Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings


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.


Artwork underpaintings struggle stage

This is always the push and pull stage: erase, reintroduce line, change the meaning, get a bit precious, attack with turpentine rag and wipe off image. Although these are small studies measuring about 50×35 cm they often challenge me more than larger works.

The journey from inspiration to creation is always tricky. For instance I’m inspired by the idea that the viewer is not a distant observing  subject capturing an object in paint or any other medium. I try not to produce an aesthetic of possession or of total control. In a way I feel observed by the terrain/land/environment/geology/geomorphology through which I pass and that my creative process mirrors that of the earths’.

Ideas like tectonic plates  slide under and over each other, melt, coalesce into different thought patterns. Images and ideas can well up unexpectedly and fracture safe, formulaic and comfortable assumptions and techniques. For me it is like a mirroring of creativity and the processes can be convoluted, unexpected, annoying and frustrating as “failures” often hold the seeds of new ideas and point the way to new directions and paths for further exploration.

For example the last 2 images have been a source of frustration as I was trying to combine two different pictorial formats, that is, how cupules in rocks produced 50,000 years ago and used as depression into which eyes were painted could relate to our pictorial conventions. Neither the idea, composition or technique has been resolved and it requires attention but I feel it is part of something further down the track.

The source of this rock art eye imagery was included in a lecture by the Kimberley Foundation.


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Artwork and underpainting progress

The under paintings gradually take shape in unexpected directions.

Some minor alterations were required to lighten tones and enhance contrasts. Feeling ambivalent about the sombre colours. I want more vibrant intense colour. And on reflection I prefer some of the underpainting to the ‘finished’ image. Back to the drawing board. I wanted to express some of the reflections of being immersed in the gorges in the Pilbara. Untitled 3 looks more like the sands of Lake Mungo and the feeling often experienced in the desert where wind and sand appear to erase evidence of existence. (In fact fossilised footprints 40,000 years + old were found imprinted into what was originally a bed of clay).

Surrealist portrait titled The Walls of China are Silent, 2014, 50x75 cm, oil on canvas from the series titled Poet's process


Art and Poetry at Lake Mungo, part 2

From a series of paintings titled Inside the Poet’s Process

Painting titled The Walls of China are Silent, 2013 – 14

Surrealist portrait titled The Walls of China are Silent, 2014, 50x75 cm, oil on canvas from the series titled Poet's process

The Walls of China are Silent, 2014, oil on canvas 50×75 cm

The early stage formed quickly perhaps too quickly because as the painting progressed I felt that the initial freshness was compromised. I repainted structure into the face but in the process I lost transparencies and an ethereal type of atmosphere. It was part of my way to suggest that sense of remote insignificance and almost feeling like another grain of sand. The title referred to a row of sand dunes where humans inhale the dusty atmosphere, the dust of past silent civilisation made worse by extreme drought at the time. The image of an enlarged ear referred to a heightened state of awareness as we listened to the land.

In the following stages I simplified the lake shape and blurred it with a poured semi-transparent layer of paint as a way to depict the sand and dust enveloping the poet’s image.  In recent changes I reconfigured the head and face, reestablished part of the form and introduced a shape that referred to a direction of vision and focus. (I often felt as though I was standing in the middle of no-where.)

A dark hair-like shape hovering above the head reminded me of windy conditions prevalent at the time and it seemed to refer to how a poem may form.

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The result is not working for me yet and looks too laboured and over-stated having lost earlier transparent passages of paint and line. Fluidity and movement and a sense of vulnerability are missing.

I reintroduced a linear rectangle shape. Not happy with the colour intensity I modified it and added more body colour.

Surface sanding was required and more detail with the idea of introducing a more tonally nuanced background that would partly obscure the newly introduced elements. With the background repainted I introduced a grey sweep of hair that I changed with a white line encompassing the general shape. My depiction of the hair changed because in the earlier version the type of brush stroke suggested a state of turbulent, windswept atmosphere and an imagined process of the poet’s creativity. On recollection I don’t mind the high rise hair-do and may use it in another image.

