Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings


Sketch and Underpainting stage for Untitled Commission

Preliminary studies of Point Roadknight

This commissioned painting in its very early stages started out as a seascape depiction of erosion at Point Roadknight but something in me had become dissatisfied and I felt like a change of subject matter. I turned the canvas on its side into vertical position and imagined how I could retain aspects of the original subject and combine it with an emergent figurative shape that seemed to float as a ghostly indistinct form. The idea figures merging into and out of landforms such as those in Begin with Sand, Silt and Water seems suitable now only instead of those done with the Golden Spike in the Flinders Ranges I would depict aspects of Point Roadknight.

These sketches are the preliminary studies done several months ago before I began this commission where I have been given free rein.

Seascape final stage of oil paint companion to Point Roadknight commission


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Seascape, stages in a painting’s development

The slide show reveals how this painting came together in many stages. It was a companion to a commission so it is at present untitled, however the subject matter is the erosion of an interesting land form on the Great Ocean Road called Point Roadknight. Although the coastline is a fragile one and weathering is part of the natural cycle I always feel upset when I notice yet another rocky feature lost to the ocean. In the painting I depict breaches in the rock where tide floods across the rock platform. I exaggerated tidal flow as I imagined a future breach at an already eroded section of the point where the next cascade of ocean on the south side will eventually pour over the rock into the bay.

The early stage consisted of  under-painting with ink and gesso in which frottage taken from the rock surface was glued into position.

Elements of composition, colour and tone came next in a loose configuration unified by strong lines drawn with an oil paint stick.

Once the shapes were blocked in, tone and colour in desired range of intensity established I stared pouring paint in a way that alluded to flowing water.

The white foam and shadow created a contrast that appeared to overwhelm the composition and made it too fussy so I put in some greys and poured light over dark in a diagonal direction.

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Advancing Tide at Sunrise


Seascape oil painting commission continued

Final Stages

Seascape oil painting commission now in the final stages continued as I poured another semi-transparent glaze over indigo. The idea was to give the blue water an illusion of depth. The indigo colour has been part of the under-painting as well as over-painting that consisted of the definition of columnar rock-shapes visible in the detail image and shadows to be further developed in the next stage.

Seascape oil painting commission continued, final stages based on Point Roadknight

Seascape, oil Painting commission continued, final stages based on Point Roadknight

Oil painting commission continued, detail, final stages based on Point roadknight

Seascape oil painting commission continued, detail, final stages based on Point Roadknight

At the same time I introduced visual elements into the composition that related to vision, that is, the artist’s gaze was also implicated in what was seen and how the subject was organised in space.

The suggestion of divisions like those in a triptych was my way to explain how erosion over millennia  has left standing portals or sentinels of the hardest rocks that appear to divide this land-form into three broad shapes punctuated by distinct gaps.

This winter erosion further under-cut large rocks with one in particular falling on its side and others broken, snapping off like teeth. I often feel sad at the loss of these unusual pillar-like shapes that looked so permanent.

Rock erosion, broken columns at Point Roadknight

Rock erosion, broken columns at Point Roadknight

Final Stages of untitled companion painting

Seascape oil painting, untitled companion, final stage, based on Point Roadknight

Seascape, oil painting untitled companion, final stage, based on Point Roadknight

The companion painting required more depth in the foreground layers. A thin glaze under the opaque over-painting looked too thin and a bit scrappy. The opaque quality allows for effective colour richness and transparency when the under layer dries. The transparent layer should glow but not too much.

My paintings often take months to complete owing to the introduction of glazes throughout the build up of layers. Sounds like a layer cake. When I was teaching my students and I would laugh at this so-called “Sara Lee” effect. It’s often regarded as a traditional painting technique practiced by the Old Masters. I love all the qualities of the oil medium which range from transparent, semi-transparent, semi-opaque through to opaque. When I’m asked  do a commission I usually do other versions while paint dries but also I see a single topic in different ways.


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.