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Beckler's Botanical Bounty Plants Travels

On to the next thing

Life has been very busy lately.

Not only have I organised my painting for the Exhibition , but I have been organising another exhibition.

You will remember that I am a member of a group of botanical artists who, each year, go up to the small town of Menindee in the arid outback of New South Wales. We go there to collect and paint the plants that Dr Hermann Beckler collected while he was at the supply camp of the Burke and Wills Expedition. You can read more about it here, and you might like to visit our blog becklersbotanicals.blogspot.com

(My Cullen pallidum painting, that I have been raving telling you about in recent posts, was part of that project. But this is a different exhibition.)

The project a fascinating meeting of history, art and science. We have always intended to have an exhibition of our work and this one is a smaller version, a practice run! It is being held up at Menindee. There is a little gallery in the Information Centre and our 30 works should fit in very nicely. We decided to exhibit prints of our originals, which we are donating to the community at the end of the exhibition. They will be there for people to use as they need.

I have had fun doing the work, but it has been a steep learning curve! Fortunately John, the curator up at the gallery, has been holding my hand via emails and phone calls.

For example I had to put together the plant names for the catalogue. Unfortunately it is not enough to just say “daisy” or “saltbush”. The scientific names are needed. Boy, are some of those Latin spellings tricky! Also, botanic convention means that there is a precise way of writing them, italicised in the right way, commas at the right place, capitals and non-capitals, etc.

I have also been talking to media people in Broken Hill, the biggest town in the area. I am not good at ringing up people, especially people I don’t know. Emails, texts, even blogs, no worries; phone calls make me quite anxious. But I did it, and found lovely helpful people at the other end, just like I knew I would.

So, just incase you should happen to be passing through Menindee in September and October drop into the exhibition. If you are in Broken Hill or Mildura, make a detour. And if you can’t be there in person check out our Beckler Blog or wait for me to post some photos here. The details, for those of you lucky enough to be up in that marvellous part of the world, are

BECKLER’S BOTANICAL BOUNTY EXHIBITION
 
Monday 22nd September to Sunday 12th October 2014 (inclusive)
 
Darling River Art Gallery
Menindee Visitor Information Centre
49 Yartla St Menindee
 
Open daily, 10 am to 2 pm

I will leave you with some photos of us collecting and painting over the last few years.

 

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Beckler's Botanical Bounty My art work Plants

Cullen, Australian wildflowers

Quite a few of you looked at my post about finishing my Cullen pallidum painting. 🙂 One of you had found the link to my earlier post about the Cullen flowers. I thought it would be worth reposting it, as the Cullen flowers are not widely known.

Anne Lawson Art

Now that you have had a chance to get up to date with the Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Project…..[What, you don’t know what I am talking about? Have a look in the Beckler’s Botanical Bounty category to the right of this page]……I am going to introduce you to the group of flowers that I am painting.

They are Cullens.

Everyone knows Banksias and Grevillias, and many of us have them growing in our gardens. But whenever I say that I am painting Cullens people have a polite but blank look. There are 4 species of Cullen on Beckler’s list. [Hermann Beckler collected plants while in Menindee on the Burke and Wills Expedition. It is his list of 120 plants that we are trying to replicate.] So, let me show you my beauties.

The first is Cullen discolor. This is the species that I have been painting. I will show you…

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Beckler's Botanical Bounty Botanic Art My art work

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…..

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Beckler's Botanical Bounty My art work Plants

Cullen, Australian wildflowers

Now that you have had a chance to get up to date with the Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Project…..[What, you don’t know what I am talking about? Have a look in the Beckler’s Botanical Bounty category to the right of this page]……I am going to introduce you to the group of flowers that I am painting.

They are Cullens.

Everyone knows Banksias and Grevillias, and many of us have them growing in our gardens. But whenever I say that I am painting Cullens people have a polite but blank look. There are 4 species of Cullen on Beckler’s list. [Hermann Beckler collected plants while in Menindee on the Burke and Wills Expedition. It is his list of 120 plants that we are trying to replicate.] So, let me show you my beauties.

The first is Cullen discolor. This is the species that I have been painting. I will show you what I have been up to in later posts. C. discolor is very prostrate, growing out from a central point. [Botanical practice writes the Latin names in italics, capitalises the genus name, in this case Cullen, and allows it to be abbreviated after the first mention.]

C. discolor (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2011)
C. discolor (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2011)
C. discolor  (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2011)
C. discolor (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2011)
Close up of C. discolor (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2011)
Close up of C. discolor (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2011)

The next, Cullen australasicum was so difficult to find. Although it is an upright bush, I could not see it growing anywhere. Then, as it goes with these things, I saw bushes of them all along the Menindee/Broken Hill Road as we were leaving!

