Earlier this year I visited Russell Falls in Mt Field National Park, Tasmania. It is a short walk from the visitors’ centre, following the river through rainforest surrounded by moss-covered ground and light filtering through the high trees. The track opens out at the base of the cascading tiers of Russell falls – probably the most photographed falls in Tasmania. This is for good reason as it is truly beautiful, and on this occasion I was lucky enough to see it to full effect after recent rainfall.
This artwork is a celebration of the movement of water through landscape – depicted through its journey from highland rainfall, down tiered cascade falls, and eddying through the rocky bed of Russell Falls Creek. The water flow is the life blood of the ecosystem; nurturing and sustaining all life connected to it. I am frequently drawn to the complexities of moving water as my choice of subject matter, and am fascinated by the way that water takes on its substance from the colours and forms around it, integrating the surrounding landscape into itself. A key challenge for this artwork was to convey a sense of dynamic motion and downward flow in the water using the dominant white areas of pattern. These patterns depict how both the path and speed of the water is dictated by the rock forms, and the force of gravity that propels it.
This artwork represents a place that is constantly changing, yet retains a sense of steady timelessness.
This is one of a series of snapshots I took of the site on the day, along with taking notes on the colours and my general impressions. While it was a cloudy and slightly drizzly day, the greens were rich, and when there was a gap in the clouds the sunlight filtered down from above, back-lighting the trees and casting the overhang into relative darkness. My aim was to capture these effects in the finished artwork, as well as the twisting motion of the falling water.
This was my plan for the overall composition – it’s in reverse because when it is printed it is reversed again. This sketch acted as my guide, however I did change things as I went along.
I usually start by drawing with white oil pastel to define all the areas I want to remain unprinted. Our family cat ‘Coco’ supervised each stage.
A truly epic carve, and it was only stage 1. This was when I began to wonder if I may have bitten off more than I could chew. It is pretty rare to find linocut artworks of this size, especially done by one individual alone. Now I know why!
All the lightest tones to show through the darker colours were printed first. These were the sunlit leaves, patches of sun on tree trunks, some orange highlights, and the dry rocks in the foreground.
Because the sheets of paper were so large, I put together sticks with clothes pegs glued along their length to help me handle them. This was also really useful for the printing stage, in effect extending my reach so I could get one edge of the paper properly lined up before lowering the rest.
This stage consisted of the lighter greens, and the purple hue on some of the rocks. Much of my planning involved working out what I saw as the dominant colours as I worked from light to dark.
The mid greens and tannin tinted underwater rocks came next. Because of the transparency of the ink, the colour range gained complexity at each stage as overlapping layers formed new colours.
The second darkest colours were added at this stage: shaded foliage, grey areas below the overhang and the deeper areas of water.
The end was well in sight by this stage! All but the darkest areas were carved out.
Black and deep brown were the darkest tones, with a subtle colour gradient under the overhangs. Tree trunks and shadows.
Finally, the completed artwork!