Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings

Unfinished Paintings from ‘Eye and Site’

Behind several stacked paintings placed in a category titled Eye and Site, a topic of vision I found two images that I had been unsure about for a few years. They began as an experiment where I tried combining etching with oil paint on a finely woven canvas. The printing ink adhered quite well so I stretched the image over a frame and then had a go at trying the oil combo.  Even though I gessoed around the etching somehow the oil bled into it but not enough to obscure the highlights. The random bleeding gave the face, traditionally rendered,  a surreal appearance and my depiction of a light fitting and its shaft of light then merged with the distorted image of the face. I like playing with form and light and how they both distort, in a graphic way, figurative imagery.

Well these distortions seemed to tell me that on one level light could also look  form-like and then form merge into light. On another level, light was meant to elucidate form but here it obscured it. So I was partly happy put them aside to ponder, ponder. Much later however apart from looking raw I began to see them differently.

I wanted them to say something about how in darkness we see back light years and in day light our vision is limited to immediate objects. Then I thought of how, by including the image of my head torch like a miner’s lamp fastened to my forehead, it might improve the composition and what it was that I was trying to say. So I blurred the original light source leaving a faint shape indicating a transition from light shining onto a form to light coming from it.

Now I am resisting the urge to dribble pink paint onto the image or should I leave it? Is this another ‘light is in the blood’ or is  ‘light in the blood’ the same as light in the universe? Yes looks like another pink ear coming up.

A clearer head this morning so I’ve let things be.





“Landforms” 2015, Reflection

Three artworks from my series titled And then the Ocean Rusted were the first to be sold on opening night. What was very heartening was the ‘return’ of “Karijini” to Perth in Western Australia by the purchaser, artist Susan Griffiths who works in similar media using frottage, but pushing it further than I do, and is exhibiting in Perth as I write.

The second image was about Weano gorge. The purchaser had embarked on an extensive bush walk in Karijini National Park in an area referred to as the Pilbara, at this particular location, descending into to this very deep gorge where to viewers from above, situated at the lookout, a person below was barely visible. My frottage was taken from the rim of the gorge.

Rust 1 taken home by an artist, ceramacist and scientist who also walks in out of the way wild places. I heard on Radio National a very apt description by Andrew Denton who referred to this exploration in the Outback as, quoting from memory off the top of my head,  ” the search for wild places that imprint on the heart”. Loved it.

The other wild place, Lake Mungo, while not 3 billion years old like the Pilbara, is known for its 40,000-60,000 (circa.) archaeological Indigenous history and its haunting landscape.

Occasionally a viewer would ask what V.E. stands for – Variable Edition. This type of edition stands in contrast to the traditional Edition where multiples of the one image are reproduced, for example 1/100 up to 100/100.  A large edition is possible with a zinc plate and a larger number of images may be reproduced from a copper plate which is harder than zinc. However a collagraph plate is often not as robust and degrades quickly, cardboard especially and even on masonite – like material the surface texture may be fragile.

My reason for variable editions has nothing to do with these technical factors but is about boredom which descends when I just reproduce one image after another. My brain demands continual push and pull of the pictorial, textural and formal elements in various compositions and formats to feel satisfied. Then I often see things in different ways taking me off in other directions or a further development of the one I’m working in.

The purchasers of these three images love the environment and are engaged in various activities both employment, activism and hobbies that nurture out habitat.

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

Closer to home Tidal Surge is from my series Return to Sand and Water about erosion at Point Roadknight along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria areas and tracks of which are frequently walked by the purchaser. As years roll on more and more of this intriguing landform gradually being lost to the sea diminishes in size and texture. For instance the often termed Petrified Forest that is a part of this small promontory, consisting of mineralised root systems that resonate with images of ancient ruins, has eroded into rubble with very few ‘columns’ remaining. I feel as though I am recording one effect of Climate Change as seas rise.

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Etching Collage about Brachina Gorge

I returned to a couple of unfinished prints from last year to see if renovation was possible and as they were left overs from a variable edition, maybe with the passing of time, a different aspect of the Brachina Gorge subject matter may come up.

The original print titled “In Search of the Golden Spike”, 2014 was the springboard from which the new etching collage developed. This image had lost its freshness and looked tight and laboured so I placed gold leaf over part of the image and cut away a small section to reveal the part of the underneath image. Gold leaf looked too much so I glued over it a layer of handmade paper also tearing away a small section revealing the gold leaf as well as the original intaglio. Now I feel that in the central area I need more underlying nuanced tone and line to connect both sections of the composition. Definitely needs work.


