AnneLawsonArt My art work Plants Texture Travels

The Nullarbor and trees.

It was at my artist in residency at Mountain Seas on Flinders Island that inspired me to focus on trees. Not just any tree, but melaleucas. I love their canopies, the way the top  parts catch the light while the underneath is in deep shade. I love the shape of them ~ flat areas and crevasses. But I also love their trunks and branches, which twist and bend. When they are massed together there is a rhythm to the shapes.

I am obsessed by these trees. I try to move on, but I keep coming back, either to try them in a new way or perfect what I have been doing. I have used pencil

I have painted with watercolour

I have worked them in yarn. This was probably the least satisfactory way of creating them, but it did lead me onto creating embroidered landscapes.

They all flowed from the Flinders Island experience, where I saw the melaleucas massed together. The trip across the Nullarbor has fuelled my obsession in a different way. The trees there are not melaleucas and, while there are hundreds of square kilometres of them, they are individual trees. I am not sure what species they actually are, and at the moment, that is unimportant to me. Like the melaleucas it is the shape of the canopy and the sculptural branches and trunks that make my creative heart sing.

Maybe you look at these photos and think “Nice pictures, but iI don’t quite get the obsession”. I love them partly because they dovetailed so nicely with the melaleucas, so similar, and yet they shimmered in the wind. Partly because I had to wonder about the evolutionary process. What advantage is there to have such spindly branches? (Bendy branches help in the wind, I guessed, and maybe thinner trunks help move water more efficiently. Any thoughts?) But largely because when you are travelling a thousand kilometres (and another thousand back) staring out the window, you do get a bit obsessed by what you are looking at. I found I was trying to capture the individual trees in my mind.

So, the trees sat there for a couple of weeks and a couple of thousand kilometres. It wasn’t until I came home that I realised two things had come together ~ the trees and a set of oil pastels that were a Christmas present in Western Australia. And this is what is coming out…

The oil pastels allow me to smudge and blend and get carried away with colour combinations. I can layer colours over each other and drag pastels through areas. Then the trunks and branches have the delicacy of the ink. That’s like doodling! Mostly I use black ink pens, but I have been experimenting with different coloured inks. (I show some of my experimentation on  my Instagram feed, AnneLawson54.)

Some close up photos so you can see how the oil pastel creates luscious textures and combinations of colour.

Image and photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2017
Image and photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2017

So far they are all either A5 or A4 size, but I am planning bigger ones. They are so satisfying, and such a contrast to the detailed work in my botanic art paintings!

Most of the paintings are available in my Etsy shop AnneLawsonArt. There are details of each if you are interested in finding out more. Some of the other drawings I have shown you in this post are there too. However you don’t have to buy through Etsy if you don’t want to. You can email me at and we can sort things out.

29 replies on “The Nullarbor and trees.”

I love this post & your artwork very much. We had a double trunk Melaleuca tree in our front yard in South Florida 40 years ago. It grew either near the street & beside the walk to the little studio house in the back yard. I loved its papery white bark, brushy flowers & seed button stalks. I was fond of it though it had no flat canopy top like yours. It was just 2 trunks with narrow crowns. Melaleucas have been declared an “invasive species” in Florida since we lived there, so our presume our little sentinel tree has been removed some time ago. Still I have it my memory with its astringent scent, & even have a snapshot of my son as a little boy posing between its trunks up in the attic in a scrapbook. Thank for your lovely artwork & this reminder of a once familiar everyday tree.


Thank you for your support, and for taking the time to comment.
I love that story about your tree, especially the photo of your son, and glad that I have been able to stir up some happy memories for you. I didn’t know they are an invasive species in Florida, although it doesn’t surprise me. I think there are many parts of the world that have been invaded by eucalypts too. California maybe?


That’s a truly gorgeous set of trees, and I can see the sculptural forms have captivated you. Those last two images are my favourites, though, because you seem to have discovered a way to show the wind in the branches! If you love the shapes of the melaleucas, I must try and take some photos of poincianas for you, which have graceful trunks and curvaceous outstretched arms holding up sometimes hemispherical domes of leaves that touch the ground…


Yes, the wind is moving the branches in those ones. I am learning to be more free and expressive. That’s not always easy coming from a background of the detailed botanic art. Do send me some photos of the poincianas as they sound right up my alley!


I look at your trees and look for elephants. I wonder if they are that shape to avoid plant eating creatures. I love them by the way, and I love the embroidered ones, as you might expect. I completly understand such an obsession, I suffer from a roof top one myself!


I hadn’t thought about the shape being in response to being eaten. The only things tall enough to reach the lower branches would be kangaroos, and I am not sure if they eat leaves. I guess if they were desperate enough.
I am intrigued by your mention of rooftops. Are they are theme in your photography?


I am glad the darker one resonates with you. I did wonder if I was getting too dark, so I have been trying some other mixes, especially brown. So it is so good to get feedback about the darker undersides.

Liked by 1 person

The melaleucas have such a wonderfully contained shape, they are not messy and spreading like some other trees. Like you, I love trees, although I don’t often draw them, but enjoy the forms they create. Some I am very fond of are the ones that you see in the Red Centre with no leaves but thin black branches reaching up and twisting together to make almost a cone shape. Your drawings are lovely, seeing a lot together and using a range of media gives a sense of completeness.


Just gorgeous Anne – totally understood as well why you would want to paint and draw and ‘understand’ these amazing beings. I’ve just finished reading The Hidden Life of Trees – I always thought of myself as a lover or trees but I am looking at them completely differently now. What stories could these trees tell?


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