My name is Jocelyn Evans, and I am a paintings conservator at the National Gallery. My job is to look after all the paintings at the Gallery and make sure we are caring for them properly. To do this I examine paintings closely to find out how artists have made them.
This Art Steps activity is inspired by Australian artist Clarice Beckett and her paintings from almost 100 years ago. I will share with you what I have found out about how Clarice Beckett painted and what materials she used, so that you can try them for yourself.
- Clarice Beckett liked to paint scenery from around her coastal home in south-east Naarm/Melbourne. Look at her paintings and the soft, misty atmosphere that she creates with her paint brush. In Clarice Beckett’s paintings I discovered grains of sand trapped in the layers of the paint, which shows that she painted outdoors on the beach sometimes.
- Find an old cardboard cereal box or piece of corrugated cardboard and paint it with 2 x layers of white paint or gesso. Clarice Beckett used materials that were easily at hand, such as household cardboard and paint. One of the paintings in the Art Gallery of South Australia’s exhibition in 2021, Clarice Beckett: The present moment, was painted on a Cornflakes packet.
- Choose a place to sit in the landscape with a view that you find interesting or beautiful. Clarice Beckett was particularly interested in transient moments, for example the changing light at dusk.
- Squint and look at the landscape and notice the shapes and colours you can see.
- Paint the landscape onto your board, painting the shapes and colours you observed. I discovered through my examination of her paintings that Clarice Beckett painted directly, without any pencil drawing or outline. She used oil paint and a dry brush to create her misty landscapes, but you can use the type of paint that you prefer (acrylic paint is recommended for children).
- Repeat the two steps of squinting, looking, noticing and painting colours on your board. Try using as few brushstrokes as you need to create an impression of the landscape you are looking at.
- You may like to share your painting with others. What colours and shapes did you use? What is special about the place you chose to paint?
- Did you use pencil drawing or lines to create your painting or did you paint the colour directly onto the board?
- Did any natural materials become caught in your paint like the sand in Clarice Beckett’s work? Maybe in the future this will tell a conservator where you were when you painted this.
- What kind of cardboard did you paint on? Was it a cereal box? Maybe a conservator will be able to find out what you ate close to the time that you created your painting, by examining the cardboard under your painting.