Beckler’s Botanical Bounty: The flora of Menindee

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This is the very elegant hero image for our exhibition Beckler’s Botanical Bounty: The flora of Menindee.

The Art Gallery of Ballarat

Saturday 24th February to Sunday May 27th

Yes, it opens in just over a week……I am so excited! I can promise you photos galore.

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On a different note, my newsletter goes out today. This time I am writing about making art on commission, as well as links to other things going on around the place. So click here if you would like to read it (if that link doesn’t work you might be a little early, and have clicked before the newsletter goes out) and click here if you would like to subscribe.

And lastly here, Would you like a free drawing? to find out more about the newsletter.

A workshop and a nest

Way back in May I did a workshop at Bendigo Art Gallery with Mark Dober.

Bendigo is a regional Victorian town, with a very good gallery. I had only been up there for special exhibitions, so I was pleased to have time to wander. I thought I had taken more photos, however, this one shows how spacious and pleasing the rooms are.

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Mark is a landscape artist who works en plein air. He uses a mix of watercolour and oil pastel, and is soon to have an exhibition of his work created in the You Yangs at the Geelong Art Gallery. [The You Yangs are mountains between Melbourne and Geelong, that rise up from the flat volcanic plains around them.] He says of the work he is exhibiting:

This body of new work made at the You Yangs consists of 6 multi-sheet watercolours. Four of these are 112 x 380 cm. These were made at Fawcett’s Gully, around the back of the You Yangs, accessible by the unsealed circuit road.

His exhibition is running from 12th to 16th October. It will be alongside an exhibition by Fred Williams, one of Australia’s foremost landscape artists.

So, you can imagine my interest in his workshop to learn to work with watercolour and oil pastels!

We set up in one of the galleries, and had the choice of two paintings to work with ~ a Fred Williams:

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Fred Williams: The Yarra at Kew 11 (1972)

or a traditional watercolour by Ernest Waterlow’s ‘Gathering fuel, Cornish Coast’, c.1887. You can see the painting in the photo below.

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My first step was to loosely draw in the figures and landscape features. Then I had to lay in large watercolour washes over the main features. I think this was the most difficult thing for me. I am not a confident colour mixer, and often don’t mix enough paint to cover the area which is a problem when working on such large areas. Even with enough paint I have trouble manipulating the paint over large areas. It dries before I can work into it. Washes in botanic art work are little things, the size of a leaf or a petal, not vast areas of sky or beach!

I tried to suppress my panic, to just let it flow. After all, it was purely for my pleasure. Embrace the wonky!

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Then there was the fun part of going over the (dried) wash with oil pastel.

Some areas worked, some didn’t. I think I put too much oil pastel on some areas, and didn’t have time to get to others. Of course, I thought I would finish it off at home……

My drawing strengths are tone and fabrics, so I was very happy with the work I did on the woman’s dress.

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And a closer look….

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It was quite a complex painting to work on over a day, but I enjoyed the challenge and it has given me a new way of working.

 

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The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook

The Sketchbook has left the States and arrived in Greece. Now it is not only international, but global! How cool is that?!

It is a while since I have written about it, but I have just updated my Sisterhood page. It gives you an overview of the contributions all the Sisters have made, as well as the background to the Sketchbook, and who the Sisters are.

Our blog The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook is another way to keep up with what the Sketchbook looks like. Simply follow the blog and you will receive posts as they are published. Here the Sisters make links to their own blogs too. The blog even has a natty interactive map. 🙂

It is an amazing project. So many walls are going up, so it is lovely to know that the Sketchbook can just fly over the top of them!

 

 

In my studio, December 2016

What’s happening in my studio?

Well, not much painting-wise. Like you, I have been busy with other interesting things that this time of the year throws up, including a very interesting talk by Dr. Tom May, who spoke about “From mushrooms to the mycobiome”. But that’s not what this post is about…..