The second image began also with the same plate but printed onto a chine colle that consisted of beige hand-made paper. At this stage however it was in vertical format and looked very pale and wan so I added gold leaf and then a layer of thin rice paper to reduce the glare and make a base and space for a second intaglio. I was bored with the image on this plate so decided to print another from a different series and see how they combined together. But by using only half of the image overcrowding may have been avoided so I elected to use the image of the head on the right side of the plate but which printed left in this artwork.




The two heads turning toward each other are separated by the image depicting the golden spike as though having searched for its location in Brachina Gorge they now ‘become’ part of the landscape. I like the idea of how over time we do become soil and are eventually part of earth’s stratified terrain.

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Mungo Collage and Sounds of Drought

Both these images, the composition and forms were arranged randomly, settled into this format as I pushed around each element then blew air onto the, at first, carefully arranged pieces of collage and then let hand made paper waft around and land anywhere. A bit more shuffling around, walking away, letting a few more elements land around central pieces of imagery, tearing more paper, overlapping to obtain transparencies and nuanced areas until the desired effect settled in my mind.

The pieces of collage consisted of torn drypoint etchings, intaglio etching, pastel and handmade papers as well as dotted pianola roll paper.

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.

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.

Etching with Metallic Leaf ( experimental stage)

Early Stages

My first effort on this zinc plate a few years ago was when I redesigned and old image on the plate surface. Originally a vertically formatted landscape that consisted of sugar lift intaglio and chine colle, I proceeded to turn it into a horizontally aligned  format by removing part of aquatinted areas and keeping what I thought were areas of interest. I applied another sugar lift that introduced a second head. The first ‘head’ was accidental and placed together they looked as though they were engaged in conversation. Not quite happy I put the image aside.

Etching, first proof

Then I thought the subject matter about a lost and ancient conversation made more sense. So in the thin rectangular area at the mouth level I thought Linear A etched in would be suitable as it seemed sympatico with the textured surface forms that also alluded to a ‘map’ of a lost landscape.

Next Stage

Another image formed in my imagination that followed on from my heads and metamorphosis with landforms imagery: a rock face head as a momento mori?

Then Lee Powell the tutor in our printmaking group suggested I apply metallic leaf instead of my usual chine colle treatment. A new experience for me so we gave it a go. The experiments were tricky as I think my usual rice paste and in this case brush (that should have been a softer acrylic or Japanese watercolour brush) were not suitable for enabling the leaf to adhere to the paper. Also a mis-register added to the experiment. Anyway I produced several first proofs with many imperfections which can contribute to the final ‘look’ in the Wabi Sabi tradition of imperfection. That’s the theory: the practice can throw up all sorts of challenges that will present themselves in a few days when we have our final workshop for this year.

Etching plus metallic leaf proof

Version 1

I had intended to cut the metal leaf with a scalpel  but was too clumsy so I thought let’s not get too fussy and let the textures in the leaf add to the etched look. Too much glue evident by the central blurry area also changed the printing. The plan now is to over print some of the copper metal leaf and obscure some of the blurred section.

Etching with copper leaf proof

Version 2

Another ‘ unexpected’ proof where only part of the copper leaf adhered to the paper leaving the other half of the plate un-inked making a ghost print. The plan is to partly ink up the plate on the second run through the press, hopefully integrating both sides of the composition.

Etching and copper leaf  proof

Version 3

This badly registered effort could still produce an image with a ghost image at the back of the copper leaf, and by extending a few random pieces of the leaf into the other side the composition could coalesce; random pieces of alphabet maybe?

In the following two images I thought the copper leaf may not require much glue but the leaf didn’t adhere and blocked out the half image leaving a ghost print.



Version 4

I thought I would experiment with gold and silver leaf as a way to rescue these two images. The plan is to under paint the ghost side with red and then apply gold leaf hopefully reducing its usually cold shiny surface. I will try to let the red show through the gold by making the fissures and cracks in its surface. What to put under the silver leaf to modify the shine? Ideally I would like to achieve a worn, distressed look. Anything could happen.

Etchings plus Collage continued (about the “golden spike”)


I was playing around with some of the proofs from the first version and tried a vertical composition format with the addition of the printed mask also from the first edition. Staples, graphite, charcoal and pastel amplified the image as a mixed media.

First Version


Second Variable edition

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Etchings plus Collage ( about the “golden spike”)


The slide show images, a variable edition of intaglio and chine colle, derive from the image below titled Search for the “Golden Spike”. The technique included masking out a section of the image when I inked and printed the second layer of the composition. The blank masked area received the ink from the etched surface in the second printing but was excess to requirement when printing the first etching. Later these ‘leftovers’ often combine with the first print as a way to create and develop further aspects of the composition. I did several mixing three colours and versions of the first image in different ways.

