Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings


Final Stage (commission)

Months have passed and now that my exhibition is over, I can return to this oil painting. Occasionally I had a chance to depict more detail within middle stages.

There were some considerations that needed attention such as the painting’s dimension. It differed from that of the original drawing in pastel and charcoal that the client had admired. More elongated in shape (to fit into a specific wall space) the effect of transferring the exact image meant that the composition looked too evenly layered.

Part of the image is incomplete as textures required more layering of tone and colour. While an oil painting will never look like a drawing, I have tried to keep a crisp line played off against opaque and transparent passages of paint. Below is a print of original drawing.

Gradually coming together but trying to resist urge to get too detailed and busy.


Commission continued


New Commission

This commission happened due to an art lover viewing on line one of my small studies in pastel and charcoal drawn over a digital print taken from one of my larger paintings. The study on paper sizing up often demands some compositional arrangement and more tonal subtlety. Translating a small pastel into oil paint always interesting.

So today I begin.


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From 1970 to 2017

 

Comparing Artwork from the last century with that of the 21st century.

The first column consists of my recent artwork which I placed adjacent to the second column. On my website home page are more images from the past, several of which were teaching demos. for students who wanted to explore the styles, techniques and artists of the Modern era. While I likes many aspects of Modernism I wanted to convey  sense of  specific persons and places captured at a particular moment in time which then led me to apply several combinations of style and technique.

On one hand this meant retaining some realism or naturalism in my later work compared to earlier depictions where the figuration was freer but on the other hand, paint was more free flowing and random in recent work but more controlled on earlier images. I like the different qualities of the wet on wet oil medium with random areas of flow, bleeding edges, transparencies and impasto so I gradually left behind some aspects of painting built up by using wet on dry techniques. The result is that I do combinations of both.

 

 

 

 


Anbangbang Billabong Revisited – cont.

The collage treatment of my original artwork digitalised into an edition onto printmaking paper continues, allowing strong colour beneath to show through the finely textured rice paper. This effect is similar to an oil painting technique where a thin semi transparent veil of paint can be painted over often flat strong colour as a way to give atmospheric depth to a composition. I love the play of opaque surfaces with tonal atmospheric and nuanced texture and much overlapping adding to the sense of ‘painting with paper’.

Nuanced texture and atmospheric tonal values made from overlapping transparent, semi transparent and semi opaque layers of either paper or paint produce and effect that seem so characteristic of outback Australian landscapes – no glaringly obvious focal points, in-defined shapes, blinding sunlight and obscuring dust haze and quivering mirage obscuring clear any horizon line.

We arrived at this location in the dry season when burning off was in progress making the haze, glare, heat contribute to how I imagined these images as I sat next to the dried billabong with its remnant and dried vegetation transported by wet season floods left caught on sticks and branches scattered across the dusty surface that resembled triangular stooks of hay.

Anbangbang Billabong Flood Plain, 2017

Anbangbang Billabong Flood Plain, 2017, rice paper collage and pen and ink, 75×30 cm

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Flood Plain Across Anbangbang Billabong, 2017, rice paper collage on original digital image plus ink wash and pen, 75×30 cm


Adventure and Allegory of Painting at Mungo

This small oil on gessoed printmaking paper began as an incomplete intaglio print as underpainting two years ago. During that time when I left it to dry I became dissatisfied with it and put it away for a while.

My mood and colour scheme had changed from lilac to blue. In the first pink/lilac stage I wanted to recapture the vanishing light at Mungo and its subtle flash of a citrine cold yellow before sunset. The blue rendition was a confused attempt to pick up the theme of how environmental conditions affect shape and image construction that morphed into a ‘listening to the land’ theme influenced by a series of collages titled ‘Sounds of Drought’

A recent science programme demonstrated new techniques and equipment that when placed in strategic places in a habitat could monitor particular sounds, types and  numbers of different creatures at a given time. The data created a picture on computer screen of the health of that particular area. A validition of my images with ears reaching into landforms esp. Mungo perhaps?.