My Cullen painting is at the same stage as last month. It’s not going to be finished in 2016. 😦

I have sent off my #stitchingsanta parcels. It is a fun idea organised by Sheila at Sewchet. Back in October she sent out an invitation to play along this year. I love making connections around the world, so I was in. I asked for two people ~ a sewing and a knitting/crocheting secret santa. Then Sheila’s email arrived telling me who I was going to collect for. I had so much fun collecting things. But challenged too. They need to be things the present-opener would like, as well as having an Australian theme and flat enough to go through the post as a letter. I think I did well, but, as it is a secret, all I can show you is this…..

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In my studio I have some new treasures……

I can never go far without picking up something to bring home. These caught my eye on the path near the Botanic Gardens. I love how the weighty seedpods contrasts with the delicate wings, the smooth and the finely textured, the green and the pink, the shadow and the light ~ all this in one little miraculous package.

The other treasure is a print from my very talented friend Melanie Lazarow. I saw her recent exhibition and enjoyed her abstracts. Some are large and a wild mixture of vivid colours, some are small with detailed geometric shapes. She is also a wonderful photographer and her passion is recording how people fight against injustice. However, it was this print that cried out to go home with me.

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Image copyright: Melanie Lazarow

I love the colours in it, its moodiness, and of course the plants.

While my Cullen painting has been languishing, I have made progress with my embroidery.

It is such a different process to my botanic art. When painting I know exactly how I want the final image to be. The point of botanic art is to replicate the plant in fine detail. Many of the decisions about composition, colour, tone, the process and so on are made before I start. Major problems I encounter during the painting process have usually arisen because I haven’t thought through issues at the beginning. The colour may be wrong or I haven’t really considered how I am going to paint those fine hairs or realise that the original drawing was incorrect.

The embroidery is so different. I have an idea of how it is going to be at the end, as I often work from a photo, but that only gives me the broad outlines, the shape of the tree or where the sky is going to be. I am always problem solving as I go. What stitch is best to make this look like grass? How am I going to show the highlight? Is my yarn giving me the tones that I want? Why don’t I try this thread? So many ‘What if….?’ questions. And I love that about it. It’s playful.

So….what’s happening in your creative space? You will notice that I am not saying “studio” except in the title. I like the sound of it there! Creative space is much wider ~ I’m thinking studio, kitchen table, sketchbook, computer, note book, anywhere you create. And I am not limiting it to painters. Writers and quilters, printers and poets, everyone is welcome.

And it doesn’t have to be a final, well rounded piece. It can be, but it might also be a look at what you are working on, a tip, a technique, a new piece of equipment. It might be a photo of your work space or your inspiration board. Or even an inspirational quote!

Leave a comment below with a link to your blog post, Instagram photo, Facebook entry….whatever.

 

More Senna painting

A couple of posts ago I showed you the plant that I am going to paint from my time in Menindee. It is Senna artemisioides subspecies filifolia. While I haven’t begun to paint it yet, I thought I would show you a little more of the preparation process, and some of the information I needed to collect before I came home.

This is the specimen I am painting

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and this is the finished drawing, done on tracing paper.

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Drawing on tracing paper (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2106)

A close up of the drawing. (Yes, I am also wondering how I am going to paint it!)

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(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

As we collect specimens for the Herbarium we have to have very detailed notes about the environment of the plant. That information is recorded on a label that accompanies the plant to the Herbarium. You can see that precise information is needed. Beckler’s original collecting notes were often quite vague, with locality being something general like Lake Pamamaroo. Smart phones and GPS means that we can pin point our position.

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(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

This senna has the most wonderful seed pods. The mature ones are rich mahogany and twist and curl as they open to spill their seeds. I am going to add a row of them below the plant.

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(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)
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(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

 

A key aspect of the plant is, of course, colour. It was important that I worked out the right colour (and recorded the mix!) before the colours of the plant faded.  Sometime I am confident that I have nailed the colour only to find when I start painting that it isn’t right. These look pretty good now, so fingers crossed.

