Thursday 29 November 2012

Dryandra formosa

Now I have moved past the initial foundation stages of my Dryandra painting, I can actually see a light at the end of the tunnel.
It is quite extraordinary that now I am working in my new office/studio, I am so much more relaxed, am spending even more enjoyable hours in here and all facets of my work are up to date. It is almost as if I have extra hours in the day.
I do not work late at night, but I can now paint until  about 7.30 as the light is so good in my studio.
As Christmas is fast approaching, and I leave for New York on 21st December, there are many friends I am making a concerted effort to see, especially those that I do not catch up with regularly. I am sure many of you can relate to that.
I should be finished by Dryandra painting this weekend, and would like to try and get another painting done before I leave. When in Queensland recently I collected some very stunning and unusual specimens so they are next on the list.
Initial washes

Friday 23 November 2012

Ships that Pass in the Night

A rare spectacle occurred on Sydney Harbour last night as three cruise ships passed each other on their way in and out of the harbour.

At about 6.15pm Voyager of the Seas (Royal Caribbean - 138,000 tonnes) entered Sydney Harbour, where it remained stationary in front of Darling Point.

Around 6.30pm Pacific Jewel (P&O Australia - 70,000 tonnes) passed Voyager on its next cruise out of the harbour.

About 15 minutes later Celebrity Millennium (Celebrity Cruises - 91,000 tonnes) also left Sydney Harbour and passed by Voyager.

Mission Accomplished

After several months, my office is up and running and I just love it! It was a tremendous task to take  everything out of a working office without missing a beat.
Don't be too shocked by the "before" photos. You can clearly understand why I was finding it so difficult to work in such a space. You will not believe the transformation! So here we go -
Admin area - Before

Painting area - Before


I am definately not a hoarder, in fact quite the opposite. Trying to run a business and operate a studio in a room with all sorts of different types of furniture, various filing cabinets and lack of storage was becoming increasingly difficult. My bookcases filled one wall and with a large stationery cupboard opposite, the room was closing in on me. Each year I was accumulalting more work, more books and just more of everything with nowhere to put them.
So out it call came.
A blank canvas
It was all moved into the dining room and lounge room, where I worked quite happily, in the hub of the house.
 And in went the new office.
And here it is!!! 

I have a huge stationery cupboard, room for my books, large plan draws for my large sheets of watercolour paper and many drawers and built-in filing cabinets.
In case you are wondering how a wall full of books fitted into my new bookcase above the desk - they didn't. I also had a floor to ceiling bookcase built in the main bedroom, where the overflow of books went. Basically all the books in my office are now my art books.
It is such a joy to come in here each morning and have everything in its place......

Thursday 22 November 2012


I love the beauty of the colours and design in clouds and the sky. From my vantage point at home, I see the weather coming in with the rolling grey rainclouds. I see the rain falling in sheets across the landscape. I see the sun rising and casting its hues over the still water of the harbour.

Last night I happened to look outside and saw a stunning rainbow of colours and nature's composition of the fluffy clouds glowing red, yellow and orange against the bright blue of the Australia sky.

Botanical Art in Melbourne

Melbourne is Sydney's sister city, and like so many sisters, is different in so many ways. The entire feeling surrounding Melbourne is totally cosmopolitan, extemely cultural and very laid back. I love Melbourne and thrived on the atmosphere and incredible weather in the three days I spent there.

Melbourne on the Yarra River
Some of the laneway graffiti street art Mebour is famous for

Sydney is my town, very rush and bustle, very much a lady, always adorned in its city attire. We have a sense of the outdoor eating culture, but in a very different way to Melbourne. We are not so laid back, more a sense of everyone always in a hurry - and I am no exception. Its difference is also its charm and I would not choose to live anywhere else.
The purpose of my visit was to see two major botanical exhibitions. One was the 11th Biennial Exhibition The Art of Botanical Illustration 2012 in Domain House, situated in the Melbourne Botanical Gardens. 145 beautiful works were displayed.
Would have loved to have spent more time browsing, chatting to other artists and in general, catching up with the Melbourne ladies of botanical art. Spent time talking to the lovely Sandra Sanger who is an extraordinary artist and had three amazing paintings on display. My favourite painting in the show was her Haemanthus coccineus, excuted in watercolour and graphite. So amazing in its incredible detail.

