Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings


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.


Walga Rock

Walga (Walganna) Rock, 1.8 km long and composed of post-tectonic granite, is one of the many whalebacks scattered throughout the Yilgarn Craton. Situated on the Western section of the craton which consists of rocks of every Archean era with zircons dating back to the Hadean also clastic sedimentary rock. It consists of K-feldspar porphyritic monogranite that forms the type area thought to be approx. 2.5 billion years old.

Walga Rock cave entrance before sunset.

Walga Rock cave entrance before sunset.

Above the gallery situated on the cave wall are large slabs of granite in the process of ‘peeling off’  the main rock form. This process is caused by expansion and contraction of the surface because of extreme seasonal and diurnal temperatures in this inland (300 km), arid climate. Rain water and wind erosion molded and eroded the lower recessed section of the rock.

Walga Rock wind and rain water erosion ' peeling off ' slabs of granite.

Walga Rock wind and rain water erosion ‘ peeling off ‘ slabs of granite.

Wind and water erosion

Wind and water erosion forming cave wall.

The rock overhang protected the array of paintings. The depiction of a masted boat was quoted by archaeologists  as evidence of contact with sailors of European origin, firstly Dutch and then later archaeological evidence suggested a similarity between this depiction and the nineteenth century coastal steamer SS Xantho. (Bigourdan, 2006)

I took a rubbing/frottage from rocks as well as rice paper stains from soil far from the enclosure. They are a way for me to connect with the place via a tactile experience when I return to my studio. Often I adhere them with gesso to the canvas surface.

Walga Rock frottage, 22/04/13, 7.30 am, graphite and pastel on rice paper.

Walga Rock frottage, 22/04/13, 7.30 am, graphite and pastel on rice paper.

Walga Rock paper stain 1, 24/04/13, 7.40 am, soil stain on rice paper.

Walga Rock paper stain 1, 24/04/13, 7.40 am, soil stain on rice paper.

This technique is one that includes quick sketches done on site. Below are previous examples of this mixing of different media which I meld into large oil paintings. They may be viewed on my website : desterreart.com.au and are part of a series titled An Archaeology of Landscape.

Escarpment, 2007, 98x84 cm, oil and mixed media on canvas from the series titled An Archaeology of Landscape. Courtesy of the D. Hutton collection.

Escarpment, 2007, 98×84 cm, oil and mixed media on canvas
from the series titled An Archaeology of Landscape.
Courtesy of the D. Hutton collection.

Water Etching, 2003, 140x120 cm, mixed media on board from the series titled An Archaeology of Landscape.

Water Etching, 2003, 140×120 cm, mixed media on board
from the series titled An Archaeology of Landscape.

Igneous 2, 2004, 214x108 cm, oil and mixed media on canvas from series titled An Archaeology of Landscape

Igneous 2, 2004, 214×108 cm, oil and mixed media on canvas
from series titled An Archaeology of Landscape.

P.S.  Correction: Feldspar should read K-feldspar. The “K”, refers to the Potassium content of feldspar. There are 3 K feldspars: microcline, sanidine and orthoclase (orthoclase and plagioclase, another type of feldspar, are often easily seen in volcanic rocks, they’re usually a milky to pinkish white).


Frottage from gorges

I took several rubbings from different sections of particular gorges. This is my was to reconnect to a place when I paint it later in my studio. Often I adhere frottage or stained paper to the canvas surface by placing it in a gesso solution as part of the under-painting. Because the materials are rice paper and graphite or charcoal there is a flexibility that enables me to alter dimensions by folding or tearing the paper to fit the theme and the composition.

Daled Gorge pathway frottage, 19/04/13, 3.00 pm., graphite and pastel on rice paper.

Dales Gorge pathway frottage, 19/04/13, 3.00 pm., graphite and pastel on rice paper.

Dales Gorge frottage, 20/04/13, 12.00 am, graphite on rice paper

Dales Gorge frottage, 20/04/13, 12.00 am, graphite on rice paper

Weano gorge frottage, 21/04/13, 10.50 am, one of the Karijini National Park gorges, graphite on rice paper.

Weano gorge frottage, 21/04/13, 10.50 am, one of the Karijini National Park gorges, graphite on rice paper.

Weano Gorge frottage, 21/04/13, 10.45 am, taken on gorge rim at the lookout, graphite on rice paper.

Weano Gorge frottage, 21/04/13, 10.45 am, taken on gorge rim at the lookout, graphite on rice paper.

The image below is a mixed media titled Stress Fold, 2004 that is one of a series of images which I titled An Archaeology of Landscape. This previous series consisted of oil, mixed media, gouache and pastel stain and was produced as a result of exploring different sites in the Kakadu and Nitmiluk National Parks in the Northern Territory. Viewers may peruse this series  at : desterreart.com.au   Stress Fold is an example of how pieces of frottage  meld into a larger composition.

Stress Fold, 2004, paper, pastel, thread, staples and canvas gessoed on to board.

Stress Fold, 2004, paper, pastel, thread, staples and canvas gessoed on to board 200×90 cm, from the series titled An Archaeology of Landscape.


Preliminary records of W.Wallabi Island

One of my activities apart from photographic documentation of different landforms was to make a couple of small frottage prints at a specific site. This quick procedure entailed placing rice paper over a specific piece of rock formation and rubbing over the surface with compressed charcoal, graphite or pastel as a way to produce a ‘ print ‘ with place-name, date and time. Because my type of contemporary landscape painting and mixed media is not painted on site but produced in my studio these ‘prints ‘ are like a touchstone that can connect me back to the original place when I insert them into a composition. For example I did two frottages or ‘prints ‘ of rocks at the Pinnacles and at W.Wallabi island.

Pinnacle frottage 1                                                 Pinnacle frottage 2

Pinnacle frottage 1 and 2, one in compressed charcoal and two with a graphite stick.

W.Wallabi frottage 1W.Wallabi frottage 2

W.Wallabi island frottage 1 and 2 both pencil rubbings

on rice paper because it is flexible and durable.

Previous examples of this technique and their application can be viewed on my website at desterreart.com.au in the Gallery under a section titled An Archaeology of Landscape. The two images below are examples of mixed media artworks from the series titled An Archaeology of Landscape produced several years ago as the result of an artist’s  tour where we worked in Katherine Gorge and at falls in Litchfield National Park.

Fold, 2003

Fold, 2003, 150×78 cm, mixed media from the series titled An Archaeology of Landscape.

Layer, 2003

Layer, 2003, 165×85 cm, mixed media from the series titled An Archaeology of Landscape