So, I have all the information I need to start the painting. All I have to do is clear off my very messy table and finish off a few other works in progress………

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The very messy work table! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

 

You and me

Lots of things have been bubbling away in my mind lately. You know some of my creative thoughts, but  also I have been pondering about the rhythm of my blog ~ what I want to post and how often. I think I have come up with a sustainable rhythm. It involves posting twice a week, with posts that I am describing as Me posts and You posts.

My Me posts will be the story of my life, mainly my creative life ~ the sorts of things that I have been rambling on about for the last five or so years! They will probably be published on the weekend.

The You posts will be ones that I think you will find interesting ~ links to other blogs, stories of others’ creative lives, quirky stories, environmental news. I have lots of ideas, but let me know if there is anything you would be interested in reading.

So today is my first official You post…..

Botanical art traditionally has been created with watercolours, but sometimes I come across an artist who achieves wonderfully detailed works using different media. Mary Delany is such an artist.

Mary Granville Delany (1700-1788) bloomed in her 70s, when she embarked on her life’s work—creating 985 life-size, three-dimensional, scientifically-correct botanical prints now held by the British Museum.

Her art work is created by cutting and gluing paper. Her life was quite remarkable, as you can read in parts 1 and 2 from laterbloomer.com

Mary Delany’s life Part 1

Mary Delany’s life Part 2

Enjoy!

In My Studio

So much for making this a monthly post! It is well over a month since the first one…but that’s okay. It’s been a busy time.

If you would like to show us what has been happening in your creative space over the last little while, write a post about it and then link to it in the comments. (When I get really clever I will learn how to do a blog roll thingy at the side of the blog.) That way we will be able to see what other creative people have been up to. It doesn’t have to be a finished product, it may be a new paint brush you got from Santa or a poem that has inspired a short story or something that you have been working on.

Today I am going to show you a variety of things.

Firstly, this little box was a gift from my brother. Yep, it was a box of pastels, from Japan. (My brother loves Japan.) Like so many Japanese things, it was packaged beautifully.

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Take off the lid….

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take out the “Welcome to your new pastels” note (as I don’t speak Japanese I am choosing to translate it as that!)…..

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take out the piece of paper that tells you the colours (I am more confident about that translation) to reach the pastels. Each one is about 2 cms.

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Don’t you just love the treasures in little boxes ~ and thoughtful brothers?!

I also have a gift voucher from my Mum (xox).  It is from my favourite art supply shop, Melbourne Art Supplies. I love browsing in art shops almost as much as I love spending gift vouchers.

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You won’t be surprised to know what my Christmas presents to the family were this year ~ sketchbooks! Remember when I went a bit crazy over making sketchbooks? Some of you accepted my offer to send you one. Well, I went into sketchbook making mode again. I decided to make three different sizes, all with different covers. I put them in a box and let people choose the one they wanted. It was okay if they didn’t want one, but I was pretty certain that most would. My family loves projects and recording things, especially in handmade notebooks.

The photo, which I put on one cover, is my grandpa setting sail for WW1. He looks so young, and fortunately he came home again.

You may be curious about the work behind the gift voucher. I had a lovely time playing with images of fungi, repeating, flipping, turning to make these patterns. Because I was giving myself time to play, my mind was free to think about other things I could do. So I added coloured pencil and worked on black paper. I hope to show you those some time. They are not an end product, although often my mind tries to make them one. At the moment they simply are patterns on my noticeboard.

Lastly, in my studio are things to hold my brushes and pens and pencils. I use things that I am fond of.

This delightful mug was decorated by Xavier a gorgeous boy I taught in Grade One. Look how he made the dragon go right around the mug!

The ceramic brush holder was a present from my friend Tess. It has a wonderful African abstract embellishment. The water mug is a tea cup I brought back from Russia. I got carried away over there, thinking I was going to drink tea out of glass mugs with interesting holders. The fancy didn’t last long, but I enjoy using it as I paint.

Who can resist the fancy cardboard cylinders that Chinese tea comes in? Or a shiny milk jug? Or the flat pencil case just the right size for my pencils?

What do you keep your bibs and bobs in?

Go on, tell us what has been happening in your creative space over the past while. I’d love to know.