anne4bags Botanic Art My art work

Melaleuca tapestry

You know that I love to paint, but I am not sure if you know that I love fibres and textiles too. In fact I started my creative life after retirement form teaching making bags, often embellished with embroidery, beads and ribbons. That’s why my Etsy store is anne4bags, even though I no longer sell the bags.

I still get the urge to create with yarns. My latest series are tapestry pictures of the melaleucas from Flinders Island. Series is stretching it, because I have only finished one! However, the second has begun and I would like to do a third.

While one the Island I found some beautiful yarn from Fibreworks. When I returned home I ordered some more because it was just perfect for what I had in mind. It is Australian merino wool, smooth and even. The colours are hand dyed and are rich and slightly variegated. The slight variegation gives me the subtle changes that I was looking for. For the finished one I did use some other wools but I found the colours changed too abruptly. It made it harder to control the tone.

I have had wonderful service from Gill at Fireworks. If you want yarn for your next project, drop in; I highly recommend a visit to the site! How can you resist yarn like this? 🙂


anne4bags Botanic Art My art work

It not all about the sketchbook

You would be forgiven for thinking that all I have been doing lately has been swanning about with my sketchbook. But no, I have been busy with other art works, including these gum leaves and nuts that I painted for a friend. She wanted them as a present for her mum. I love the curves and folds of dried gum leaves. The colours too are more interesting than green ones.

I have painted gum leaves before, but not with gum nuts. It was nice to have the extra challenge. The leaves below are for sale in my Etsy shop.

Art work and photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2015
Art work and photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2015


Click on the image to follow the link to my shop. Or contact me directly.

By the way, don’t forget my offer to make you a little sketchbook of your own. A couple have already winged their way to different parts of the world. 🙂

My art work

Coffee and cake — outdoor sketching

I am stepping out of my comfort zone and sketching in public. At this stage it is still discrete sketching. I am not up to sitting on the footpath madly sketching away! This was latte and cheesecake at the cafe that is not Brunetti’s in the Nova Cinema complex.

As I sat there, drawing in ink, I let the conversations around me drift in and out of my head. I did pick up on the waitress saying to me “That’s fantastic” as she whizzed by with a pile of dirty dishes. That made me feel good.

Drawing the cheesecake made me eat it more slowly!

The paint was added at home.


anne4bags My art work

Creating for someone else

As well as painting larger scale botanic art works, like the Cullen pallidum that was recently shown in the exhibition, I love to create smaller drawings and paintings. These are usually of things I am fascinated by, objects from the natural world. I have told you about my shells, some painted in watercolour, some in soluble graphite.

Usually I potter around with my materials, letting my creativity flow as much as possible. If I am happy, I will put them up for sale in my Etsy shop.

Sometimes though I am asked to create something specific and I love working on these commissions. I enjoy the challenge of creating an art work that meets the image in someone else’s mind. There may be a specific photo they would like me to use. They may like something already in the shop but with different colours. For the latest commission my client had the frames so my images had to be a precise size.

I am usually quite relaxed about commissions, because I always make it clear that there is no obligation to buy. My image may not match up with the one in the client’s mind. That’s fine. I can pop it into the shop, and it may appeal to someone else. However, it hasn’t happened often, because I try to keep them abreast of what I am doing, sending images of what I am creating. Also I like to give them options, and this gives me a chance to play with different effects. Like these bats.

I had never drawn bats before, but I was happy to try. I love gently working with graphite and that was my first choice. Then I thought about having a go with ink stippling — little ink dots that build up to create the tone. The customer couldn’t choose and bought both! I was especially delighted as he was a bat researcher 🙂

Another customer asked me to create a drawing of a black cockatoo feather. Isn’t this just the most stunning feather?

Art work and photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013


And another wanted a feather for a tattoo. I would love to know if she ever used it.

Art work and photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013
Art work and photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013

As I mentioned, occasionally the person doesn’t buy. I was asked to create some watercolour oyster shells, like the ones already in my shop , but bigger and with less purple. I don’t know why she didn’t buy them, but I am quite happy to have them in my shop. Someone else may just desire an oyster shell painting with a little less purple!

anne4bags My art work Texture

How to draw with a water-soluble pencil

A little while ago someone gave me a water-soluble pencil which then lingered in my pencil case. Until recently my work was more precise than this pencil would allow. I needed pencils that would give fine lines and not shift with water.

