Beckler’s Botanical Bounty: The flora of Menindee


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.


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.

An update on the Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Project

If you have been following my blog for a while you will remember the annual trips that the Fella and I make up to Menindee, a little country town about an hour out of Broken Hill. If you are new to the blog, or have forgotten let me briefly explain.

I am part of a group of botanic artists who go up to the semi-arid area of Outback New South Wales to collect and paint the plants that were found on the Burke and Wills Expedition of 1860. Dr Hermann Beckler was the collector as well as the doctor on the Expedition. Our Project began in 2010, and the Fella and I have gone up since 2011.

You can read my posts, which will give you more detail of the Project.

The Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Project means many things to me, such as a chance to explore a very unfamiliar environment, an invaluable learning opportunity, a great way to spend time with likeminded artists, as well as being an interesting holiday!

But I know that the Project is much more than that, We have always been aware that it has a place in history. It has brought Dr Beckler’s contribution to Australian plant knowledge to the fore. We collect specimens of the plants to sit alongside Beckler’s in the National Herbarium of Victoria, and each specimen has detailed records of habitat, soil conditions, GPS location and so on. This provides current data on plants that exist in the Menindee Lakes/Kinchega National Park area, data that, when combined with Beckler’s collection, could be very useful for longitudinal studies. It is a great example of how citizen scientists can contribute to scientific knowledge.

As well, it was always our intention to have an exhibition of our paintings. That is happening in February/March/April 2018 at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Organisation for that is currently ‘full steam ahead’.

My paintings from the Cullen genus:

And my painting of Pimelea trichostaycha:


Now I am asking you to consider donating to the Project. All expenses, such as the travel to and accommodation in Menindee and art supplies, have been met by individual artists, something we have been very proud to do. The Gallery is very generously helping us with expenses for the exhibition, including the catalogue, curation and scanning. However, there are some things that we would like to find some extra money for, such as future publications to put the Project in its place in Australian botanical history.

We have set up a crowd funding campaign, that will run for another 50 days. If you would be able to help us, any amount will be appreciated. To find out more jump over to the Australian Cultural Fund page. If you email me at I can send you a PDF of the campaign.

Thanks for taking the time to think about this.


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Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Exhibition

I am so excited! On Thursday we confirmed that our exhibition for Beckler’s Botanical Bounty is going to be held in February, 2018, at the Art Gallery of Ballarat.

The magnificent foyer of the Art Gallery of Ballarat (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2016)

Let me do a little explaining…..

I am part of a group of botanic artists who are working on a project to collect and paint the specimens collected by Dr. Hermann Beckler on the Burke and Wills Expedition of 1860. To find out more you can head to our website Beckler’s Botanical Bounty, and you may like to read other posts of mine.

Typical of the Outback habitats we explore for our plants. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)

For 6 years we have headed up to Menindee, an hour out of Broken Hill, Outback New South Wales. An exhibition has always been a priority for us and Ballarat was always at the top of our wish list. It is a wonderful, innovative gallery, with a strong interest in botanic and natural history art. Last year we finalised our exhibition proposal and sent it off to the Curator at Ballarat. And that’s where we have ended up!!

I must admit, as I was standing in the room our exhibition will be in, I thought “What have we done? Can we actually pull this off?” And then I thought “Of course we can, because we have a whole swag of supportive and knowledgeable people behind us!”

It seems like a long time away, but we have lots to do. I will certainly keep you informed. For now my first task is to get my painting finished!

Cullen cinereum, close up of an area, to show the stalks going in front and behind the leaves.

Mutawintji National Park

I have just come back to Menindee after spending a few days in Mutawintji National Park. It is a couple of hours north east of Broken Hill.

Have you ever seen the movie “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”? It was filmed in Broken Hill. So if you have seen it you can visualise the landscape we were travelling through. If you haven’t seen it, make sure you do, as it is a fabulous film!

We were following in the footsteps of Burke and Wills. Our guide was Garry, a member of the Burke and Wills Society who had been this way a few years ago. He was so knowledgeable about the area, even arranging for us to go onto private land to see where some of the paintings from the expedition were painted.

I have mentioned that I am up here, with other botanic artists to paint the plants collected by Hermann Beckler on the Expedition. The naturalist and artist on the Expedition was Ludwig Becker (similar name, but without the ‘l’). He was a very talented artist, producing some gems on the journey. Unfortunately he was one of the men who died during the trip.

The photo shows a copy of Becker’s landscape with the original view. It gives a good idea of the terrain. Difficult enough to travel through in a car — imagine how much more difficult on foot leading camels and horses.

Beckler also produced sketches on the journey, although not as good as Becker’s. I can just see them both sitting on the banks of the Darling River sketching and painting this scene. The first photo is Becker’s watercolour and the second Beckler’s sketch.