C. australasicum growing prolifically beside the road. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2011)
C. australasicum growing prolifically beside the road. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2011)
The flower of C. australasicum, from a specimen that someone else found for me. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2011)
The flower of C. australasicum, from a specimen that someone else found for me. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2011)

The third, Cullen pallidum, is probably the most showy and, while being no relation,  reminds people of a lavender.

Cullen pallidum growing by the side of the road in Kinchega National Park. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2011)
Cullen pallidum growing by the side of the road in Kinchega National Park. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2011)
The large, showy flowers of C. pallidum. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2011)
The soft, showy flowers of C. pallidum. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2011)

You have probably noticed a couple of defining characteristics of this genus. Firstly, the flower places it in the pea family, Fabaceae. You can see those distinctive ‘wings’ and ‘keels’ that pea flowers have. However, they don’t have pods like eating peas do. You can see how the seeds are still in their furry individual pods.

Secondly you will have noticed the leaves. Cullens have 3 leaflets (trifoliate), two lateral ones and the third that is a little distant from them. The leaflets have definite veins, which give the leaves a lovely folded look ~ wonderful to paint! They are also quite textured. This is protection from the harsh inland Australian sun.

While I had trouble finding these species, they are not rare in the area around Menindee, NSW. It is more a matter of knowing where to look, or plain luck 🙂 and some seasons are better than others. In 2011 I saw many, large plants of C. pallidum but they haven’t been so prolific in later years. However, Cullens in Victoria are now rare, with many species endangered.

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Beckler's Botanical Bounty

Getting up to speed

If you have been following my blog for a while, you may remember that I am involved in a botanic art project, Beckler’s Botanical Bounty. I want to let you know about my painting for this project, about the exhibition we have planned and other things. However, you may like the chance to find out a bit of the background to the project. The link below will fill you in on a bit more detail. I also have a category of Beckler’s Botanical Bounty, that will have more of my posts on the subject. Once you are up to speed I will tell you about my painting.

https://annelawson.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/hermann-beckler-botanical-art-and-menindee/

[I hope this works. I tried to repost the original post, but it seemed to float off into the ether somewhere. Are there aliens reading my blog now? 🙂  I would appreciate some advice, if anyone can tell me what I should have done.]

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Artists Beckler's Botanical Bounty Botanic Art

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.

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anne4bags Botanic Art My art work

Almost Just Joey ~ Workshop Day 3

Last days of a class that you have enjoyed is often tinged of regret. This last day of the workshop was no different, and I was determined to make the most of my time.

Just to recap, on Day 1 Helen Burrows worked us through tone, grey scale and mixing neutral tints, while Day 2 was about colour bias and other colour theory. There was a rose painting thrown in.

Day 3 was the time to tie it all together.

I chose a Just Joey rose. It was open and flouncy, with lots of beautiful curves and folds. There were strong highlights and delicious glowing depths. Just what a rose should be. By the way, whenever possible botanic artists work from the real thing, not photos. Therefore it helps to have a good supply, or paint things that don’t change much, like feathers and knobs of garlic! It also means that, before we start, we try to get as much information about our specimen as possible. Line drawings, tonal maps, colour swatches all help.

First step was the line drawing. This was much easier than the bud I attempted on Day 2. I am not sure why. More understanding of the shape? My eye was “in”? A fluke? Probably the last!

While I was drawing I was taking mental notes about the colours and the hues (which I think are tones with colour). I was also looking for the little details that make the drawing real ~ which line goes under, which go over, what happens at the end the curl of the petal and so on.

Then to the colour mixing and creating hue scales. A hue scale is like a colour swatch from the paint store. It helps to understand the range of that colour (hue), from the darkest of pure pigment to the lightest of washes.

I have admitted before that colour doesn’t always come easily to me. Part of my problem is that I am lazy, believing that close enough will be good enough. So while I did some hue scales, I could have done more. Consequently the colour I ended up using with was not accurate. So my painting of the beautiful Just Joey rose is also not accurate. To defend myself a little, I was conscious of time passing…..and the exercise was to see highlights and shadows.

My hue scales (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)
My hue scales (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)

Hmmm. Could do better. The pencil letters are the paints that I mixed in order to get the colours ~ Quinacrodome Red, Quinacrodome Gold and Windsor Yellow Deep,  If I don’t record them, I easily forget.

On to the painting? Not quite yet. Next step is to create a tonal map/drawing of the rose. It is easy to skip this step, but I like it. Not only because I love seeing tone, but because it gives me vital information about the plant I am drawing. Then, when it goes to the compost, I have can still paint with reasonable accuracy. However, I have always done these as separate drawings. Helen’s suggestion was to do it on tracing paper, over the top of the line drawing. This is a great idea. The tonal work matches the line drawing

Tonal map (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)
Tonal map, created on tracing paper (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)

Now on to the painting. Following those beautiful curves. Making the depths of the rose glow. Finding the nuances of tone. Understanding that on the rose there are 2 different sorts of shadows. There are the cast shadows, those made by another petal blocking the light. On my rose they were soft blue grey. Then there is the darker tone created by the light shining through the petals. These were the areas that glowed. And remembering not to get caught up in the detail of each area too soon. This was to be a first wash.

Line drawing with the paint, in progress. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)
Line drawing with the paint, in progress. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)

I only had time that day to get it to the stage shown above. Time was up, for both the workshop and the specimen! I was confident that I had enough information to be able to finish it at home. Not altogether the case, however. I wasn’t sure what was happening with the petals at the top left. I knew that the light was strongest on them, so I hoped that I would only need to suggest shape and hue. If the painting reads well (ie convinces us that this really is a rose) then our brains fill in the rest.

The next photo shows the tonal drawing, done on tracing paper, over the top of the work in progress. You can see how the tonal drawing helps to determine where the darks should be.

Line, washes and tone. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)
Line, washes and tone. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)

And finally, the finished painting!

The finished rose -- almost Just Joey! (Photo and image copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)
The finished rose — almost Just Joey! (Photo and image copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)

I am very please with the painting, especially as an early attempt at a rose. (It is available for sale in my Etsy shop. Either follow this link, or click on the photo.) Maybe now I am enough of a Grown Up Painter to do more roses!

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Beckler's Botanical Bounty Travels

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)

IMG_8322

(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.

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Beckler's Botanical Bounty Botanic Art

Hermann Beckler

For those of you who have been following my blog for a little while (and thank you to all who do follow) will know that I am involved in a project connecting botanical art with the Burke and Wills Expedition of 1860. If you don’t know what I am talking about, and would like to, either click on the Beckler’s Botanical Bounty category on the right sidebar, or click here.
I have been helping to set up a blog to explain that project. So if you are interested in finding out more then click the link, have a look and maybe join the community.
http://becklersbotanical.blogspot.com.au/
This is the beginning of today’s post about Hermann Beckler and why he has inspired us. Future posts will be about the people involved in the project, the plants we are painting, and some of the sights we see up in the Big Sky Country of Menindee.
Dr Hermann Beckler left Bavaria and arrived in Moreton Bay, Queensland in 1856. Aged 27, he bought his Munich medical qualifications and a consuming desire to explore Australia’s interior and to collect specimens. While in Queensland he corresponded with Ferdinand Mueller, Victoria’s first government botanist.
Beckler was excited by news from Mueller about the possibility of a job collecting plant specimens. So he joined a party droving sheep down through inland New South Wales to meet Mueller in Melbourne. He was given a job to help organise the growing Australian collection in Victoria’s herbarium, and he developed his knowledge of Australian plants.
Continued on Beckler’s Botanical Bounty
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Beckler's Botanical Bounty Botanic Art My art work Plants

Finishing the practice painting

I have been making a big effort to get my practice painting finished. Here is the next sequence of photos of my work. (If you want to catch up on what I have been doing, check here.)

The top leaf and inflorescence is finished, the bottom is waiting.
The top leaf and inflorescence are finished, the lower is waiting.
Finished leaf and inflorescence
Finished leaf and inflorescence
Both leaves are finished.
Both are finished.
Close up of the second leaf and inflorescence.
Close up of the second leaf and inflorescence.

My method is to use very small brush strokes to create the effect I am looking for. That means I need to use very fine brushes as well as a magnifying glass!

I often need the magnifying glass to help with the fine brush strokes.
I often need the magnifying glass to help with the fine brush strokes.

IMG_6810Whenever possible, botanical artists work from live specimens and often go to great lengths to keep the specimen fresh. Sometimes the specimen can be replaced by a freshly picked one. Those were not options for me, as Cullen discolor is a plant growing on the red sandy soils of western New South Wales, a couple of days’ drive from my house. I am relying on the photos I took of my specimen.

The iPad is invaluable. Not only is is portable, allowing me to have the photo close by my work, but also I can enlarge the photos to get that extra bit of detail. Got to love technology!

My iPad is invaluable as it makes my photos of the Cullen portable, and I am able to enlarge sections to get a clearer image.
My iPad is invaluable as it makes my photos of the Cullen portable, and I am able to enlarge sections to get a clearer image.