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.)
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.
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.
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!