbara.

…...and the the Ocean Rusted 2, 2013, etching and chine – colle 25×12 cm

Landscape contemporary etching titled ........and then the Ocean Rusted 1, 2013, about a process of ancient rock formation influenced by a trip to the Pilbara.

An artist’s proof in the series titled .….and then the Ocean Rusted, 2013, intaglio, 25×12 cm

Landscape contemporary etching......and then the Ocean Rusted, A/P, 2013, etching and chine- colle by Elaine d'Esterre. The image was about how strata of ancient rock built up parts of the Pilbara 3 billion years ago as oxygen introduced into the atmosphere caused the ocean to rust.

Artist’s Proof titled, ….and then the Ocean Rusted’, 2013, etching and chine – colle 25×12 cm

Landscape contemporary etching titled ........and then the Ocean Rusted , artist's proof, 2013, about a process of ancient rock formation influenced by a trip to the Pilbara.

……and then the the Ocean Rusted, A/P, 2013, etching and chine- colle 25×12 cm

 .....and the Ocean Rusted series, 2013

AP for ...and then the Ocean Rusted series

Landscape artist's proof etching and chine - colle for...and the Ocean Rusted 4

Landscape artist’s proof 4 for…...and then  the Ocean Rusted

My trip to the Pilbara in April this year can be read and viewed with photographs and frottages done on sight in my first posts on this blog.

This week I tried more proofs on different textured paper – rice paper, a thickly textured but porous spongy handmade paper as well as Fabriano.

I think line crispness suffered due to too much texture and the second last one looks too scrubby.

I love the intensity of black and my idea was that it would evoke a sense of mystery regarding this 3 billion year old clue to a momentous moment in Earth’s history.

I discovered a blog titled geo-aesthetics which sounded more accurate a description to my imagery than the term contemporary landscape because the content as well as the form is central.

The address of the blog is geo-aesthetics.blogspot.com.au

Oil Painting Commission continued

Oil Painting Commission continued into the final stages.

Oil Painting Commission continued into the final stages.

Final Stages

In these last layers I  gradually intensified the colour however at present it is too colourful. I poured several wet in wet colours together hoping they would suggest reflection. Missing is the sense of shallow water although the illusion of varying depth is working. I want the paint fresher and crisper as well as mark making which is too furry in places.  This will come about when I reintroduce grey tones that allow the colour breathing space. Line created with an oil painting stick may definite a statement directly.

The composition also needs another look.  The  vertical triptych format can be made stronger and will flatten the surface as it reads from right to left rather than constructed as though viewed through a perspective window. Each section in the triptych format has its own story about erosion and change witnessed by rock disintegration in stages over time.

Untitled 1, companion to the commissioned oil painting.

Untitled 1, companion to the commissioned oil painting.

Untitled 1, a companion piece to the above painting nears its final stages too as I poured layers onto colour as a way to intensify it although I preferred the previous stage where there was an immediacy and freshness. However once again grey tones will allow colour and line which are elements of the composition to be a focus. This artwork termed a mixed media is less painterly than the above and more graphic so that the introduced frottage is visible and not obscured by paint layering.

Landscape,”…….and See My Etchings”

Early Stage

Yesterday I found an old zinc plate and decided to recycle using the reverse side. This side already coated in resist meant that it was calling out for a line etch, too large for hand done mezzotint but suitable for drypoint. However that was the theory, the practice was different.

The original side upon which were  twenty year old remains of the destroyed plate’s surface due to it being the surface of a limited edition. The surface texture looked very different turned upside down thanks to a fellow printmaker in the Anglesea workshop. We are most fortunate to have two printing presses at the Anglesea Art House and it was fortuitous that the fellow printmaker noticed the marks and texture of the ruined plate.

The top half of the plate already destroyed by open bite, burnish and drypoint balanced the drypoint bottom half.

Zinc etching plateI printed a proof in black ink on Cartridge paper to gauge what imagery remained.