 

 

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Lake Mungo Landscape (work in progress)

At a half way stage through another Mungo scape difficulties often arise. Before this stage I often feel that I have the composition under control with the first few layers of thin lean paint consistency shapes texture, line, colour and forms coalesce into a flash memory of the particular place. Random shapes that settle after poured, spattered and bleeding paint often suggest other avenues. At this juncture another mental image appears and interrupts the original flash memory. By letting the composition evolve and not trying to control it by wanting to recapture a former memory, some other aspect often reveals itself. I have to wait, then pounce and hope that I will like it.

 


Lake Mungo Experience

In this continuation of the Mungo Experience I tried to merge the idea of history represented by the ear and converge it in the artist’s mind with the atmosphere of this place represented by the sun.

 

 

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Previous stages of Watching by a Mungo Dune, 2016

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Lake Mungo and Poet

This painting has been through the wringer. I was trying to capture an image of a poet or artist entering the landscape as it seeps into the mind and the person ‘becomes’ the landscape and the image of the person fuses with aspects of it in this case, one of the dunes at Lake Mungo. In my first rendition in moody grey green I returned to an older type of imagery of the visionary figure and interior, a total side track that I dropped and began the thought process. The harsh outdoors, the heat and desiccated landscape and its effect on the artist/poet took over again. changing from artist and brush and light bulb to artist near dune with sun replacing the light bulb image. The dune image also obscured the light bulb.

Reversal didn’t work and I felt that the weight and volume of the head had been lost in colour and brush strokes. I dithered and fiddled with the image of the ear representing ‘history’ and ‘information’ as it changed from an obscured shape to a clearer representation. Unhappy with head in box imagery and as time went by the painting changed  from that of artist into the representation of the poet with a vast blue sky background.

The meaning also evolved when I painted the head in mental constraints represented by lines of a box shape outside of which an ear reached to earth and so I titled the composition at that stage, The Sound of History at Mungo, 2015. Not happy and time passed again.

I decided to cover up what was looking like fussiness. The head solid but part of the forehead became dune shaped and also the dune image reflected onto the black spectacle lens. I repeated the image of the dune shape near the mouth as a way to represent the poet’s words. Then it seemed that the basic shape of the dune being a triangle was shared like the letter “A” placed on the left of the composition; the experience of the flesh merging with the matter of the landscape created the symbol. The title now is The Flesh Created the Symbol at Lake Mungo, 2016

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“Mungo Strata Exposed”: a painting commission

This commission began several months ago after an exploration of Mungo in printmaking ie etching etc media. Now returning to this topic, a combination of collage and oil, I feel a freedom painting on a larger surface. The surface consists of canvas on board which lends itself to application of any material with a staple gun.

The first image consists of printmaking paper onto which frottage images, taken from surfaces of Lake Mungo’s terrain adhere. In the background are oil washes that loosely resemble dunes behind the clay pan. The frottage was done with graphite in the left section and in the central area I combined it with part of the clay pan and clay/sand mixture. The paper in the right hand area had been moulded to the surface of the land leaving sunken shaped into which ink settled as well as grated pastel.

The piece of frottage dated 2001, lay in my plan draws until not long ago as I have found it difficult to get my head around how to express the feeling of total exposure and blinding light when first arriving. And while I studied it geology and history and took my usual approach of collecting data, I still couldn’t find a way into it.

I think I was side-tracked with a sense of romanticism due to spectacular sunsets and sunrises so stunning in a desert and which are popular subjects esp. for photographers. Anyway, the second stage as I felt my way into a composition began with tearing away excess paper, making cut-out areas into which I poured paint.

IMG_3709Close up of  2 sections

Also I blocked out with masking tape pieces of frottage that didn’t need paint yet or at all.


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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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Silver Leaf and Intaglio Experiment

Background

The etchings in the slide show are earlier experimental versions using metal leaf with black etching ink with varying degrees of success.

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In my most recent attempts, this time with silver leaf I also added a red ground because I felt that the silver may be too cool.