Now, having finished my big painting, I am ready to create more fluid works, and the pencil is just perfect! [Yet another example of why you never throw anything out!] I have been playing with it, creating oyster shell drawings, and I want to share with you some of my thoughts. The best way for me is to show you “How to draw an oyster shell”.

Firstly, a little about the pencil and other tools.

It is a Derwent Graphitone 2B light. The B indicates that it is the range of pencils that  give a dense bold line. 2 is at one end of the scale, 8 is at the other creating the densest black lines and shadows. The other range of pencils is the H range. They are hard and excellent for fine lines and delicate tones.

The pencil is a stick of pure graphite held together with some sort of water-soluble binder. There is no wood around the graphite, although some brands to have wood. Instead the paper/plastic wrapper has sections that peel off as you need to sharpen further down the pencil. Neat! I am able to sharpen the Graphitone pencil to a reasonable point. I am saving the sharpenings because I want to play with them sometime, perhaps mixing them with water.

I have also discovered 2 of my watercolour paint brushes are excellent to use with it. The first is a rigger, a type of brush has long bristles that allow the paint to be dragged along in a smooth line. The other is a 6 mm square brush. I rarely use it for painting, but it was just perfect for this work. Its flat edge allowed me to either make a ragged line by using the flat top or drag the wash out from the line. Both brushes are sable and held the water for a good length of time.

So, to the drawing.

This was the shell I was using as my model.


Can you see why I am captivated by oyster shells? The shape, the lines, the colours, the laminations, the way the shadows disappear. And you don’t have to be really precise to draw them.

My first lines are made on dry watercolour paper. They outline the shell and give me visual markers for other things I need to take note of. At this stage it is only a line drawing, but I am already looking for where lines meet and reappear, where the darks and lights are. They are important because they build the 3D impression. even the smallest sliver of reflected light will add to the realism.


Then I begin to add in some of the darkest areas. I move around the painting, often leaving one part to work on another. I am only drawing in the broad, but my mind is taking in the detail as well, remembering places to come back to. All the time I am conscious about the marks I am making. They need to mean something, to add to the drawing and not just be meaningless scribbles. This photo also shows the pencil I am using.


Now is a time to assess, to sit back to see what has been going on.

It is ready for some water. Sometimes I moved the brush along the line, to work the graphite into the paper. Sometimes I have dragged the graphite out from the line because I want to get some shadow in there while keeping the white edge. Thats the edge of the layer above, where it is catching the light. Sometimes there is enough graphite still on the brush to make a wash away from the line, hinting at the curve of the shell. I am still moving around the drawing, not working too long in one area.


I also discovered that I can rub a wet brush onto the pencil and gather graphite that way. I use that as another form of wash. I keep going, making pencil lines then using either of the 2 brushes to move the graphite around. Making lines, breaking up the lines, adding graphite to deepen tone, adding water to move the graphite around. Playing!

You will notice that I hadn’t done anything to the end of the shell. It has a different texture, smoother with more tonal areas. That needed more water and less line work. The square brush was great for here too. I used it to dab more graphite into washes.


It seemed to be getting close to the finish. I added the shadows at the side. Here I noticed a few things. Firstly, the darkest part of the shadow was right under the shell, but it wasn’t a continuous line. The side of the shell, while in shadow, was not uniformly dark. The layers of the shell created layers of light and shadow. And there is reflected light in there too.

I wanted to keep that reflected light right at the bottom of the shell, but I wasn’t happy with that end. It was too square and just looked wrong. I couldn’t do anything much about the shape, as that was a fault of the original drawing. [Maybe if I had begun work on it earlier I could have changed it in some way….] However, I could break up the lines and add more complexity to the wash area.


So this is the finished work. I did add some finer lines with a 2H pencil. You can see them at the edge of some of the tonal work, hinting at a layer of shell.

