Sunday, 30 December 2012

Inspiration for 2013

As we start to think of the new year that lies ahead, together with all our wishes of how we would like to live our lives, we thought that the following article from Lesley Deysel would help us when the creative process refuses to get off the ground and we find ourselves 'stuck'. Here's wishing you all many happy painting hours in 2013 and remember - in order to do something well, one must first be willing to do it badly. 

Inspiration is one of those fraught topics where most people have a strong opinion on one side or the other – and neither of them  is particularly helpful in a crisis (which is what it feels like when you have a looming deadline or six and all the get-up-and-go of a rotting log).

Side One (let’s call them the Mystics) seem to think that Inspiration is a sort of magical force that bestows its favourites not only with endless enthusiasm but also with actual talent. The corollary of course is that without it we can and should not do anything, that we should just sit around waiting for the muse to strike. This sort of thinking seems  bound up with the idea that every work of art has to be revolutionarily original; that doing something that has been done before anywhere in the world, ever, is tantamount to copyright violation. 
Fortunately we as botanical artists are protected  against the worst excesses of this way of thinking due to our rich historical traditions and our associations with science.

Scientists, of course, are more prone to Side Two thinking. Side Two (I’ll call them the Drill Sergeants) feel that inspiration is unnecessary and possibly non-existent. I’m sure that anyone who has gone through a bad creative block will disagree on the existence issue, but I’ll bet that most of us have tried to apply Side Two tactics to barrel through. This way of thinking says things like “Just get on with it, darn it” and “why am I being such an airy-fairy wimp?” Unfortunately, in my experience, work done while trying to just get on with it tends to be work I look at later and want to throw away. And if you’re in a really deep creative rut, where you can’t make yourself so much as pick up a pencil and scrubbing down your entire house with a toothbrush starts to seem  like a really good idea, telling yourself to stop being a wimp accomplishes nothing except making you feel guilty.

The answer, of course, lies between the two extremes. You don’t want to just sit around doing nothing, but angrily telling yourself to snap out of it doesn’t help either. There are techniques that can help you out of almost any kind of creative rut – even Muses, it seems, are not immune to bribery.

Most serious things first: major artist’s block can be a sign of depression or burnout. If you think you might be depressed, don’t try to tough it out on your own – speak to a counsellor. Burnout acts a lot like depression, but is a less serious reaction to prolonged stress. If staying in bed for a week (I mean it) makes you feel better, it was probably burnout. If not, go and get help.

All right. You’ve started getting help for any serious physical or emotional problems that you may have, but you still don’t feel like painting. In strictly practical terms, how do you get your inspiration back? The number one thing you should do is to go for a walk.  Walking (or whatever outdoor exercise you can manage) provides everything you need  to feel more inspired – fresh air, solitude, change of scene, soothing repetitive movement, oxygen to the brain, endorphins. Try to do this every day, or at least on a semi-regular basis.

Once you get back from your walk, it’s time to start drawing, and time to confront the terrible question: What shall I draw? The answer, of course, is anything.  Which helps not at all. Here are some ways for you to narrow that down a bit. One of my favourite methods is to write a list of 20 things that interest you, pick out two or three at random, and figure out a way to combine them in a painting. You can find a random number generator here. If you’re so uninspired that you can’t even think of anything to put on your list, pick out random things from the Internet, or from a magazine. Open the book nearest to you on the 20th page, and read the third sentence on it. Steal a flower or pick up a seedpod during your daily walk and draw that. 

If, on the other hand, you know what you want to draw but suffer from fear of the blank page, start drawing on a slightly dirty or damaged sheet of paper, or on scrap paper. (You may regret this if you end up painting a masterpiece on the back of an old calendar, but at least you’ll have painted a masterpiece!)

Start with something small – the idea is to build momentum.  Draw something every day. Paint badly on purpose. Start a sketch with your non-dominant hand, or without looking at the page, and fix it afterwards. Try a medium you’ve never worked with before. Crayons, glitter, coffee.

If you have a project that you need to work on but don’t want to, start something else that you do enjoy – in all likelihood the momentum will carry over. If nothing else helps, break the task into small bits and reward yourself for each one (Half an hour of work, half an hour of Internet surfing, repeat until done.) Or paint in front of the TV! You’re really allowed to, I have it on good authority.

My great discovery  in terms of productivity is the three-item to-do list. This is exactly what it sounds like: Every night you write yourself a to-do list for the next day, but the catch is that it's only allowed to have three things on it. And sometimes those things are really pathetic, like "Answer that one e-mail". (You know, the one that’s been sitting in your inbox for days?) Or “Work on geranium picture”. Note that I didn’t say “finish” – it’s getting going that matters. On the other hand if you’re a world-shaking paragon of productivity, your to-do list might read “Day job at NASA; finish full-size Sistine Chapel copy; 10 km run”. (This person would, one imagines, be answering all her e-mail as a matter of course.) You just increase the challenge level of your three things as you get better at doing them. If you finish all the items on your list you’re allowed to do other things, but you have to think of them as “extra” and “fun” and you can’t tell yourself that you “have to” do them. It’s the pathetic nature of the exercise that makes it work so well, because having only three things on your list you’re pretty much forced to actually do those three things every day – a  great deal better than the alternative, which is, naturally, not doing them.

