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  • Writer's pictureEmma Benz

Art on a Postcard

Updated: Jul 20, 2020

I was honoured to be invited to contribute work to Art on a Postcard Summer Auction, raising funds for the Hepatitis C Trust.

Artists who have previously taken part in their auctions are Damien Hirst, Gavin Turk, Gilbert and George, Peter Blake RA, Grayson Perry RA and many great names that I have always followed and looked up to. This year has a fantastic line up and I'm thrilled to see my paintings being auctioned alongside works by Julien Opie and Jake and Dinos Chapman.

The brief was to submit 4 postcard sized paintings, which was a challenge in itself as I usually paint on a larger scale. Despite this it was a great exercise painting this small and working out what subject matter would have a large impact on such a small piece of paper.

I decided that each painting should relate to one another and work well when exhibited next to each other, but at the same time existing as paintings in their own right. I chose a botanical theme through which I would explore the idea of Nature vs Nurture, all the while heightening the colours and using gilded sections as part pf the narrative. I began work on 'Berry Special' in March, concentrating on a deep, rich palette. I made pencil studies first, and during this research I discovered that the seed pattern on strawberries also follows the Fibonacci sequence which you find so much throughout nature. I used Holbein watercolours for the main body of the work, which was painted onto 300gsm gummed sheets of watercolour paper. I mapped out the seed sequence following the Fibonacci rule and gilded each individual seed using 24k gold leaf.

The seeds catch the light beautifully and will appear different in the varying light. I set about work on the next postcard sized painting, this time choosing a singular lemon with leaves as the subject. I sketched multiple lemons from different angles, with the final work being a combination of a few of these studies, using the best elements from each one.

I often work late into the night as I find this time of day the the most free from distractions. I use a daylight lamp to work from and this is how I competed the majority of the work on the lemon, even gilding late into the night. I use 24k gold leaf from Wrights of Lymm, using the exact same gilding technique I was taught during my previous career as a painting restorer. The gold is so fine that it allows for the texture of the watercolour paper to come through, which gives it a very tactile quality and means light is scattered in all directions. 'Gold Leaf' became a play on words for the title of this work but it was also the most fitting.

The final two paintings 'Nature versus / versus Nurture' were created together as one painting, split into two postcard sized works.

I wanted to paint dense foliage, which would give a blanket cover to the paper. I chose a bay leaf tree as subject matter thanks to it's long, interestingly shaped leaves and beautiful tonal varieties of green which gave way to dark recesses. The play between light and dark was important and I wanted to give the suggestion of more going on behind the scenes, with just small hints of leaves in the background. I selected a small number of leaves to be gilded, and these remained unpainted until I applied the gold leaf.

As in all my paintings the application of the gilding adhesive needs to be done slowly and carefully, as the adhesive never fully dries and so you have to place it exactly where you need it to be. I use a very fine, good quality brush as this makes all the difference when applying the adhesive, so as to have a crisp edge and leave no visible brushstrokes behind.

Once gilding is complete the excess gold leaf can be carefully dusted away using a soft, flat brush. In this painting I am exploring the old debate centred on nature vs nurture, with the gilded leaves representing those that have been nurtured. The painting was then divided into two postcard sized halves so that the leaves flowed from one into the next. These works are intended as a pair but in the event that two different bids are made they can still function perfectly in their own right.

All works were packed individually and signed and dated on the reverse. The Art on a Postcard auction runs from 25 June - 19 July. You can find these paintings listed as Lots 129 - 132 on their website. All funds raised are donated to the Hepatitis C Trust who during these difficult times have been giving vital support to the NHS thorough the delivering of medicines and working extensively with the homeless. Bidding starts at just £50, to view the selection please visit the Art on a Postcard website above.


My painting 'Berry Special' was featured in The Times newspaper, June2, 2020 alongside Carl Moore's 'Neon Elephant'.

The Art on a Postcard Auction is now closed and I am very pleased to say that my 4 postcard sized paintings raised £550 for the Hepatitis C Trust.

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