Lilydale Dawn


Lilydale is a small town in northern Tasmania on the north-western slopes of Mount Arthur, surrounded by orchards and farms. On a short getaway last spring I was up uncharacteristically early, and stepped out of the sliding doors of our bed-and-breakfast to a breathtakingly beautiful display of dawn light shining through gaps in the overcast sky. Before the effect disappeared, I managed to take some snap shots of different parts of the sky and land at different exposures, none of which could really capture the look of the scene – a camera simply can’t handle such a degree of contrast. The challenge with this artwork will be to use the snap shots and my memory to represent the fleeting beauty of that dawn.

Composition Sketch

The sky was the inspiration for this artwork and will therefore be the dominant element of the composition. In comparison, the colouring of the hillside and mountain will subtle and low key.

First Layer: light rays

The white areas have been carved out and the lightest colour applied as the first layer. In this case the light rays and underlying golden glow of the morning sky. The gold fades almost to white at what will be the brightest part of the sky, so that the rays will be deeper the further they are from where the emerge from the clouds – if all goes according to plan!

Second Layer: soft blue sky patches

This layer shows the patches of sky showing between the cloud banks – a very soft blue. There are also some very subtle light rays where I have thinned lines of the ink across the sky (they don’t show up much in this snapshot). I usually like to echo parts of the colours in the land areas: they will mostly be covered up by the end but some flecks of lighter colour should bring the dark land areas to life.

Third Layer: light rays on cloud bank

A very long stage this time, as each print of the edition required the light ray pattern to be made with small rollers and narrow gradients of the purple cloud colour. I deliberated a lot about how dark to make the sky – dark enough not to look washed out, but not so dark that the tonal range remaining for the land is too limited. It will be hard to tell if this has worked until the last stage when the tonal contrasts are in place.

Fourth Layer: mountains and flowers

Gradually moving into the foreground now. The bright colours in the corner will show through as a small scattering of flowers. The mountain is the last of the softer tones, as the rest of the foreground will be fairly dark.

Fifth Layer: grass highlights

The trees and more lawn details have been carved out, and the brightest green (which is darker than than the sky and mountain) has been added in this layer.

Sixth Layer: dry grass and tree highlights

This purple layer will show through as dry grass seed heads, as well as some tints of colour on the trunks and leaves of the middle large tree.

Seventh Layer: dark green

Only one more layer to go!

Final Layer: shadows and trees

The darkest layer finally allows for the full range of tones. This work definitely has the dawn light feel that I was aiming for.

To see the gallery page for this completed artwork, select the button below: