"Art is the only way to run away without leaving home" (Twyla Tharp)

Plant dissection ...

What a production!

The botanical illustration assignment comprises more than an artistic portrayal of a plant.  We are asked to show a very accurate depiction of size, form and colour - along with dissections ... "....remember to treat the plant as if it were newly discovered, so that you are laying out its parts as an aid to identification as well as creating something beautiful to look at" (SBA assignment criteria).

Use secateurs to remove unnecessary leaves etc

Cut cleanly through the centre

This was my first plant dissection and I was a little unsure.  I found the sharpest knife I could and proceeded to cut swiftly and firmly through the flower head to expose hundreds of flowers ...

Longitudinal dissection

The flower head was not looking healthy but the dissection had all the information needed to show the anatomy of the flowers.  The protea is different to typical flowers in that what you see is not the flower, but a flowerhead or inflorescence, made up of many individual flowers. What look like the 'petals' of the protea 'flower' are modified leaves called involucral bracts.

Observing and documenting florets

Each flower or  floret comprises different parts including  a single free perianth segment, a style, and three fused perianth segments. 

It was fascinating to delve inside the flower head and understand more about the anatomy and pollination of the Protea.  It would take a marathon blog entry to describe here what I have learnt but I wanted to show how much more there is to a a botanical illustration.

Look inside the flower ... fascinatng!

Working out composition

I now have all the relevant information and studies so I can work on my composition - this is the hardest assignment so far because there are so many elements to it.   There is a lot to explain within the artwork so that the viewer has a clearer picture of the anatomy of this amazing and complex flower.

DIY Lightbox

So for now it's time to transfer the composition onto the watercolour paper ... using my new home made lightbox!  Anything to make life easier as this work gets more complicated!  Au revoir ...


  1. What a great post, so good to see the workings of your Protea, a fascinating plant. I know you were a bit worried about this one but your piece looks really fabulous on FB. Love the DIY lightbox too!x

  2. This is fascinating to see in this step-by-step fashion. What patience and care you must take.

    And I love the Balthus quote on your sidebar. (I'm wondering if you are familiar with the simple, modernist line drawings of botanicals by Elsworth Kelly? Most people know him for his minimalist color works, but I adore his leaves and blossoms. They're elegant and sensual.)

    1. Thank you BigLittleWolf - so nice of you to visit my blog.

      Strange you should mention Elsworth Kelly - we were just talking about him yesterday on our Botanical Art group ... such a fascinating subject with some of the most exquisite artists.

  3. Good to see your methods and workings Vicki xx

    1. Thanks Claire, hope it helps others who haven't yet dissected to see how fascinating it is.

  4. Marianne North used to call this 'Many Flowers in One'. It's a fascinating plant - it always amazes me what this planet can evolve! Your painting is fabulous Vicki - a beautiful composition, with all the correct colours and dissection descriptions. I think you have managed to capture the green leaves very well. Protea's have an odd shade of green which I would have thought is tricky to capture. Nice little bit on Jacqui there - well done Jacqui! I hope you both don't mind but I had an email from a potential SBA student called Lori and after writing a hefty reply to her questions I ended by directing her to you and your blogs - I especially highlighted you Jacqui because I think she might be a coloured pencil person. Keep up the stunning work Vicki and say hi to Tod for me. x

    1. Thank you Jess - I will post the finished artwork after my tutor has had a chance to see it. It is probably mid air on the way to London - wish I could earn the frequent flyers from the travel my artworks do!
      The protea is so fascinating - and each variety so different. I would love to see more of Marianne's thoughts on Protea plants.
      Happy to have anyone directed here, hope it is of help.

  5. This is lovely Vicki. Fascinating to see the progress of what will be a beautiful painting. I think that any research is important, so what you have done must have really helped your painting. I love understanding the structure of plants.

  6. Vicki, this is fascinating and I had no idea how much was involved with dissecting. This is going to be beautiful, let us see it as you proceed.Thanks for sharing!~ love,Diana

  7. I admire how you made this complex plant understandable through your clear illustrations and descriptions. I think the finished product turned out marvelously (as seen on fb). This assignment has been a steep learning curve for me.

  8. Thanks Anne, Diana and Janene ... heaps of research for this one and the painting is now complete! I learnt so much and look forward to future dissections :)