I am always apprehensive about starting a new painting. Every banksia is different, the flowers, the leaves, the cones and even the stems vary considerably. It is this great variability of the plant that makes each painting an individual and interesting challenge. For most of my work I use small acrylic script brushes 20/0, 10/0 through to 00, as most of my work is dry brush painting, it’s only on the larger leaves that I use a wash, perhaps with a #2 brush.
The flower is the first to be painted, as in the event of ruining it in the early stages, no other work is lost. I have an efficient shredder that copes very well with such events and I must add that these events are not really rare! I can easily spend a couple of days painting the flowers, although I do have regular breaks doing this fine work. The first colour is very light, progressively darkening the flower with successive painting until the desired colour is reached. The next most difficult area is the cone as the usually darker colour and irregular shape makes for a more forgiving subject.
Banksias have many types of leaves, often thin and pine like. These are an exercise in painting parallel lines, with some species having hundreds of them, and painting these leaves is when I ask myself why I paint Banksias! The wider leaves involve many light washes to display the curved and wrinkled foliage. When all leaves are finished I like to line the margins to define a clear edge that occurs on the plant itself and to edge the many serrated type leaves of some Banksias is a time consuming exercise. The leaves constitute the major part of the work, it is the shading, the contrasts and various colour tones that bring depth and life to the painting. With the painting completed the image is scanned in preparation for printing. The textured paper, as mentioned earlier, usually creates a coloured background. I prefer this to be a clear white to enhance the clarity of the work in the prints. I clear this toned background in a paint shop program on the computer together with a general clean up of any untidy brush strokes. It is always a satisfying moment to see a wild Banksia finally laid to rest on paper.
The brief articles covering my work are entirely derived from experience during the learning process which, of course, is still ongoing. I have never had any lessons whatsoever in any form of art and perhaps many critics would suggest I should take some! The techniques I have used undoubtedly would never conform to the theories of basic art. My many years of banksia painting have not been to produce award winning art, but to create images that are reasonably accurate for amateur botanists to identify their finds and hopefully enjoy my work. I have never tried to enhance my subjects — what I see is what you get!
While putting these notes together I have kept in mind the possibility of people, like myself, who may be interested in botanical art as a hobby. Botanical painting fits well with people who have a love of flowers, in my case Banksias, although I have also spent many hours painting orchids and butterflies. While rather an odd combination it is always rewarding and satisfying.
It has often been suggested to me that by never having taken lessons, I have not been influenced by another artist. I will never know that answer to that but I can simply say “I did it my way!”