They headed to Mutawintji because they knew that it was a permanent water source. ‘Permanent water source’ in that environment often simply means a pool of water. There was certainly no flowing water in either the Homestead Creek or the Mutawintji Gorge when we camped there, although there were a couple of waterholes in the latter.


The National Park is the tribal area of the Malyankapa and Paadjikali People and there are many examples of their rock art. People have been gathering at this oasis for thousands of years for celebrations and ceremonies. The gatherings still go on today. In September 1998 the Mutawintji National Park was handed back to its traditional owners.

After the peace and isolation of Mutawintji I have come back to the Big Smoke of Menindee– and to the lovely hot showers in the caravan park!

(Hope this post works okay — it is difficult to preview. Fingers crossed!)

It’s finished!!

What’s finished? My Cullen painting! Cullen pallidum

Cullen pallidum (image and photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)
Cullen pallidum (image and photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)

Why is this momentous? For a few reasons.

1. I have have been working on it for quite a while. In fact, I first collected the specimen on my first trip up to Menindee in 2011. But let me backtrack to bring you up to speed. I belong to a group of botanic artists who are collecting and painting the specimens that Dr. Hermann Beckler collected on the Burke and Wills Expedition in 1860. We are called Beckler’s Botanical Beauts and have a blog which will give you more information. It is the most complex painting I have ever done, and has required the most amount of time.

2. I am happy to have it finished because we are going to exhibit our works. This painting is now finished and is ready for the exhibition, maybe 2015, 2016.

3. I am happy to have time to do other things as, even when I haven’t been working on the painting, the need to do it has been hanging over my head. You know that feeling! Working on other things does include two more paintings from the project, but they can wait until after October.

4. I am very pleased to have it finished, because I am very happy with the result! (I have to tell you that the photo I am showing is NOT the finished work. I trust all of you who read this, but I have to think about image piracy. Sad but true.) The featured image is a photo of Cullen pallidum growing beside the road in Kinchega National Park, Menindee, New South Wales.

So, now on to oyster shells, more consistent blogging, sketches, thinking about the next painting…..

Beckler’s Botanical Bounty

Looking for the right plants, Kinchega National Park (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2012)
Looking for the right plants, Kinchega National Park (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2012)

It is a while since I have posted about a project I am involved with — Beckler’s Botanical Bounty. I will be letting you know more about it soon, I promise. But as a taster  I am giving you a link to our blog, Beckler’s Botanical Bounty.

It is an interview with Evelyn, one of the artists involved. Her work is wonderfully detailed ~ detail achieved by her microscopic work. So if you have ever wondered about the role of microscopes in botanic art, head over to read her interview.

Menindee, outback New South Wales

Keep heading north from Mildura and you reach Broken Hill. Then turn south-east along the Menindee Road, drive for about 100 kms or about an hour to come to the township of Menindee.

Menindee is a small country town in outback NSW. It isn’t the sort of place you just stumble across — you have to know that that’s where you are going. However, lots of people have found it, including Burke and Wills. In 1860 their expedition spent a few months here, as it is where Burke established the supply camp.

The aim of the Expedition was to discover an inland route from the south of Australia to the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north. I have written about the Expedition before. So, if you are interested, have a look here. A new plaque has been put up outside the Maidens Hotel, where Burke and Wills stayed. This is the map of their journey, from the plaque.

The route of Burke, Wills, Grey and King. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)
The route of Burke, Wills, Grey and King. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)
The new plaque, outside the Maidens Hotel
The new plaque, outside the Maidens Hotel 

It was because of the Burke and Wills Expedition that the Fella and I headed to Menindee. A group of botanic artists, including myself, have a project to collect (with permission) and then paint the specimens that were collected at Menindee by the doctor on the Expedition, Hermann Beckler. We call ourselves Beckler’s Botanical Beauts. Again, to find out more information about Beckler and my involvement, have a look here.

Can there really be interesting plants here?
Can there really be interesting plants here?

The country is dry, red dirt. As you drive along it seems like only saltbushes and the occasional scrubby tree grow here. What’s to find there? Well, plenty. Beckler collected 120 specimens, and that was only some of the species that are out here. Many of the plants are small, growing up in the protection of the bushier ones; or they creep along the ground. Once you stop to look, you can see lots of beauties.

Or here?
Or here?

It’s a landscape that doesn’t look very promising.






But once you get out and look, there is plenty to see,

like these…

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)


(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)
Heads down, finding lovely plant treasures
Heads down, finding lovely plant treasures

Next time I will tell you more about the town of Menindee. It was my third year of staying here, and I am becoming very fond of it.