What do I think? I am very happy with it. It was fun to do. While I love botanic drawing and painting I have enjoyed allowing myself to play. And of course it is through play that we learn. I know so much more about the water-soluble pencil. I know that I really liked using it, but I know that it has limitations.

As for oyster shells…..I know that I love them and will continue to be fascinated by them for a number of drawings to come! And then I will explore muscle shells 🙂

[The drawing is available for sale in my Etsy store. Click here to have a look. If you would like to buy it, or any of my other works, but don’t want to go through Etsy, contact me directly.]

My art work

Colour bias and hue ~ Day 2

I left the workshop on Tuesday feeling satisfied. I had battled with my painting, and to honest, it won. However I learnt a great deal and was looking forward to two more days of sitting and painting. The only problem was that Helen had mentioned roses for Day 2.

During day 1 of the workshop Helen Burrows took us through tone and grey scales. Day 2 was to be hue and colour bias.

As I mentioned before, I can see tone fairly easily. However, colour confuses me. I was a long time into my artistic learning before I was confident to use colour. While I can mix a colour reasonably accurately, my use of colour always seemed a bit hit and miss. Now I understand that my problem was that I had missed out on a basic concept — the colour wheel.

A colour wheel explains bias in colour. There are 3 primary colours ~ red, blue and yellow. Everyone knows that! But the primary colours that we have in our paint tubes are not pure. They have a bias towards the secondary colours of green, orange and purple. This is why, at times we wonder whether a yellow is yellow or green, or why a blue can also look purplish. It is important to know the bias of your paints. You can make your painting sing by using the right colours, by thinking about 3 “rules”. When you don’t take bias into account you end up with an uninteresting mix as the colours compete, often neutralising each other.

I have create a very rough colour wheel, using coloured pencils but it will help illustrate the rules.

Colour wheel
Colour wheel

Rule 1: Family is always welcome. They are the other colours/hues around it. However, you need to bear in mind the bias of the colour. For example, is your blue a green blue or has it a bias to purple? If to the green, then the hues of your colour will be somewhere in the greeny blues. It is to those hues that you will look to mix your paint.

Rule 2: Next door neighbours are friends So a colour only a little away from the one you want will work harmoniously. Blue/green. Yellow/orange etc.

Rule 3: Opposites attract. These are the colours opposite each other on the colour wheel. Purple/yellow. Blue/orange. Green/red. They are the ones that can add zing and depth to your work. Think about a blue room with accents of terracotta (orange). Interestingly (well, to me, anyway!) to make a colour darker you add its complimentary colour. Want a darker green? Add red.

So, Helen took us through colour bias and wheels and hues. I came away with a much stronger understanding. Yay! Then to our roses. Maybe not so Yay!

Roses are complex. Their shapes are complex; their colours and hues are complex. They are for Grown Up Painters. But Helen wasn’t letting me get away with that mind set! And I wasn’t letting me get away with any more tantrums. So with my colours mixed and my hue scales done (sort of), I settled down to draw and then paint the rose bud. This is what I ended up with 🙂 . I think it looks like a flouncy fish….but I am happy with what I learnt.

My "rose bud"!! (Image and photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)
My “rose bud”!! (Image and photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)

The original drawing was not accurate. That meant that I got lost in the drawing, not sure at times of where the lights, darks and mid~tones were. Lesson 1~make your original drawing as accurate as possible.

I could see the highlights and darks, and managed to get most of those down in the washes. Lesson 2~be very careful of your highlights. Unlike oils and acrylics, where you add white paint to make a highlight, watercolour relies on the white of the paper. Many a cry of anguish has been heard from a watercolour painter who has mistakenly painted over her white paper!

I think I was getting the mid-tones. Lesson 3~remember that the mid-tone in paint is the middle section of hue scale.

And lastly I did my usual trick of getting carried away in one area, one petal, putting in all the lovely detail. Lesson 4~remember to work over the whole, to compare tone and hue to the overall. Detail comes later.

So it wasn’t a perfect rose ~ or even a perfect fish! But I had fun. I played, and learnt so much through playing.

[If you are interested in finding out more Windsor and Newton have a really interesting article here. It will give you more detailed information. Maybe more accurate too!]