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

Forest Floor ...

'Forest Floor' © Vicki Lee Johnston

The painting 'Forest Floor' came about after a call to artists to advise of an awards exhibition being held at a local gallery.  I always try to be involved where possible, even if the exhibit is not strictly botanical.

I had just over a week to compose, draw and paint the artwork and these creative ideas don't happen instantly.  I did what I always do when my mind isn't able to co-operate and went for a long walk in the hills nearby.  One thing I always notice in summer are the leaves on the ground, while they may be terribly messy and hard work to keep under control, I always seem to get lost in their beauty even though they are well beyond their best.

On this occasion I gathered a handful of half dead and dying leaves, a couple of gum nuts and took them inside where I laid them out in a pleasing mandala style pattern.  It was easier to see how a drawing might come to fruition and how the colours and formation interplayed with the design.  Our suburb in the hills of Perth is known as 'a home in the forest' for the beautiful green belt and natural environment, so the name became obvious to me as everyone living here would see this as such a familiar sight at their feet on the ground, and I had been playful with the outcome.

Decision made, I drew the leaves and gum nuts and set about painting them in the most lifelike way, trying to show the highlights and deep shadows to assist the piece in looking more three dimensional.

This was a kind of stop-start painting, which is unusual for me.  Usually I become somewhat obsessed with my artwork and slave over it for hours on end to the detriment of both my enjoyment and the artwork.  I simply didn't have the time what with renovations, Christmas, New Year etc., and was only able to paint for an hour here and there.  I found this process much more enjoyable and allowed me to step away and see it with new eyes more often. 

The leaves were very earthy colours with a few still quite green ... all having fallen from the trees on our property, my poor husband spends hours raking them up and looked quite bemused when he saw me bringing them inside.  

I enjoyed painting the gum nuts immensely but really took my time building up the washes and leaving the highlights and shadows to unfold slowly so I didn't overpaint them.
They really needed to look rounded and solid to enhance the overall idea.

Looking sideways at the painting often helps me 'see' whether the painting starts to leap off the page.

Finally stepping away from the painting,  I placed it upright and visited it at different times of the day!  I like to look at a painting from all angles to see if it appears realistic enough, before settling on the finishing touches, unfortunately time was tight but thankfully the details weren't too complicated and I finished in the nick of time.

I chose a box frame this time, with a nice amount of depth and shadow to the overall effect, choosing a very neutral frame and mat to allow the leaves and gum nuts to take centre stage.

What an absolute joy to be informed that my painting had been announced Winner of the two dimensional category at the Annual Art Awards - I hadn't been able to attend the big launch party and while I was sad I couldn't be there this was a beautiful keepsake to all my work.

I think it is very important for botanical artists to spread their wings and become involved in exhibitions from all genres, allowing yourself to be more creative and share the beauty of the natural world through observation and detail, this was a wonderful endorsement of this art form.  I finally managed to visit the gallery and enjoy the whole exhibition, there are so many beautiful works of art in all mediums and styles and I feel very honoured to have been shown among them.

The exhibition is open all this weekend - at the beautiful Zig Zag Gallery in Kalamunda, 
Western Australia.

All images © Vicki Lee Johnston


  1. A lovely painting Vicki and so nice that you took something that most of us dismiss and showed us the beauty that can be seen.

    1. Thank you so much, I’m glad you enjoyed seeing it, I certainly loved the process. Appreciate your comment!