However I wanted a reversal of my earlier intention and reconstructed the hair shape to allude instead to a sense of silence.  It mirrored a hesitation, a type of containment we felt before heading across the dry lake bed toward the distant dunes named ‘The Walls of China’ that shimmered like a mirage. The poet’s process had barely begun.

Ear to the Foreground, 2014, 62x84 cm, mixed media and oil on canvas from the series titled Poet's Process


Art and Poetry at Lake Mungo, part 1

Image from the series titled Inside the Poet’s Process

Painting titled Ear to the Foreground, 2014

Ear to the Foreground, 2014, 62x84 cm, mixed media and oil on canvas from the series titled Poet's Process

Ear to the Foreground, 2014, mixed media and oil on canvas

When my friend and I set out for Lake Mungo from a camping ground garden of tropical vegetation beside the Murray River our vehicle soon encountered the very familiar corrugated surface and bull dust-covered large pot holes of many Outback roads. The contrast between each environment could not have been more stark as the temperature soared, dust increased and vegetation became sparse. At Lake Mungo National Park having checked out the visitor’s centre I became aware of the silence, wide horizon and canopy of cloudless blue sky. This initial impression was what I tried to express as I relived the experience through a poem written by my travel companion poet Patricia Sykes. After many conversations with Patricia about identifying response to environment and what and how the word/image flows from one another into a poem’s structure; meaning, rhythm, sound, words their position, lines and their format, my aim was to imagine and internalise points in this discussion about a creative process. Instead of drawing and painting outlines of a portrait form in a background space I wanted inlines not to amplify perspective and form but to flow into the environment and coalesce into proto imagery as it formed mentally and often instantly appeared as if from nowhere in the mind’s eye. Baroque era iconography often referred to the connection between poetry and painting in the form of allegorical figures called Pictura and Poesia; one woman with brush and palette the other with pen and paper. I began by blocking in the image with thinned paint and compressed charcoal. The image started with a dune shape behind the head. I changed this because my first impression was a perceived emptiness as we both confronted the dunes from a distance. To reach them required driving across the dry lake bed of Lake Mungo.  I added an abstracted shape that alluded to the path of vision. The shape referring to the line of vision obscured the poet’s eye. I intended to make a reference to the black algae encrusted lake bed situated along this line of vision. But it didn’t work and looked too busy so simplicity was required. ( I always want to put in everything knowing most of it will be painted over.) I lightened the background colour as the previous layer looked thin and scrappy. Intense blue of the background needed some body before another application and adjustment and addition to the head image. This painting didn’t take long and the original fresh energy of the initial sketch carried into the final layers which I try to do but not always successfully. I like the underpainting to remain part of the final layer. This image can also be viewed at:  www.facebook.com/pages/Desterreart

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Oil Painting Commission continued

Oil Painting Commission continued into the final stages.

Oil Painting Commission continued into the final stages.

Final Stages

In these last layers I  gradually intensified the colour however at present it is too colourful. I poured several wet in wet colours together hoping they would suggest reflection. Missing is the sense of shallow water although the illusion of varying depth is working. I want the paint fresher and crisper as well as mark making which is too furry in places.  This will come about when I reintroduce grey tones that allow the colour breathing space. Line created with an oil painting stick may definite a statement directly.

The composition also needs another look.  The  vertical triptych format can be made stronger and will flatten the surface as it reads from right to left rather than constructed as though viewed through a perspective window. Each section in the triptych format has its own story about erosion and change witnessed by rock disintegration in stages over time.

Untitled 1, companion to the commissioned oil painting.

Untitled 1, companion to the commissioned oil painting.

Untitled 1, a companion piece to the above painting nears its final stages too as I poured layers onto colour as a way to intensify it although I preferred the previous stage where there was an immediacy and freshness. However once again grey tones will allow colour and line which are elements of the composition to be a focus. This artwork termed a mixed media is less painterly than the above and more graphic so that the introduced frottage is visible and not obscured by paint layering.