Painting stages for “Under the Image” (incomplete)

Background

This image developed from a torn up etching and a gessoed board, the surface for a painting demonstration six months ago. (We experimented with oil paint and how with triple and double loaded palette knives and brushes it could be manipulated to form the textures that characterise much of the Australian landscape).

The image is about how I feel as I find a way to represent the landscape and artist.  I like to imagine the earth as seen from beneath as though from some sort of underground position.  I create imagined textures that allude to the geology of the site and how this sometimes reflects the above ground terrain because I want the artist to be marked by the earth and landscape.

The painting process is incomplete because I prefer the image titled “Middle stage” where the forms and movement are more dynamic. The last image has become static so when it dries

the next few paint layers will hopefully be an improvement with more tension so that it looks as though I am ’embracing’ the landscape while at the same time I see the world upside down as the landscape imprints in my mind.

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The Artist, 2014, 20x25 cm, mixed media


The Artist

Background

This quick portrait sketch was unplanned but came about because of two separate incidents.

I used a very small smooth surfaced gesso panel suitable for a brush stroke demonstration in a painting workshop organised by several art students earlier this year. It was one of several different sized panels that were suitable for experimenting with glazes combined with different impasto textures such as double and triple loaded brush or palette knife application into a wet glaze rather than onto a dry surface. A wet in wet instead of the usual method of wet on dry created impasto strokes where some edges blurred and bled into the under painted glaze.

My demonstrations on the larger panels were clearer than on this small almost constricting sized panel (as I usually work on a large surface except for etching). The few brushstrokes depicting aspects of landscape features were hastily wiped off (and cast aside under other work in my studio) after the demo. because I couldn’t see an image developing in the paint.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and I wondered if there was any hope for some remaining etchings that were grubby around the edges and couldn’t be turned into mixed media with gouache, pastel or charcoal. Time for some ripping up and throwing shreds around. One shredded etching landed on the gesso panel from the demo. The start of something?

The second situation involved one of the students who recently staged an exhibition and it was a sell out. I was overjoyed and an image came up and coalesced around the piece of etching and the gesso panel containing the torn etching. It happened quickly so that my process of recording stages didn’t happen.

The Artist, 2014, 20x25 cm, mixed media

The Artist, 2014, mixed media 20×25 cm

The images about two mental aspects about this artist are read from right to left. On the right hand side is a profile image that is meant to express the uncertainty of pre-exhibition hesitation when a person hopes that their work is met with an appreciative audience. Both images are placed on an easel. On the left the artist’s transformed image, depicted in a way where the image has become the paint and is not quite formed, is placed mostly within a loosely painted picture frame. The partly enclosing frame also dissolves in overpainting. A mental transition and sense of energy and excitement was conveyed by a red background.


Art and Symbolic Death

Some of the earliest images in which human features were represented whether sculptures or paintings are associated with funerary ritual. In this sense an imagined preservation of self and identity was contained within a portrait or a death mask. For example this sculpture is a 3 million year old pebble, Makapansgat cave, northern Transvaal, South Africa. 6cm across where one person may have fallen into this category.

 


MASK 2IMG_2290

 

 

Later many oil painted portraits show the sitter contemplating their mortality (momento mori) for example when the  hand was placed touching a skull or in a less obvious painting by Hans Holbein titled The Ambassadors depicting the skull at the bottom of the composition.

As early as the Neolithic people remembered their relatives by taking death masks or making a sculpture using the skull as an armature and then moulding over it with clay-like substances shaping it into a portrait and then painting it delineating the eyes in particular.

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Ear Alive, 2014

Ear Alive, 2014

 

In this oil painting on gessoed paper I borrowed from the Neolithic idea but I reframe the context so that instead of actual death it is the symbolic death of the artist in the process of creation that is my context with the idea of passing through a ‘portal’ into a different sense of reality. In the images of the rising/setting sun and the ear I refer to how in actuality it is the sense of hearing that lasts longest as other faculties die. Transferred to the context of the painting process the stories in my mind about what I portrayed in an immediate situation slowly fade and gradually ‘die’. These stories in my mind about the visualisation and technique used to make up the image are the last things that I ‘hear’ before I move on. They must ‘die’. In a sense I am ‘blind’ or in ‘darkness’ as the ‘sounds of insight’ about the image go leaving me with a sense of loss.

