I BEGAN drawing in the 1960s when my seven-year-old son asked me to draw an old dead tree for his school work. His attempt was rather amusing with the limbs drawn to fit around the edge of the pad. I spent half an hour drawing what was meant to be a dead red gum and was pleased with the effort, quietly praising myself. Later I bought a sketch pad, a couple of pencils and a kneadable rubber eraser and started drawing simple subjects such as arum lilies, bulrushes and various leaves, I really enjoyed drawing leaves.
From these simple subjects I moved towards flowers, camelias, rhododendrons, petunias and difficult daffodils. Leaving garden plants, my next subjects were orchids. We had many ground orchids in our area, Pterostylis, Caladenia and Diuris. These were my first challenge of fine botanical drawing and I thoroughly enjoyed the detailed work.
An artist friend suggested I try watercolors. Refraining from making a rude reply, I explained I knew nothing about colors. In due course I bought a few tubes of watercolors and quickly found the green I squeezed from the tube was nothing like the leaf color I needed, so I started mixing colors and learning.
I never had any lessons in art so, after nearly 20 years, I am still doing just that. During ensuing years I painted garden flowers in my spare time, which was always limited on the orchard.
When we left our orchard east of Melbourne and settled in Paynesville on the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria’s east, where many Banksias grow, I attempted painting a few local Banksias but nothing serious. Trips to the north coast of New South Wales introduced me to several more species. By now I was becoming really interested in painting banksias. I painted my first serious Banksia serrata and exhibited it at a Rotary Club exhibition at Lakes Entrance in Victoria. The judge was Charles Mc Cubbin, the wonderful artist, who awarded a Highly Commended for my work. This encouraged me to finish the four local species in Gippsland.
We then attempted the spectacular Banksias of Western Australia. Hundreds of hours of painting have been a huge challenge, full of interest, and sometimes disappointment, but finally a great sense of achievement and satisfaction. I will always be painting Banksias, when I look over my work I can see improvements needed on some layouts, more details in others and better samples needed for some – all part of the addiction.