Untitled 1 artist's print

Intaglio untitled 3, 2013, detail

Intaglio untitled 3, 2013, detail

The close up showed the amount of detail and mark making that reminded me of the subject matter in previous posts about my two commissions. This afternoon I saw not the rocks of Point Roadknight but the sides of Karijini Gorge. I recalled Dales Gorge and a particular rock sample at the base of the gorge. It was witness to early layering of red rust sediment thought laid down as oxygen slowly entered the atmosphere that caused the iron laden ocean to rust. The plan now is to burnish strata combined with red chine – colle as a way that may allude to an ancient at least 3 billion year old phenomenon.

Seascape Oil Painting Commission continued

Final Stages

The final stages of this commission take form as I threw paint, texture and line into the composition that now looks too busy and requires more focus on the statement.  Colour was an important factor for the person who commissioned this work as he asked me to include indigo. Very definite colour as a significant element in the composition often means that detailed shape and form take a back seat. My aim now is to simplify some of the textural areas, strengthen the composition without losing the organic animated gestural marks intended to live life to the image. The grey values also visually give intense colour space.

Oil painting Commission continued into the final stages.

Oil painting Commission continued into the final stages.

Companion Painting to the Commission

I enjoy the process of imaging several versions of an image. The untitled image measurements are 90 x 120 cm and is also an oil on canvas (linen). The painting in middle stage development is about the particular way a horizontal layer of chalky yellow rock forms an entablature-like shape that has weathered incrementally to its present position situated halfway along the length of the point (Point Roadknight).  On the sea side of the gap a remnant piece of rock  adjacent to an intact outcrop  kept in place by the soil and tree roots above it looked bare and solitary as weathering has removed above layers. Bare bones of rock washed by the tides are home to marine life on this section of the point; one side of the gap terrestrial life on the other marine.

Unfinished middle stage, Untitled 1, 2013,  oil and mixed media on canvas.

Unfinished middle stage, Untitled 1, 2013, oil and mixed media on canvas 90×120 cm

Second Oil Painting Commission

Fortunately another commission resulted from the first one described above. The subject matter taken from the same place named Point Roadknight situated along the Great Ocean Road is a fascinating, dramatic structure that changes visually due to tides and weather conditions and structurally because of relentless weathering and erosion. It’s almost as though my photographs, painting and etchings are witness to this process.

I think I’m at the late early stage where movement and gesture predominate and keep the image looking fresh within these layers. The aim is to retain this immediate fresh impression as the layers build up.

2nd Commission, unfinished early stage, Untitled 2, 2013, oil on canvas on board.

2nd Commission, unfinished early stage, Untitled 2, 2013, oil on canvas on board 90×122 cm

In the painting my focus is also on the terrestrial edge of this halfway gap along the rock formation. I will refer to last years photographic records as many of the ‘entablatures’ and ‘ columns’ washed away by rain, wind and sea show scars of their former location. We have in Australia one of if not the most fragile of coastlines in the world.

This area is a small section of the Great Ocean Road which is under consideration and part of a campaign for world heritage protection which if successful would put it on par with the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland and Kakadu in the Northern Territory.

In 2011 I completed a series of etching, chine-colle and collage titled Return to Sand and Water where I depicted images of this process of loss and change and likened it to my process of painting. The images can be viewed at desterreart.com.au as well as in my shop/gallery on Etsy named ElainedEsterre. There are also 5 images that resulted from my Kakadu trip which are part of a series of artwork titled An Archaeology of Landscape. The complete Archaeology of Landscape may be viewed at desterreart.com.au

Photography about Dawn Clouds

I like to capture unusual almost unnatural graphic romantic effects that can occur at times like sunrise and sunset. Low red light changing quickly to orange as the sunrises can appear to visually distort parts of the landscape making it temporarily alien.  This morning as I walked onto the beach before sunrise I witnessed an unusual cloud formation. I remembered the last time I observed a similar shape as it inspired an artwork titled Dawn Cloud Trajectory, 2010 from a series of artwork titled Return to Sand and Water

Dawn Cloud photographed by Elaine on the 27th June 2013 at Point Roadknight

Dawn Cloud photographed by Elaine on the 27th June 2013 at Point Roadknight

Dawn Cloud Trajectory, 2010, 15x30 cm print, 35x50 cm paper, intaglio and collage

Dawn Cloud Trajectory, 2010, 15×30 cm print, 35×50 cm paper, intaglio and collage