Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings

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.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.