Sandra Sanger's watercolour and graphite painting Haemanthus coccineus
All art is subjective and botanical art is no exception. The general public do not always understand what goes in to making a botanical painting. The initial research of the plant, the many, many hours working with fine detail, correct representation of plant and colour, but also the personal satisfaction and reward are worth it all.
We do not paint botanially for the money, as if we counted the hours involved the paintings would be priced right out of the market. A beautiful painting by an experienced and  gifted artist is really a bargain at $2500 or even $3000. The public does not always see it that way.
I am probably coming from a different place than most people. I love the detail, I love the composition and artistic interpretation and I appreciate every brush stroke and every hour that constitutes a work of art.
Generally the average buyer looks for something that "goes with their colour scheme" or "fits into the space in the hallway". These purchases are chosen because the buyer has fallen in love with them, whether they are technically correct or not. For every painting there is someone who will love it. And that is what art is all about.
The following day I took the train to the historic town of Ballarat in Victoria, an hour and a half from Melbourne. It is Victoria's third largest city, former gold mining town and has a rich and living heritage. Ballarat is famous for the Eureka Rebellion and many paintings of this event can be found in the Ballarat Regional Gallary. The goldfield workers opposed the governments miners' licences and the rebellion was instrumental in the development of Australian democracy.
 Ballarat Railway Station

"We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties"  Eureka Oath, November 1854.
I am a bit of an Australian history buff and retain a very strong connection to my heritage and Australia's past, including all things architectural.
Ballarat Regional Gallery held a remarkable exhibition showcasing their collection of both colonial and contemporary botanical art Capturing Flora: 300 years of Australian Botanical Art. There were over 300 images, from hand painted engravings from the 19th century to original current paintings. As you move from room to room, you move from the very early works to the very modern.
There was far too much to take at once, so we absorbed as much as we could, went out of a coffee and a chance to talk about what we had seen, before embarking on another section of the exhibtion.


Da Vinci cafe in Ballarat with incredible wall paintings
Some visuals will enlighten you as to the work that was displayed.

 Melaleuca hippericifolia (Melaleuque a f.lles de Millepertius)
Engraver Gabriel Sculp c1807
Hand coloured engraving
Drawings were made from early voyages of discovery, as well as the plants being collected, recorded and mounted. These were later drawn by often unknown artists, engraved, then coloured.

 Clianthus dampieri (Nouvelle Holland)
Unknown artist, published Belgium 1858.  Lithograph from 'Illustration horticole, jurnal special et des serres et des jardins'
William Dampier (1651-1715) was a great explorer and the first Englishman to explore areas of Australia, then known as New Holland. He and his crew of the Roebuck landed in South Australia where the Desert Peas were in full flower. They collected and dried the specimens, which were later illustrated in Dampier's book A Voyage to New Holland in 1703. The original specimen is still held at Oxford University.

 Dryandra pteridifolia
Unknown artist UK c1836. Hand coloured engraving
I am currently painting a Dryandra and have done previous paintings of them in the past, while doing commission works from the plants collected by William Baxter. So the connection to this painting was very personal. William Baxter (died c.1836) was a prolific English plant and seed collector and in 1823 he collected seeds from south-eastern Australia, around the Albany area, which is a dry, windy region of Western Australia, but incredibly rich in many varieties of Australian native plants.
There was often a very long journey from the initial drawing or collection of plants to publication in the 18th and 19th centuries. From the discovery of the plant, to the drawing then the often hand engraving to the hand painting. The engravings were invaluable for reproducing books. Unfortunately, many of these books have been cut up and the hand coloured engravings sold separately for incredble amounts of money. Fortunately Ballarat Gallary has some of the books still intact.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Mt Tamborine Workshop

