Saturday 12 April 2014

Mackay, North Queensland

Have just returned from Mackay in North Queensland, where I taught a two-day workshop at the Mackay Regional Botanical Gardens for the BAIG (Botanical Art Interest Group). This was my third visit and many of the enthusiastic group remain the same, with some new faces and an added wealth of knowledge. Not only does this group meet once a week to paint and share knowledge, but several members of the group give talks about rare local plants they may have discovered, or a lesson in botany from skilled members with an enormous amount of information to share.
Mackay Botanical Art Interest Group
Day One of the workshop we focused on leaves - this teaches the students everything they need to know about botanical art:- how to colour match and mix, how to apply washes, identifying and applying highlights and shadows, colour gradating, observation, leaf margins and dry brush work for final detail.
Some of the leaves were so well done, it was difficult to distinguish the leaf from the painting


 Day Two the focus was on flowers of their choice, and there were some wonderful examples brought in by the class, flowers that I do not see in Sydney. Lots of class demonstrations and individual tuition gave the students the confidence to paint with ease. I was amazed that most were well on their way to finishing their painting in a day. It was only the actual flower they painted, and they could add the leaves at a later date.
Just a few of the extremely competent paintings that were done

The staff at the Botanical Gardens are very encouraging and supportive of the painting group, and will furnish different plants for them each week, along with their botanical names and information on the species. The group also has an annual exhibition in the Gardens, which is a culmination of their work throughout the year.
What an incredible environment to work in! Fortunately while I was there the weather remained fine and warm. As I write this, Cyclone Ita is bearing down on Cooktown, so Mackay will bear the brunt of the winds and rain from the edge of the cyclone. I hope no damage is caused to the plants on the botanical gardens.
The  51 hectare Gardens are only ten years old, but built along the banks of the "Lagoons", they offer a beautiful community environment to be shared by all. There are a variety of paths, bridges and boardwalks to allow close-up viewing  of various habitats, with 88% being Australian native plants, some of which are rare or threatened in the wild.
A wetlands area attracts an incredible amount of birds to the range of habitats. Waterways and fringing grass line the lagoons. Sunbirds dart amongst the flowers within the small forrested areas, and Magpie Geese roost on the lagoon flats while Whistling Ducks feed among the waterlilies. The Kookabuuras laugh can be heard throughout the gardens. It is a haven for bird watchers.

I was intrigued by the seeds of several plants, and would love to add them to my repertoire of botanical paintings.

The seeds of the Areca vestiaria and the Cordyline manners-suttoniae (Giant Plant Lily)
Last but not least, the intriguing Torch Lily, which is a flower I have painted while in Fiji, but the specimens in Mackays Regional Botanic Gardens were perfect in every aspect.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Sketching Historic Norfolk Island

This was an idyllic week, pen and wash sketching with a fabulous group of ten enthusiastic participants. Every road on the island took us to yet another panoramic and beautiful location.
The light was wonderful, with morning sketches catching the early light on ocean, cliffs and beaches, while the afternoon light from the same location gave a golden glow but the scene was perfect to sketch looking in the opposite direction.
And the sunsets were amazing. One evening I collected orders of fish and chips (which were some of the best we have ever had!) and we all sat on the clifftop of Puppies Point watching the sun rapidly sink into the sea.


The lookouts on the island afforded uninterrupted views, but - as lookouts tend to be - were a little windy. Once the group began their sketches the wind was forgotten while recording the beauty of the place.

Sketching at Anson Bay
My pen and wash sketching tours focus entirely on the individual participants. My teaching philosophy is that everyone pays the same amount and everyone has the same amount of my time and individual tuition.
While it is not a sketching holiday for me in the sense I spend it teaching and not sketching myself, I do manage to find some spare time to do some quick sketches, even if they are only outlines, and I can work from the photos at a later time. Well, in theory this sounds feasible, but in reality I often dont get the time to revisit the photos, despite every good intention. Life just gets in the way once back home. However I do travel extensively without groups so that is "my time".


I loved the view overlooking Kingston and the penal colony from Queen Elizabeth Lookout, which also took in Philip and Nepean Islands. Every person dipicted this is a very different way, from a slightly different place.
Each sketching session finished with a review of what had been done. This not only helps as I give lots of advice and comments about what works and how it can be made even better - but everyone also benefits from looking at how the others approached the scene.

Sketches from Captain Cook Lookout

I only take a maximum of ten participants, which ensures the maximum of learning opportunities. So have booked the next tour for 2-9 March 2015.  It was a truly fabulous week in all ways.