Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings

Frottage Beginnings


This mixed media painting began with frottage on suitable paper when I placed it over indentations at Lake Mungo and rubbed the surface with charcoal and graphite. Early days but this image developed very quickly when I obscured most of the frottage with too much gesso laden with graphite and pastel. I rotated the image to a landscape format  in keeping with a long sand dune. With the changed compositional format I blocked in the basic shape of the frottage and placed it into an abstracted landscape, tore away pieces of paper leaving en etched look that could allude to the eroded condition of the dunes known as The Walls of China. After pouring thin layers of opaque paint over parts of the composition I faded parts of it and then emphasised other small areas with highlights and red chalk.


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Artwork with Frottage

Background for Underpainting

Stage 1

The frottage for this painting ( 98×120 cm)  is a technique which allows me to connect with the landscape. The place was Lake Mungo in NSW. Particular parts of landscape marked the paper when I either rubbed a soft piece of charcoal and/or graphite across the surface that moulded the surface beneath revealing its texture or by another method placing wet paper into soil which over a short time stains the paper. Then later back in my studio I incorporate the frottage into larger paintings.

I began with a gesso washed and soaked frottage in order to seal the paper from later oil painted layers, a method to prevent discolouration and rot.

The triptych-like frottage shows three different textures. One was taken from a rock and rubbed with a mixture of graphite, compressed charcoal and water, the middle texture was a mixture of stain and a rubbing done over the clay surface in front of the dune called The Walls of China and in the third I tried to take sand imprints. That technique required an ink surface onto which randomly scattered sand was meant to absorb the ink which when dry would blow off leaving a dotted pitted surface (not totally successful).


Artwork and Under Painting

My process of image making is often accidental or an organised accident. Images often emerge from failed etchings or gouache where I hit a brick wall, put them in the too hard basket and walk away. When I return to them I see them differently. The examples here are failed etchings left for 18 months.


The solution was to create a mixed media image, keep part of the original image from the print zinc plate, change the subject matter and meaning from the mother Demeter self-portrait from Natalie with the Gaze and the Glance to that of artist engaged in the process of painting, challenging some of the conventions as an allegory for vision and insight.

The last three images are almost complete whereas the first ones are quite raw and  unfocused. Although untitled they refer back to earlier paintings in series titled Eye and Site 1,2 and 3. In the mode of Hildegard of Bingen who saw the mirror not as a source of vanity but of spiritual self-examination, I find the examination of the conventions of oil painting an endless source of symbolism that is about an inquiry in to how images of women are constructed and evaluated.