I have just returned from Queensland, where I taught a weekend workshop "Looking at Leaves", at Mt Tamborine, which is in the Gold Coast Hinterland. This is an important workshop as it teaches not only colour identification and mixing skills, but of course colour matching. I think one of the most difficult things to do in botanical art is highlights, so there were plenty of demonstrations and skills taught about brush control and the importance of how much water to pigment to use.

Just some of the leaves painted by the group

One of the great things about botanial art is that you meet so many lovely people, and I was fortunate enough to be able to stay with my lovely friend Margot who organised this workshop. So not only was I able to explore a new area and enjoy a new environment, I had a great time teaching the new group, who were also extremely nice (as botanical artists and gardeners tend to be), and also had some valuable time to catch up with Margot.

The view from Margot's house, which is situated on the Coomera River.
It was coolish on the mountain, so I was pleased I packed some warm clothes. I am not good with cold, and going away is the bane of my life - ensuring I have clothes for all seasons. Mt Tamborine is a beautiful spot with spectacular views over valleys and distant mountain ranges.

The workshop was held in an extremely well appointed facility within the Heritage Centre historical site, where original buildings are now used as a museum to show what life was like in the 19th and early 20th century.

Some of the ladies at the workshop lived locally, and others had travelled from around the Gold Coast area. They also put on the most amazing morning teas and lunches. It was an absolute feast. Very difficult not only to be aware of calories, but to decide whether to have a piece of coconut-chocolate slice, the date and nut cake or jam and coconut slice. And that was just for morning tea! Lunch was much more varied, with fruits, cheeses, several incredibly delicious quiches, a wonderful vegetarian nut slice, salads - and not forgetting desert. Maureen had made a sumptous trifle, and on the last day Janice brought in a carrot cake. Who can say no! I tell my students that "watercolour is like weight - easy to put on and hard to get off". Now I am home I will certainly have to walk a few more kms. 

Some of the delicious food the ladies provided at the workshop. Margot is on the left.

After the workshop on Saturday afternoon, Margot and I were invited to Pat's place on the mountain. As an avid gardener she spends many hours creating wonderful areas of garden, including a Japanese garden, a rose garden full of strongly perfumed heritage roses, several different rainforest walks, an English garden and much more. It was amazing.

Deep wine red of the hollyhocks from Pat's English garden

Heritage roses

After a great workshop, which we all enjoyed immensely, on the final day the group were invited to Jenny's house, which was on the western side of the Mt Tamborine ridge. In another life Jenny was a garden designer and her "borrowed" vistas in her garden, as well as her creative input into her own garden created a fantasic backdrop for our champers and nibblies and closure for the weekend. It could not have ended on a more pleasurable note.

The view from Jenny's house and garden on Tamborine mountain

The setting western sun

As I wasnt leaving Margot's until Monday afternoon, it gave us a chance to wander around Coomera Waters, pick up various plant specimens (which I am now eager to start on) and enjoy the peace and serenity. As a city girl, living about 7kms from the heart of Sydney, the actual quietness of Coomera Waters and the lack of traffic was in total contrast to the usual hustle and bustle of my daily life.

An iridescent beetle on the Brachychiton (Kurrajong) trees, which were in full bloom.
So thank you Margot for a wonderful time, and thank you ladies of the Mt Tamborine group for your hospitality and enthusiasm, and for you all in making my workshop and stay such a pleasant experience.

My new office/studio
It is finished, but having been away for 4 days, I am a little behind with putting things back into the office. It is all functional, and today I am focusing on putting back my books. There are still hundreds of them stacked in the lounge room, but hopefully most of them will be in their new home today.

I will post some photos once it is all organised.

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