Friday, 8 September 2017

Port Stephens Botanical Art Workshop

Last weekend I travelled to Port Stephens which is about 2-1/2 hours north of Sydney to teach a botanical art workshop.

I was amazed by the work that was produced at the end of the workshop. No one in attendance had done any botanical art previously. Except for a few, the others had never even used watercolour.

Have a look at some of the finished painting. There were a few paintings completed which was unusual for a weekend workshop with beginners, as there is so much to learn about the processes. I was really blown away by their work.

Art & Craft Gallery Nelson Bay
The Art and Craft Gallery is a fantastic facility for Nelson Bay and the surrounding areas. It brings the art community together with regular classes and workshops. They have a shop selling members work, a large studio for the many varied arts and crafts and a café which serves the most wonderful meals. It is also set in very beautiful grounds, which are tendered by volunteers.

Some of the students hard at work

Some of the colour matching processes

These are some of the works produced. A few are finished and a few still need some more washes but almost there.

You have to admit this is amazing work from absolute beginners to both botanical art and watercolour.

I was thrilled to say the least. I hope they have caught the 'botanical bug' and continue to enjoy working with nature, plant and flowers. 

BASA Members Botanical Art Exhibition

I was honoured to judge the Botanical Art Society's Annual Members Exhibition which is on at the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens Palm House until 11th September 2017.

I was extremely impressed with the high standard of the work. I see a shift towards more contemporary work, rather than the earlier very scientific paintings, although there were still some for visitors to enjoy.

Almost half of the exhibitors have done workshops, classes or my Distance Learning course. It is so rewarding to see how they have continued with their painting, using the skills and experience of having done some structured botanical art with me initially. I get a real thrill walking around the exhibition and seeing familiar names and seeing how their work has developed.

The entrance to the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney

The Palm House

Inside the Palm House

Here are just a few images from the current exhibition. Having light coming in from three sides of the Palm House it is very difficult to photograph with the light reflected on the glass, but you can get an indication of what to expect at this exhibition.

Papaver nudicaule - Unfurling
Leda Turner

Telopea speciosissima and Acanthorhynchus
Janet Matthews

Cynara scolymus
Sue Stuart

Slipper Orchid
Gwenda Levy

Some of the exhibited paintings

Every painting in the exhibition had merit and every person who exhibited needs to be congratulated on the standard of work they produced.

Lilium Workshop

Since returning from Flores I have been extremely busy, but that is not new. As well as my Distance Learning Students work to evaluate, photos to sort, articles to write and various other activities, I did a weekend workshop at WEA Sydney on 'Liliums'.

The room was filled with glorious colour, although not glorious scents as the lily stamens have a rather unpleasant odour. The art room is a wonderful environment as it is spacious, comfortable, has all the necessary teaching facilities and superb lighting.

Most of the class were new to botanical art, in fact several had never even drawn before, let alone use watercolour. It is very rewarding for me to be able to take the participants through the Processes of Botanical Art. These are the Master Drawing, Colour Study and Final Painting.

In a two day workshop I do not expect finished paintings, especially from beginners. It is all about learning the processes, learning what to do and how to do it. At the end of the weekend they have the knowledge to finish their paintings at home.

Below are the results of some of the participants drawings and paintings. I ensure the colour studies are completed with accurate colour matching and practice components. Remembering firstly if the drawing is not right, the painting will not be right. The most important phases are these two processes and this is where most of the time and research is taken.

When looking at the work, remember they are not finished paintings and some students had never drawn or used watercolour before. This is extremely rewarding for me as a tutor to see how much they learn and how far they come in a weekend workshop.

So congratulations to all the participants. 

Remember botanical art is all about

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Botanical Art & Sketching in Flores, Indonesia

I have just arrived home after a wonderful two weeks in Indonesia, the majority of the time in Flores. This is an incredibly beautiful island two and a half hours flight from Denpasar Bali. The first nights accommodation was in Udayana Ecolodge in Jimbaran Bali. The following morning my group and I flew to Ende, then a few hours drive to the beautiful ecolodge of Kelimutu Crater Lakes.

There is a series of these ecolodges throughout Indonesia and they have an International Eco Certification.  I am very pleased to be representing and supporting the ecolodges by taking my art groups there for workshops.  This year it was Flores, and next year will be Bali, with an optional post workshop tour to Rimba to see the orangutans.

Flores is known for its coloured volcanic crater lakes and on the north side of the island are the famous Komodo dragons. The drive from the airport to the Kelimutu Crater Lakes took several hours and we stopped along the way to visit an ancient village of Saga and to view some stunning vistas.

Traditional ancient village of Saga

Arriving at the Kelimutu ecolodge I was amazed at how well it blended with the landscape while being so functional and picturesque. The accommodation was firstclass and exceeded all my expectations. All the rooms had wonderful views, and from my villa higher up, I would wake each morning to the sun rising over the mountains and the spreadings its warm rays over the rice paddies.

