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Welcome to my world of Banksias

I have been asked many times why I paint Banksias. When I ruin a near finished painting, after spending many hours of work, I often ask myself the same question!

Banksias are a challenging and rather difficult subject to draw or paint, some species have several thousand flowers, often in incredible uniform formation, and the cones can present the same form structures. It is the flowers that present the greatest challenge to recreate. My first introduction to watercolour was to paint some of the local ground orchids and these small delicate flowers demanded the fine pencils and brushes that I still use today. I love this fine detailed work. My first attempt at Banksia painting was of B. marginata and I enjoyed painting the leaves with their various tones. The relatively small flowers seemed to take forever just to do the pencil work, only to be exceeded by an even more boring task of painting. I felt there must be an easier way to handle these boring flowers but twenty years later I have not yet found that easier way. After years of practice, together with a great degree of patience, I find the work no longer boring and to bring a Banksia to life is most enjoyable and satisfying.

My first serious Banksia painting was B. serrata to enter in a local art show. The judge at the time was Charles McCubbin, who gave me a Highly Commended award, and this encouraged me to regard Banksia painting more seriously. I regard Charles McCubbin, who has sadly recently passed away, as my most revered artist. I occasionally browse through my copy of his wonderful book of ‘Australian Butterflies’ and always marvel at the incredibly detailed paintings of these wonderful insects. It would not surprise me if a butterfly suddenly left the page and flew away — so wonderful is his beautiful work.

After painting most of the Eastern Banksia species I looked to the many Western Australian plants and after many trips to the West, my obsession to paint every Banksia was finally complete.

When I locate a different species I usually make a simple sketch in situ or take a typical sample for details. I use an A3 pad mounted in a wooden frame that holds my mechanical pencils, a kneadable rubber eraser and a ruler. The basic sketch usually show the placement of the leaves which are initially represented by a single line, the cone is often drawn separately. Tracings and samples of leaves are important to later verify size and margins, all necessary details of colours are noted and recorded with the sketch. Ample photos further record the colours and structure. When time permits the sketch is finalised, the single line representing the leaves usually becomes the midrib. The flowers are completed to record the form.

These initial sketches are very time consuming as all details are important for the final painting. Our first trip to Western Australia involved sketching and photographing over thirty different Banksia… but that’s another story.