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Beckler's Botanical Bounty Botanic Art My art work Plants Travels

The end of the week in Menindee

Our week of botanical art was over in a flash.

To bring yourself up to speed on the project I am involved with look at my Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Project category.

The first step was to find the plants on Beckler’s original list. (Please remember that we collect plants with permits. It is illegal to remove plants without it. We also collect according to strict herbarium guidelines, which say that only 10% of a plant population may be collected.)

Out in the field (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)
Out in the field (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)

Then the plant needed to be identified. We are so lucky to have Andrew, a botanist who is very familiar with the plants in Kinchega National Park. Without him we would still be floundering around!

We use a written key to help identification and often a microscopic is necessary. To give you an example for my plant one of the distinguishing features was that the pod protruded a specific number of millimetres from the calyx (the green sheath that surrounds the flower). This was much easier to measure under the microscope.

Identifying plants (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)
Identifying plants (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)

This year I was looking for the fourth species in a genus. I have found and painted the other three, but this one Cullen cinereum had been elusive. But, oh happy days, this year there was a good size colony growing out on the dry bed of Lake Pamamaroo.

Fortunately there were lots of plants and I was able to collect my 10%. We collect four specimens which we press. One goes to the National Herbarium of Victoria, because that is where Becker’s original collection is held. One goes to the NSW Herbarium, because we are collecting in NSW. The third is for our project’s reference collection and the fourth is the plant we actually draw.

The next step in the process varies from artist to artist. Many of the others do beautiful microscopic drawings, dissections showing male and female parts, cross-sections of seed capsules and so on. I find that very hard to do, so have to find other ways to tell the plant’s story.

I did a detailed drawing of the C. cinereum on tracing paper. Tracing paper is smoother than paper and the surface doesn’t mark when I rub out. It also allows me to transfer the drawing to the good paper more easily. Then I do a tonal drawing on another piece of tracing paper, over the top of the line drawing. This gives me a good reference when I get home. No matter how good the photos are, they are never quite the same as what you see. I don’t have any close ups of those drawings but I can show them to you when I get home.

My desk, showing the line drawing on tracing paper (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)
My desk, showing the line drawing on tracing paper (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)

The last step for me was to do the colour charts. Then it was Friday, the last day in the Hall; it was time to press my plant and clean up, hoping that I have enough reference material to work on at home!

23 replies on “The end of the week in Menindee”

It is a really interesting project, Sandi. We are optimistic about having an exhibition of our paintings, and I will certainly broadcast that from the roof tops! As well as my other posts, you might be interested in looking at our website (which I hope I have correct!)
becklersbotanical.weebly.com

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Definitely a labour of love! As you would know from your quilts, financially you never get back the hours you put into a work. We see this project as important for a number of reasons — I can feel a blog post coming on about why it is important!

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It’s an important subject – there’s a perception that work done for love is somehow letting the side down and you should charge ‘properly’. Were we all to do this, your lovely long-term project would never have got off the ground and much of the beauty and poetry in the world would never exist. Looking forward to reading what you write!

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Have been meaning to pass on the name of Maria Sibylla Merian. There was a discussion in one of your posts about lady botanical artists of bygone days, but I can’t locate it at the moment, so placing the info here. I read a very interesting book called – “Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis” by Kim Todd. Merian was a naturalist and watercolour artist who lived in the 17th century.
And, thankyou, have located and subscribed to the Beckler’s project blog. Found some more of your posts too. Beautiful country out there, isn’t it. And the buildings you have photograped are gorgeous.

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I am so glad you found the blog, Sandi. I have lots of things to post on it when I get home. (I am the WebMistress!)
I must read that book, as I have only read snippets of her life. What I have read is fascinating. You would know that she travelled to South America to paint the unique creatures and plants there. My adventures only take me to outback NSW in an air-conditioned car!

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Her life in South America is included in the book. I like that image you conjured up of the female artist in South America in the 17th century compared with Menindee in the 21st century. Not only did Merian have no aircon, but she had to make her paints as well, and wear all those clothes too…makes me feel hot just thinking about it.
You being the WebMistress explains why the website is so fresh-looking and informative. Thankyou.

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Imagine having to wear all those heavy clothes in such a humid climate. As for making her own paint…..fortunately it is a luxury to do these days, rather than a necessity.

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Sharing it is the easy part. Painting the Cullen will be much harder! — although I hope to show the progress of the painting. I am glad that you are interested in the Project, and I have more posts to write.

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There are lots of beautiful spots along the Darling River in Kinchega National Park. Some of them have drop toilets close by, otherwise you need to be self sufficient — but I think you and the GO would love that. There is also accommodation in the shearing quarters in the Park. The shower block is there too. Copi Hollow, where we stay is lovely too, but it is a camping ground.
I am so glad that I have been able to show you a different view of little Menindee.

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I’m fascinated and intrigued, Anne. I had no idea this process even existed. I love your detailed sketch and the idea of your capturing your colors before heading home.

My friend was just visiting from Canada and admired your teapots, as others have. I feel fortunate to have a little slice of your talents in my home.

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After 5 years of doing this, I know how important it is to get as much information as possible about the plant before I head home. Even then, there is always one angle that I didn’t capture in the photos or a colour that I can’t check. Still, I can’t keep the original alive down here.

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