Rudgley, Robert. 1998. Lost Civilisations of the Stone Age. London : Century

My Smartphone Fell into the Oil Paint 1, 2014, 48x34 cm, intaglio, oil, pastel and charcoal.


“Selfies” and the Smartphone

Selfies taken with a cellphone are self portraits in the sense that the genre is democratised as everyone can reproduce their own image. However there may be an interesting difference owing to the type of medium. Oil paintings on canvas are like permanent “precious objects”  where the artist depicts on its surface a contrived image that is placed in a staged background.

The image of the person portrayed very likely will ‘out-live’ the actual person therefore ensuring a type of immortality. Mosaics or stone masks are the  most permanent and durable of mediums.

How permanent then is a selfie? This image is shared often  as a candid shot but probably not intended to be permanent.

 

The Cellphone fell into the Oil Paint 1, 2014

My Smartphone fell into the Oil Paint 1, 2014

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The Cellphone Fell into the Oil Paint 2, 2014, 48x34 cm, intaglio, oil, pastel and charcoal on gessoed paper

My Smartphone Fell into the Oil Paint 2, 2014

 

 

On the other hand the selfie may be immortal as long as it can be retrieved from a Timeline.

These two small mixed media images make reference to the portable cellphone selfie and its perceived fleeting nature and cult of individuality. Some commentators describe it as a form of narcissism. Whether or not by cellphone or more traditional media I see types of self representation as evidence of a journey about questioning ideas around mortality and the Self.


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Seascape commission part 1

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Seascape Commission, Point Roadknight

This painting has been a challenge and I have lingered in the final stage of part 1 around drawing together elements of the composition into a coherent visual language. When I focussed on specific breaches in the land form where erosion cut across the rocky promontory I imagined the future destruction of this interesting and intriguing place. With that feeling in mind I could articulate different levels of meaning and tension between the geology on one hand and the erosion that reveals its interesting features on the other.

The wet poured paint washes will require several days to dry before application of impasto strokes. Two washes of mid and light blue bled together then another indigo wash was poured over them in an area that counter balanced the larger indigo passage in the bottom right hand section. A few awkward passages of paint require more attention.

The composition has more energy and tension between light and dark passages and heightened colour but is a bit busy.

I feel that more subtle tonal variation is required on the ‘colonnade’ on the right hand area which at this stage is a flat indigo shape.

The ‘colonnade’ overpowered the composition so I thought a change in tonal value and colour where the dark indigo right hand side became lighter and the lighter left hand darker and more indigo in colour would draw together elements in the composition. The breach in the land form by the ocean seemed to divide both sides of the composition rather than be the focal point.

At this stage the painting at the end of part 1 is a little too literal and any abstracted visual elements that refer to the artist’s gaze and future imaginings lost.

In part 2 these improvements will be part of the continuing journey.


Seascape, Oil Painting commission continued

Middle Stage 2

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.

Oil Painting commission, another mid-stage of the multilayer process.


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


Seascape, Oil Painting commission continued

MIDDLE STAGES 1

The following stages in my layered style of painting gradually move into application of middle layers. Often taking much longer to paint these stages are about tonal values, colour, line and shape. Because I  emphasise the textural aspects of a composition and juxtapose them with flat abstracted shapes it requires modification of other compositional elements. These stages are often messy as paint is pushed and pulled and poured, objects fade and then part or all of their shape and volume need reestablishing.

Untitled Point Roadknight - early stages. I freely sketched with oil crayon and wash elements of eroded rock face consisting of " columns " and " entablature "  scattered on the sand.

Untitled Point Roadknight – early stages. I freely sketched with oil crayon and wash elements of eroded rock face consisting of ” columns ” and ” entablature ” scattered on the sand.

Underpainting 4,untitled commission about Point Roadknight. Rocks partially disappear under tone and colour layers.

Underpainting 4,untitled commission about Point Roadknight. Rocks partially disappear under tone and colour layers.