Posted by: Julie Duell | October 5, 2008


I now wish to include this short Post covering the creation of a large semi-abstract painting in acrylics. Tony and I ended our tour of Europe with a short stay in Brussells, Belgium.  From our hotel room, I opened the curtains to look down into an incredible DEMOLITION SITE opposite. The site was not visible from the road due to a high metal fence.  No doubt it was making way for one of the incredible glass fronted high rise buildings we saw elsewhere in Brussells (which we loved, by the way, because they reflect the sky).

At first, the sight from the window shocked me – it was so confronting – as though the very soul of this old tenament building had irreverently been laid bare as the outer walls were reduced to rubble.   I could see the character of each room – wallpaper, tiles, remnants of plumbing fixtures and a fireplace on each level connected to the one chimney.  I wondered about the people who had lived there, warming themselves at those fireplaces stacked one above the other – passing each other on those stairs or chatting at the entrance.  I could even imagine that well fed cat basking in the sunshine, perusing the comings and goings – the homeliness was still so evident.


These photos were taken late afternoon and then the following morning.  At ground level I could see the red entrance leading to the stairwell – the marks of the now non-existent stairs clearly visible on the wall.  A tenacious vine was still clinging to the outer wall, hanging on for grim death in the midst of the demolition process.

I can’t really explain why, but my heart went out to this old building and the people it had served for so long.   It was a stark reminder of the transient nature of our physical existence and the personal things that serve us throughout our journey through life.

As if to echo my thoughts in some way, a woman pushing an old lady in a wheelchair appeared below the fenceline, shielded from the messy demolition site beside them.

Here was another metaphor – there seemed to be a connection between the woman in the wheelchair and the old building … life moving on past yesteryear into a new phase. 

I know “constant change is here to stay” but somehow this scene caused me to pause in the process of everyday living, to acknowledge and reflect on the past that has served us well – offering (like this old building) support, shelter and numerous liaisons and lessons … a continuous on-going process.  I don’t know how many of us do this, but I feel it is important to let go with a degree of reverence and acknowledgement when we pass into a new phase.

Anyway, on returning home, I decided to develop a painting from my reference photos of this scene which, aside from its philosphical depth, offered fascinating shapes with which to work.  I decided to treat it as a semi-abstract and enjoy playing with colour. 

Here then are the stages of “IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK!”

First, I sketched lightly with willow charcoal – then washed in shadowed areas with diluted blue acrylic to begin to establish the composition. What wonderful varied shapes and angles to play with!  The eye craves variety and this certainly offers that!

I decided to darken the shape of the fence at the bottom enough to throw interest towards the brighter areas behind.  My strongest compositional tool is dark against light and I know from experience that if the majority of a painting is darkish in tone then the eye will be drawn to the lights.  

Next it was time to establish some of the warm colours and apply them in a balanced relationship to each other.  This is my secondmost important tool in composition – playing warm colour against cool. I also decided to make the fence more interesting by adding folds into the shape.

The aim in these next 2 stages is to get rid of the white of the canvas.  Whilever there is white, all the other colours look fresher than they really are – so to compare and judge how the painting is going, I need to cover the whole surface with suggested tones in light, medium & dark areas.

Ah! That feels better!  Now I can begin to use full bodied paint and play – try things out, standing back often to analyse if each move is improving the painting or not.  This is an instinctive thing and I love this process.  Here I get totally involved, constantly making choices & experimenting.   How much detail?   How does this colour look next to that one? Which area is most interesting and how can I focus on it more.  Play this part up – play that part down.  This is how the artist’s mind functions mid-stream…

After calling it “finished” for some months, I recently took it down from the wall and worked on it some more to prepare it for a current local exhibition where It is offered for sale at $A1500. The painting is on a stretched canvas 75 x 100 cm – light to transport and hang without added framing.   This is very popular in Australian modern decor these days.   I see it is as an advantage for everyone – works can be exhibited this way and anyone in the future can frame to their own taste if they so wish.  It’s all about options. 

I have noticed however that exhibiting an unframed stretched canvas requires a well planned composition that will “hold the eye path” without the containment of a frame.  It also seems to particularly suit abstracts or semi-abstracts such as this one.

I hope you enjoyed sharing this process with me, which is what this blog is all about.

If you would like to share your art experience with others, please contact me via Comments and it might be possible to include it here.

Cheers for now & I wish you well in your life journey.




  1. Thank YOU for sharing your joyous travels, the photos and resulting paintings.

    I am just beginning to return to painting after many, many years of other ‘things’ in my life.

    You are an inspiration and I’m excited to return to trying again.
    Thank you again, Julie

  2. nice colors!
    very nice Julie!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: