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Monday, 16 February 2015

Valerie Richard's painting in the Exhibition

Last year we ran a series of interviews with artists involved with the Beckler's Botanical Bounty Project. We hung many of those  paintings in our Exhibition in Menindee last year. Over the next few weeks we would like to show you blog posts of some of the finished works on display.

Valerie Richards has painted some of the eremophilas that were collected by Dr. Beckler. They are wonderful plants, commonly known as emu bushes. In her interview Valerie describes Eremophila sturtii and what attracted her to paint this dainty flower.

It has an absolute profusion of lilac, pink and cream flowers. It was these colours that attracted me at first. From a distance it looks like a green shrub. As you get to close to it you see the beautiful flowers. The impact of the colours was such a surprise. The shrub is symmetrical, attactive shape. It grows to 1 to 2 metres.
The full interview with Valerie is here.
Valerie's painting, the work in progress
You can see from the photo of her painting as it hung in the Exhibition (below right), her finished work included the habitat of E. sturtii, with the bush as well.

Left: Plantago drummondii; Right: E. sturtii (Art work copyright: Valerie Richards 2013)
By the time of the Exhibition Valerie had completed five paintings, the two above and three below. And they all looked stunning!
Left: E. deserti Right: Senna artemisioides subsp. x sturtii (Art work copyright: Valerie Richards 2013)
Arabidella trisecta (Art work copyright: Valerie Richards 2013)
Valerie's work hanging together 

Evelyn Brandt's painting in the Exhibition

Last year we ran a series of interviews with artists involved with the Beckler's Botanical Bounty Project. We hung many of those  paintings in our Exhibition in Menindee last year. Over the next few weeks we would like to show you blog posts of some of the finished works on display.

Evelyn Brandt loves the tiny detail of plants. Her microscopic drawings show us why botanic art straddles the artistic and scientific worlds and has such an important place in botany. Each magnified element of the reproductive parts helps to identify the plant while creating a wonderful work of art.

The full interview with Evelyn is here, but as a reminder, this is what she said about why microscopic work is so important:
At the moment I am really interested in microscopic work. I want to understand the important botanic characteristics that define the species. The key characteristic for this one, Chenopodium cristatum, is the perianth. This is part of the flower. There are 5 perianth segments that encapsulate the seed, which you can only see under the microscope. It is the characteristics of the perianth that define it and differentiate it from the other chenopodium species.
In the full interviewEvelyn details how she has developed her own process for doing such fine, detailed botanic art work.

Evelyn's work in progress

The painting of Chenopodium cristatum is not the only one Evelyn has been painting. In the Exhibition she had four works and each one showed her beautiful, detailed work.

L to R: Tetragonia moorei, Chenopodium cristatum (Art work copyright: Evelyn Brandt)
L to R: Centipedia cunninghamii; Casuarina pauper (Art work copyright: Evelyn Brandt)
And Evelyn's work hanging in the Exhibition
Hanging together (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)

Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Lorraine Looney's painting in the Exhibition

Last year we ran a series of interviews with artists involved with the Beckler's Botanical Bounty Project. We hung many of those  paintings in our Exhibition in Menindee last year. Over the next few weeks we would like to show you blog posts of some of the finished works on display.

Lorraine Looney, a Menindee resident, has been a stalwart of the Project. We interviewed her in 2013. The full interview is here, but this is a little, telling us how she came to be involved:
As a councillor for the Central Darling Shire I was involved with the 150 year anniversary of the Burke and Will Expedition. We had a reinactment. When that was over I saw a piece in the school news about the open days of this project [Beckler's Botanical Bounty Project]. So I had to come and have a look! Looking at what everyone was doing was fascinating. People were looking under microscopes and identifying species.
Each year I have come back to say hello.

 But she has more than said "hello". She has drawn one of the plants on Beckler's list.
One year I was encouraged to draw my own flower. It was Verbena africana -- the simple one! Mali gave me the choice of the verbena or the warrigal greens (Tetragonia tetragonioides). I chose the verbena because it was less complicated. It is a medicinal plant, so it interested me as well.
We were delighted that Lorraine wanted to exhibit her work in the Exhibition. This is her work hanging in the Darling River Art Gallery.
Verbena africana -- Artist: Lorraine Looney (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)

As Lorraine told us in the interview she is has a fascination for collage, creating images of the plants from the area using recycled materials. Her work attracted a lot of interest at the Exhibition.
Lorraine's collage of plants of the area (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Pressing plant specimens

After we have collected the plant specimens in the field, we have to preserve the ones that are going to the herbaria in Melbourne and Sydney. The group also has its own reference collection, and each artist keeps a pressing of the plant she is painting.

The plants are preserved by pressing. We are conscious that herbaria are short of resources and space and only want quality specimens. We try to collect plants in flower or with fruit as these are usually critical for identification.

The plant is laid out on two inter-weaved pieces of newspaper. We carefully spread out structures (i.e. leaves, flowers) so that diagnostic features are clearly evident and make sure that both the upper and the lower leaf surface are visible by turning over some leaves.
Stem of Cullen australasicum folded to fit the paper. It is a specimen with buds, flowers and some seeds. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)

The plant needs to be tagged next. The little jeweller's tag has the name of the plant, the date of collection, the voucher number (the voucher is our record keeping book), the year of the Project, and the name of the artist.

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)

The same information is written on the edge of the newspaper. This is really helpful if we need to look through the stack for a particular specimen. It is much easier to read that information than open up each "parcel" of newspaper to find the one we are looking for.

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)
The plant is then ready to add to the stack of pressed specimens. Cardboard helps to give rigidity to the pressing.

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)

Some people have very fancy presses!

Keeping track of what has been collected when and by whom is a daunting task. Amy, Mali and Valerie do a great job of keeping on top of things.

Over the week the piles of pressed specimens collect in the Hall......

 (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)

......and then they have to be transported back to Melbourne!

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)

For more detailed information about our collecting procedure, look at our Herbarium Specimen Collecting Guide.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Out collecting

The first days of our time in Menindee are often spent out in the bush, searching for the plants that we want to collect and paint. Of course, as we wander our attention is captured by other specimens, so quick outing into the field can end up taking much longer!

[Remember that we collect our plant specimens according to collecting guidelines. For further information, please see our page "Herbarium Collecting Specimen Guide".

Sometimes we went further afield, car pooling with a few cars.

But wherever we went we were reminded of the beauty, diversity and fragility of this amazing area.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

At work in the Hall

We set up in the Civic Hall in Menindee. Each artist has her own table -- or sometimes two! -- which becomes covered with microscopes, specimens, and all manner of artistic equipment from paint and brushes to backing boards and natty pencil holders.

Beckler's Botanical Bounty Exhibition

Another collecting and painting period in Menindee has come and gone. The highlight this year was the exhibition of our work in The Darling River Art Gallery in the Information Centre in Menindee.

We set the exhibition up on Sunday.

The exhibition was of prints of our original paintings. As you can see, we uniformly mounted them in black frames with a black matt. That helped to unify the works.

This is how they looked up on the walls.

The Opening was on Tuesday. It was wonderful to see lots of people there. Margot Muscat was our Mistress of Ceremonies. As the representative of the Shire in Menindee, she is our liaison, and without her our project would not be where it is today without her. It is Margot who helps us with all the organisational matters, and definitely our Go To Person.

We were Welcomed to Country by Evelyn, who made a very moving speech. A couple of us spoke about the project, not only its history, but also the impact the area has made on us as artists. We always feel so welcomed when we come to town for our week in the Hall.

Then it was time for a cuppa, some fruit cake, lots of chatting, and of course, a closer look at all the art work of plants that grow in this amazing area.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Guideline  for  Collection  and  Pressing  Herbarium  Specimens

A large part of our project it to collect the specimens that Hermann Beckler collected. His specimens are an important part of the historical collection in the National Herbarium, Melbourne. Our specimens are being given to the herbaria in Melbourne and Sydney. We have to be very mindful of preserving our plants in a way that will make them useful for the collections. As well, we know that the environment we are in is very fragile and our efforts cannot do any damage to the ecosystem. Our group has come up with a guideline for our collecting.

Part of that document has been added to the page on this blog "Herbarium Collecting Specimen Guide". To look at the guidelines just click on the tab at the top of this page, or click here. If you are interested in viewing the whole document, contact us and we can send it as a PDF file.

This link will take you to the herbarium section of the RBG website. It has information about how the herbarium mounts, files and protects the specimens it receives.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Roslyn Glow

Roslyn Glow -- botanic artist

Rhodanthe moschata

When I retired I started as a student of botanical illustration with Mali (Moir).
This was about six years ago.  Until then, I had not had any training in botany, history or art, although I had looked at botanical art for many years.

When I heard that a fellow student had suggested to Mali that we celebrate 150 years since Burke and Wills’ expedition by collecting and painting some of the same plants that Hermann Beckler collected, I was inspired.  I thought it was such an imaginative idea, that I wanted to be involved.  I came up on the first trip, in 2010.   We really had little idea about the problems we would face in identifying plants, and were very fortunate that two of the artists with us were also botanists, and two more were experienced field naturalists. We were able to make some progress, and we had a wonderful time. 

I was unable to come the next year, but joined the group again in 2012. Once more it was a great experience, and I learned a lot.  By then I had read a good deal about Beckler and about the Burke and Wills expedition, and was thoroughly entranced by the way the project combines art, botany and history.  

Being based in a remote location and sharing our life together also adds the dimensions of geography, sociology and group dynamics.  A rich experience indeed.

This year, although it should be harder, because the most common plants have already been selected and painted, our task has been made easier by the presence of our Honorary Botanist. Andrew Denham. His presence has greatly eased the difficulties of finding and identifying relevant plants.

My chosen plant is Rhodanthe moschata, the musk sunray.  This is a small, annual, scented herb with gold flowers.  I particularly wanted to paint a colourful plant.  What I didn’t realize is the fact that the ‘flowers’ are in fact flower heads, each consisting of about twelve florets, each of which contains two or three flowers.  The flowers themselves are very small.

Rhodanthe moschata
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
This plant was first described by Allan Cunningham, who was sent by Sir Joseph Banks, to Australia, to collect plants.   He made many exploration trips in Australia and New Zealand, and was appointed Royal Botanist to the Colony of NSW, later becoming the Superintendent of the Botanical Gardens, Sydney, now the Royal Botanic Gardens.  This is yet another link for our project, as we are sending our collected and pressed specimens to both the State Herbarium of Victoria, where Beckler’s collection is held, and the NSW Herbarium. 

Close up of Rhodanthe moschata. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)

Because the flowers are so small I had to use a microscope to understand the flower structure.  This was a first for me, but a great learning experience.  It was a wonderful opportunity for me to work so closely with a botanist. 

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)

I will paint the whole plant, including the root, at twice the natural size, and the details of flower structure at ten times the natural size.  I will use water colour.

Drawings from my microscopic work. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)

The Beckler project is a lovely initiative.  I particularly enjoy the chance to be out in the arid country with a serious purpose, the many links to relevant studies and institutions, and the fellowship of other artists.  Each participant is self-funded.  We are all there because we want to be there, not because someone told us to go.
This enhances the experience. 
Roslyn Glow