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

Botanical Art Worldwide ...

Santalum acuminatum - Quandong © Vicki Lee Johnston
Australian artists were invited to submit for the Australian exhibition of the Botanical Art Worldwide initiative, to be held in Canberra in May.  
This exhibition is featured in a Worldwide Day of Botanical Art on May 18.

Botanical Art Worldwide website

Our Botanical Art Society of Australia  sent out expressions of interest a long time ago and I had made a choice for the native plant I wanted to paint as my submission.  I thought I had plenty of time and did my research, notes, planning etc ... only to find that when the plant came into flower we had a lot of very late storms and inclement weather - my only available flowering subjects had been battered by the high winds and heavy rain.  I realised because of my insistence on painting this subject that I was now left with very little available - the deadline was looming and I had to choose another subject quickly.   Back to the drawing board ..... literally!

My lovely Quandong bush has fruited for the first time!

It was during a gardening session on our property that I discovered our Quandong had begun fruiting for the first time since planting!  We planted this tree five years previously after another artwork assignment for the SBA - a part of my diploma portfolio.  Here is the first quandong artwork and the backstory. I had bought the small plant to study the leaf structure and growth habit.  Once I had finished we planted the shrub with its host plant (it is hemiparasitic) .    Being a desert quandong, it was left alone to do its thing and I checked on it frequently but until this time, five years on, it had not fruited.  I couldn't believe my luck.

Some of the bounty!

I was so happy to see the fruit, it can be quite tart and fleshy with a large brain-like nut inside, however I really love the quandong (or native peach) taste as I am quite partial to tart rather than sweet fruit.   I have to admit I ate the majority of the fruit, we had around forty and they were delicious!  Full of goodness and not to everyone's taste which is fine by me!

 Quandong can be eaten alone, added to sweet or savoury foods and contain vitamin C, the nuts containing complex oils and are a valued ingredient used by our indigenous people.  They are now becoming more widely used in high end restaurants and catering.

Because of my easy access to the plant, I was fortunately able to stage
my subject right in front of me to quickly study and draw.

On to my painting ... after the initial excitement of having my very own indigenous plant subject right in my back yard, I set to work very quickly drawing and composing the artwork.  I only had a week from start to finish, with no room for error.  Despite the rush I enjoyed working with this subject.

I was also lucky to have my sketchbook from the SBA course and found my old study pages for reference.  This really helps with colour selection and shortcuts a lot of the time spent colour testing.

First washes on the leaves ....

Bringing in the fruits ... starting with yellows, greens, oranges and reds

Gradually building up the layers of colour with the yellows, greens, oranges, reds and mapping out the stems and branches.

Getting a bit messy!

I like to look at my almost completed works from different angles, to check the liveliness, tones and form of the artwork so that it looks like a real subject viewed from all sides. 

Once I was happy I scanned the original artwork myself and also managed to get a professional        scan done.  As this artwork was to be submitted online to the jury via digital entry, the professional scan was the better option.  This took a few days and once ready it was sent off to be judged. 

 The judging took a couple of months and I was very happy to be notified that my artwork Santalum acuminatum - Quandong had been selected to be shown in the Flora of Australia exhibition.  It will be held in Canberra at the Ainslie Arts Centre from May 18 until May 27.  I will post another blog update as a reminder closer to the opening.

BASA information

Once I had been informed that my painting was chosen, I had some months to get it fine tuned and framed.  I always struggle with framing choices but usually go for something neutral.

So many choices!

This time I decided to coordinate with the native plant aspect by choosing a wooden frame which blended in with the colours used in the stems and branches.  Once the framing was completed I had now run out of time and it was straight to Pack and Send to head off to Canberra!

Childhood memories x

This painting has truly been a labour of love!  So many memories attached to my subject choice and the artistic experience reminded me of the plant itself, the difficulty struggling to germinate and flourish and the time taken to come to fruition.  Worth the wait for sure ...

On its way to Canberra

All images © Vicki Lee Johnston


  1. This is beautiful but, Wow, I can not imagine taking that long to do a watercolour. I guess botanicals are a lot more complicated than they look. Great job and congratulations Vicki!

    1. Thank you! A week is quite short from start to finish, but there is a lot of detail and accuracy to be considered strictly botanical. Appreciate the comment, best to you.