Hard Edge
Portraits & Figures
Painting on Printed Fabric
Mixed Media

Ideas and Working Process

People ask me “Where do you get ideas from?” Frankly, I am unable to give an immediate answer.   I stop to think but I never seem to pinpoint what exactly prompts the ideas. “A work of art is only one per cent inspiration. Ninety nine per cent is perspiration” according to one of my art teachers who undoubtedly was quoting somebody else. Certainly there were instances where something triggered off my imagination but very often it is simply getting to the business of starting on a work, which helps ideas to formulate. I could be doodling and balancing out shapes against each other or else I could have dreamt something, which upon waking up would make me realize that I could make a painting from the dream. The pity of it is that I do not remember them as vividly once I’m awake and, therefore, most of them are lost, locked up in my subconscious.

Working on denim came in the process of working on portraits. Some of my sitters would be wearing denim and it seemed natural for me to come up with the idea of working directly on the actual fabric leaving the denim texture as untouched as possible with only some turpentine diluted paint to double for the shadows.

When I was going through the phase of working on printed fabric, I used to hunt around in textile shops and look for remnants of printed material, and when I happened to find a pattern that struck me I purchased it, often quite cheaply. These lengths of fabric were spread out over stretched canvases and left there where I could see them. I spent hours looking at them trying to see what they suggested.

It took me a long time before any ideas started to formulate - sometimes months. Then at a certain point I got an idea and that is when the adrenalin started flowing. I made various sketches before I decided on the composition because I had to be absolutely sure of what I wanted since, in order to preserve as much virgin print as possible one has to avoid making any alterations.

The works in polystyrene (jablo) were an outcome of my inclination to combine three- dimensional objects interacting with flat two-dimensional painting. They developed after I had produced the work entitled Vague Dissatisfaction where an actual three- dimensional plastic mask is attached to the canvas at the lower right of the painting.

I balanced this mass by gluing strips of wood in other areas of the painting. That was the starting point for the work produced. However, if one were to x-ray this work, one would find out that actually it started in quite a different way.

After I had stuck the mask on to the canvas I had toyed with the idea of incorporating it with an abstract pattern. The trials did not seem to work so I covered everything in black paint and spent a lot of time trying to see what suggestions I was getting.

Gluing the strips of wood to balance the mass of the head produced 3D geometric shapes based on curves and straight lines. I started balancing these forms by painting lines and curves to relate to the projecting parts and the process led me to visualising the whole work as a series of dramatic labyrinthine architectural spaces composed of walls and arches. To balance the organic shapes of the face I felt it natural to place nude figures in other areas. I chose the pose of the figure according to the particular area they had to occupy.

I chose to leave the black mask untouched by any colour but I scrutinized the face to see what shades of black were evident in the face. I noticed beautiful subtle tonalities of warm and cool black and I proceeded to borrow from these tonalities and employ the same shades of black in the rest of the painting. The work seemed to tie in convincingly.

I still felt, however, that the work lacked a certain punch. I needed something to create more excitement in the work since it was predominantly black with not enough contrast.

Looking around the house in various drawers and cupboards I was lucky to find a rather large, oval, black glass brooch encircled with rhinestones. It seemed a perfect solution. I applied this to the neck of the mask, which immediately created the desired effect. Naturally I had to relate the effect of the rhinestone to the rest of the painting, so again I was lucky to find the right thing in the form of strips of thick paper with an embossed pattern simulating studs. Perfect, I cut around the ‘studs’ and I attached them around the various arches, which pleasantly echoed the oval rhinestone design.

I chose to describe at length the process involved in creating ‘Vague Dissatisfaction’, because I want to show the viewer, cum reader, that a work of art is not something that is visualized at the first go but is a mental process which has to develop over time. So if somebody asks me ‘How long it took to finish a work?’ this process can perhaps make him understand that it takes more than putting paint to canvas to produce a satisfactory work.



Jessica DeBattista
Malta - Europe
Tel: +356 21432873 / 21573077
Mob: +356 79592382