‘Air’ … the second Element Door

Yesterday’s post featured my painted door, Fire, from The Element Doors installation at The Gap State High School Library, Brisbane. Today’s art is the second door, Air. Monday’s blog – Water. Tuesday’s blog – Earth.

“Air” –  Sheryl Gwyther 2003

Each of the four doors has its own name – Air is also called That Eye the Sky. You recognise that name maybe? Yes, it’s a Tim Winton novel – a great story by an award-winning Aussie author.

Why call it after a piece of fiction? Because like most of my paintings, this one is about our Australian landscape. And in particular, the massive wheat-fields of Western Australia. It’s about the wide, open outback skies – their blueness with a light unlike any from Northern Hemispheres. I’ve never been to South America or Africa – maybe their sky is the same blue? 🙂 Or maybe it’s a trick of the light caused by reflection from the bare earth of Central Australia.

When I painted it, I imagined being able to see from horizon to horizon in one go – like you’re lying on your back in the air (if you know the artwork of William Robinson, you’ve know what I’m talking about).

William Robinson – ‘Summer Landscape’

So my wheat fields are both at the top of the picture and the bottom. The blues range from the yellow-y, pale blue closest to the horizon to the deepest blues in the middle. It’s the deep blues that draw the eye into the centre. I go through many tubes of blue paint – all types, but mainly Phthalo Blue. I can’t help it. I mix it with Burnt Sienna to make shadows, or pure, luscious colour in other parts. Phthalo Blue with a cool red, makes the most delicious Purple. 🙂

The colour blue has an amazing history – especially ULTRAMARINE Blue. Given its name by the medieval Italians (Oltramarino – ‘from beyond the seas’), most of the true colour pigment of Ultramarine comes from the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli. All of the real Ultramarine in both Western and European art came from one set of mines in a valley in north-east Afghanistan, Sar-e-sang, the Place of the Stone. (if you want to know more about the fascinating history of colour, read Victoria Finlay’s book, Colour.

Did you know that BLUE is the world’s most favourite colour? It’s a multi-cultural experience. I’ve often thought about that – could it be harking back to our prehistoric days when blue skies meant good weather=survival?

I did a quick survey of the teenagers in the Library at The Gap High School. They walked through the Element Doors every day, most didn’t even notice them, but some stopped to read the mixed media words on several of the doors and many of them watched as I painted the doors in situ – rather than work on their assignments etc at desks nearby.

My question – ‘What’s your favourite door and why?’
90% said Air. And why? A shrug of the shoulders and, ‘Dunno. Just do, that’s all.’ Interesting. 🙂

Note: Over 7 years, the students did not make a scratch or a mark on those four doors. The only cleaning I’ve done is a little grubbiness around the door handle, and a few scuff marks from the cleaner’s vacuum.

The Element Doors symbols – Sheryl Gwyther 2003

All images are copyrighted. If you would like to use them for educational purposes, please acknowledge them and contact me first for permission.
(c) Sheryl Gwyther 2011


20 thoughts on “‘Air’ … the second Element Door

  1. Hi Sheryl,

    loved re-seeing the door, having seen all four up close and personal, thanks to you, when in Brissie a while back!
    Colour. Ahhh! Such a sensory thing.



  2. I love ‘Air’ Sheryl, a gorgeous door in which to enter. I love it. Interesting you say blue is the world’s most favoured colour. I never thought of it as mine, but then the cover of my new book is blue, so perhaps I was in denial! 🙂


  3. Interesting post. I don’t care a bit that I’m one of the majority. Blue is wthout a doubt my favourite colour, espcailly teal blue but really all blues. Purple as well.


  4. Wow, John, what a co-incidence your grandson is at The Gap High. He’ll be able to tell you that the doors have now been taken away from their original everyday use and screwed up on a wall.
    Not quite what I envisaged, but at least they kept them.
    The Librarian, Janelle McMahon would fight to the bitter end to protect those doors. 🙂
    Re the Colour book, Victoria has explored every colour you can imagine. Fascinating history!


  5. a fascinating article even though I can’t ven draw. I may look up that book on colour as I’m trying toi write a poem on blue. the ‘air’ picture is really beautiful and it’s a credit to the Gap High students that no mark has appeared on it. my grandson goes there


  6. Ben, very observant of you to notice the symbol. It’s one I made up and added to all four doors. I’ll add a close-up of it to the post.
    Yes, lying on one’s back and looking at the sky is a very child-like thing to do – pity a few more adults didn’t do it!:)


  7. Wow. I’m not easily impressed, Sheryl, but this door is another gem.

    I totally understand lying on one’s back and looking from the thicker layer of pale egg-shell blue air above the horizon, to the deeper-darker blue directly above – the thinner layer of air that only just veils the depths of space. It’s a very child-like thing to do to lie on one’s back then tilt even further back to see the world transformed into upside-down land.

    And such a wonderful sky. Really, a very beautiful and thoughtful piece of art. Looking forward to seeing the others. Just one question – what is the symbol you’ve included?




  8. Scott, what an experience that would’ve been! Have you seen Richard Woldendorp’s book, Down to Earth? I envy you being about to fly close above the earth – that’s why I love the photos Woldendorp took of the Australian landscape from above. Stunning photographs of patterns and colours – check it out. You can see why Aboriginal paintings so accurately portray the earth. 🙂 http://www.richardwoldendorp.com/


  9. Loved “Air” Sheryl – I spent weeks flying in a motorised glider (at 20m above the ground!) over the West Australian Wheat Belt in summer for my doctoral thesis studies … that pic brought back many memories (mostly good, but now that I reacall the air-sickness =) … good luck with finding that balance! Scott.


  10. Thanks for sharing these Sheryl. I loved your shards of fire. I grew up amongst the wheat fields of WA so really appreciate this one too. My favourite colour as a child was blue, now it’s more purple but I still love blues of all kinds.
    re you guilt: Don’t feel that way, just feel the ebb and flow of your life. I haven’t painted for years, my words taking over… but just recently have returned to painting, though I’m still writing. You might find one day that you can fit both in.


  11. Elaine and Kay, thanks for your comments.
    Kay, don’t think I’ll be an illustrator – not very good at drawing children and that is a necessity in children’s books. 🙂


Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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.