Ideas for first variable edition

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Original etched image


Original oil painting

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

Maria Located the Golden Spike

First Anglesea Art House Printmakers’ Exhibition

The slideshow presentation of the first group exhibition of the printmakers who work, study and experiment with tutor Lee Powell at the Anglesea Art House.

Apologies for some of my photography but the different techniques are clearly visible. In due course I would like to feature the work of the artists separately where we can explore the different ways of printing and how they augment the ideas behind them.

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Etching on Copperplate

Last stage of an edition of 12


The light grey tone was the first, red second placed and registered over the grey and then the black area was printed last. I hadn’t done a drypoint using rollers and roulettes to get tonal areas as opposed to aquatint and etching with acid combined with masking out different areas of the composition. The result, which I’m still adjusting to, is more graphic than my usually painterly look especially without any chine-colle application.


Painting stages for “Under the Image” (incomplete)


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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From Rust to Rock 2014, 39x19 cm print, 50x35 cm paper, intaglio, frottage and collage

Abstract Landscape Etching (intaglio, chine-colle, collage) ‘Triptych’


The triptych has a history dating from the late Middle Ages to early Renaissance and was designed to tell a story. It consisted of a central panel with two smaller side panels placed behind the high altar. In an era before the invention of perspective this format was a device that illustrated the drama of the main protagonist, quite often a crucifixion scene, with supporting roles on the side panels .

Famous people and members of the aristocracy also found this form useful for secular story-telling, for example there is a triptych featuring a centrally placed Martin Luther accompanied by side panels that illustrated  his deeds; a type of curriculum vitae writ large. This type of portraiture was commissioned not only by aristocrats but members of the ‘middle class’.

By reading this abstracted landscape (which belongs to the series part of which is shown on my website Home Page titled And then the Ocean Rusted 2013-2014,) in a triptych format a viewer could detect an allusion to a type of geological narrative. In a way the central panel summed up the action on the ‘side panels’. It was all about rusty sediment.

The purchaser of these three prints decided to hang them together in ‘triptych’ format. I liked this arrangement. In comparison with the traditional triptych format the print on central panel is smaller than the prints on side panels. However the central panel/print although smaller attracts the eye first due to the intensity of colour and contrast in the composition, but also the larger surround of printmaking paper creates another contrast. The textures of chine-colle on rice paper and the frottage while enlarging both the panel/print images has a softening effect and gives the central image room to ‘breathe’.


Artwork titled “And then the Ocean Rusted”, 2013-2014

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The frottage prints from the Pilbara banded iron formation rocks done at The Gorges in Karijini National Park were applied to etchings and collage etchings. In these prints I combined  imagined geological processes with the immediate present day frottage recording process in the one composition. The frottage prints were literally like a touchstone when starting work in my studio in that they helped ‘bring back’ the gorges.

What drew to this topic was my sense of awe when touching such ancient rock and how it heralded the formation of life on this planet. In the Pilbara the landscape surface gives the traveller little clue as to the gorges’ appearance  and the intensity of their colour.

On my Home Page are larger versions of the slide show and further detail of each image can be seen at my shop at www.artfido.com/painted_by_elaine

Artwork with Etching continues

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This image evolved from my thoughts about how I felt in 45 degrees celsius heat when I saw, touched and took frottages from 2.5 billion year old bedrock in gorges in Karijini National Park in the Pilbara, W.A.


Untitled, 2014, 30x25 cm, mixed media

Untitled, 2014, mixed media 30×25 cm









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This image shows a continuation of a past theme that I titled Eye and Site 1, 2 and 3. The main idea is about a process about different aspects of the artist’s vision. For example part of doing a self-portrait is when the artist turns away from the mirror-image. Derrida explained the sensation as one where the artist is plunged into darkness before addressing the blank space on the canvas. The moment is between the look and the mark making when memory, insight and emotion from an underworld or unconscious mind briefly rise up into consciousness as brush touches the canvas – looking above and below simultaneously. The process I try to capture here feels like a double act.

Artwork underpainting continues

This small mixed media is “finished ” and when it dries very minor tonal gradation may be require in the background.

The underpaintings following need radical alteration notably ‘underpainting 8’ which is about halfway to getting there. The next image also needs more focus and the last one still requires more structure in the composition.

I was sure the “finished” image was going to give me problems but it was the last image thought to be a breeze earlier that now looks tricky.