The view from my villa

My villa
There were 13 in my group from many places in Australia. Some had been with me previously on art tours, and for some it was their first experience in Indonesia. Our morning workshops were done in an aula, which is an open sided structure and used in villages to hold meetings and important events. 

The aula used for the botanical art workshop

Some of students at the workshop

One of the benefits of painting in a different environment is the varied choices in plant and flower selection. Some of the same species found in Australia grow throughout Indonesia (and other countries in the world), but there are always a few unique, colourful and special gems to be found.


 During the afternoons there were some fascinating excursions to various locations where the group would sketch and/or explore the area. 

The Kilimutu crater lakes

Rice paddies at Moni village
The group trekking to the waterfall

Spinning and dying cloth for weaving
 We explored the local village of Moni, where the ecolodge owners have a long standing connection with the people. One of the highlights was a visit to the local school where we took coloured pencils, books, rulers and erasers. It was a special time for both the children and ourselves.

There were so many exceptional places we explored, and above all the group were very excited with their paintings for the week. It was a treat to  be able to spend 5 mornings without interruption working on the paintings, with individual tuiton, except when we stopped to enjoy some very special freshly cooked pancakes, slices, fruit, scones and various other delights for morning tea. 

The time came to farewell Kelimutu and its wonderful staff, who cooked the most wonderful meals and really looked after us. I felt I had been on a health retreat - walking every afternoon when we were on excursions, eating very delicious healthy and low fat food, and sleeping like an angel.

The local villagers performed their traditional songs and dances for us on the final farewell evening. 

No wonder I am so looking forward to my next Botanical Art workshop with Ecolodges Indonesia. This will be at Udayana Ecolodge in Jimbaran Bali, which is a quiet area, and afternoon excursions will be locally and so avoids any heavy traffic. There is always so much to see and do. 

TOUR DATES: 4-11 June 2018  Contact me for further information

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Namatjira Country art Tour

I have just returned from the most wonderful art tour - following in Namatjira's footsteps in the MacDonnell Ranges, Central Australia. The incredible contrast of the rust red earth and the intense turquoise blue skies was just amazing.

I took a group of 11 artists (of all levels of ability) and some of the work they produced was exceptional. Everyone's work and colour mixes improved dramatically throughout the week as they sketched at some unique locations. Among them were Simpson's Gap and Ormiston Gorge as we passed through Namatjira country. The scenery was forever changing and the history of the land formation was fascinating.

One of my highlights (along with two other workshop participants) was a helicopter ride from Glen Helen Homestead over Goss Bluff and the 'Caterpillar dreaming' rock formation.

'Caterpillar dreaming' rock formations
The West MacDonnell Ranges are some of the oldest land on earth. The sedimentary formations are exposed as the movement of the land throughout millions of years has risen up and exposed the underlying layers of the rock below.

'Caterpillar dreaming' is an Aboriginal dreamtime story. Yipirinya means 'caterpillar' in Arrernte and the region was created by giant caterpillars in the story. These creatures became the stunning ridges I viewed from the helicopter were row upon row stretching as far as the eye could see. As you move through this beautiful country, the landscape you see is the unfolding of the Dreamtime stories in the exposed hills you pass through.

Goss Buff
Tnorala (Goss Buff) is one of the most significant impact structures in the world. It was probably formed by the impact of a large comet, meteorite or ball of calcified gases, about 142 million years ago. Travelling at a rate of about 40 kilometres per second, it slammed into the earth's surface just out from Glen Helen Homestead, where we were staying, and tunnelled 6 kms underground in a fraction of a second before detonating in an explosion that would dwarf the most powerful nuclear bomb.

Tnorala Conservation Reserve is a registered sacred site and is a place of great cultural significance to the Western Arrente Aboriginal people, as well as one of international scientific interest. This crater is the largest of its kind in the world.

The Tour
Below are some images of the tour participants sketching in various unbelievably beautiful locations.

Old Telegraph Station outside Alice Springs

Majestic Ormiston Gorge

Ormiston Gorge with incredible mirror water reflections

Desk at Simpson Gap
Some of my sketches
When beginning my sketches and taking in the glorious intense colours around me, I discovered I needed to use a different palette colour palette. The rock and earth colours changed with the light, and went from a dull rust red to a magenta and a bright orange. Indescribable beauty. The greens of the eucalypts varied from a golden green to a dull blue green.

So I now have a separate palette and colour mix chart for Central Australia.

The red cliffs at Glen Helen Homestead, near Glen Helen Gorge

Namatjira's famous tree for many of his paintings

Simpson's Gap, where the colour changed dramatically with the light

West MacDonnell Ranges

Panoramic view of a scene from Ross River Homestead
This was a very special tour to a very special and spiritual place, where the land formations, vegetation and colours varied constantly.  We all bid Central Australia a fond farewell and I am sure it will not be the last visit.

My next Australian Tour
My next tour within Australia will be to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia on 15-23 October 2018, with Aussie Redback Tours.