Advice is a very personal thing, and usually about 90% of it doesn’t work, according to accurate statistics I just made up. I hope, though, that something in this post sparks an idea that will help you through your next creative block. Take care of yourself and be playful, and one fine day your art mojo will return.
by Lesley Deysel. (Read Lesley's blog at

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Porcelain Fun Day Feedback

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A selection of items painted

It was a cold and damp day when seven stalwarts arrived at Sue's house on the 24th of November for the last BAASA Gauteng meeting of the year. For most of us painting on porcelain and bone china, rather than on a flat piece of paper, was a totally novel experience and rather daunting to say the least. But there was no need to worry as Sue guided us through the steps with utmost ease. Soon everyone was totally engrossed, interrupting the concentration only with tea and fuel for the busy brains - what is it with BAASA and food?!

It was a fun way to end the year and everyone was deservedly pleased with the results of their labour at the end of the day. We vowed to do it again and couldn't wait to see the finished items after they had been fired. Thanks to Sue for her generous hospitality and patience with teaching us, to Susan, Gill and Sue for the paint powders and other equipment, to Annatjie for firing the items and to everyone who attended and made it such an enjoyable occasion. See you all again next year!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Sarah Simblet's Autumn Fruits

Friday, 23 November 2012

Kirstenbosch Botanical Art Biennale 2013 Forms Now Available

The following forms are now available for the Kirstenbosch Botanical Art Biennale 2013:
In order to download or print these forms please click on the links above or alternatively copy and paste the following addresses (one at a time) into your browser:

Thursday, 22 November 2012

A Successful Painting Weekend for BAASA Gauteng at Buffelskloof Nature Reserve

Searching for plants to paint

Lesley drawing Ledebouria in the field
Gill's painting of possibly a new species of Eucomis

An irresistible painting waiting to be done....... progress

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Drawing to See: Sarah Simblet Workshop Requirements................

If you have been lucky enough to acquire a place on one of the Sarah Simblet Drawing Workshops in 2013 (all workshops are now fully subscribed), the following is the list of materials required. If you don't have the necessary this will give you time to start acquiring your stash.

Materials needed:

  • A plentiful supply of LARGE sheets of paper (ordinary quality drawing cartridge in mixed sizes, ideally A3, A2 and A1 or equivalent)
  • Several rolls of inexpensive paper (e.g. brown parcel paper, wallpaper liner or similar) for creating large surfaces for experimental drawing
  • A notebook and pen
  • Pencils, erasers, pencil sharpener
  • Masking tape and cellotape
  • Scissors
  • A long stick, e.g. 1.5m (one and a half metre) garden cane
  • A box of Willow Charcoal and one stick of compressed charcoal
  • Three marker pens, in colours of grey tones of your choice, designer grade, for example Copic markers.
  • A bottle of Chinese Ink (if not available, use any kind, e.g. Indian or Calligraphy)
  • Two small basins (e.g. kitchen bowls to hold water and ink while working large scale) 
  • A dip pen with a drawing nib
  • A LARGE soft brush (artists paint brush, or house decorating brushes or a large make-up brush could be used)
Wear comfortable work clothes. Some classes may be messy!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012


DAY & DATE:   SATURDAY     17 th  NOVEMBER  2012
TIME:                 09h00   -    12h00

  • fine liners - different thicknesses
  • crayons
  • pastels
  • white or coloured paper with painted abstract daubs & streaks
  • coloured paper A3  (for cutting)
  • thinner paper  (for tearing)
  • plant, leaves or flowers
  • drawing board
  • scissors
  • ruler
  • glue stick (eg Pritt)
Bookings:  Please contact Lynne Griffin on 083 630 5351
Members:     R40
Visitors:        R60


Sunday, 4 November 2012




The seventh Kirstenbosch Biennale of botanical fine art will open on Thursday 29th August 2013 and run until Sunday 15th September 2013. The focus is medicinal and traditional use plants of southern Africa including plants used for food, shelter, decoration, adornment, health, devotional rituals and the rites of passage.

Botanical artists are encouraged to submit their work for consideration and efforts are underway to secure participation by international artists as well.

Applications along with scans of artwork for the Biennale need to be submitted by 27 June 2013 to Cathy Abbott, Visitor's Centre, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Artists are encouraged to consult the SANBI website and the BAASA website for all information with regard to the Biennale.

Assistance with regard to the provision of live plant material for artists is forthcoming from the different national botanical gardens, and artists are encouraged to contact the gardens closest to their homes for any help, including the identification of plant material.

Events Office
South African National Biodiversity Institute (Kirstenbosch)
Tel: +27 (0)21 799 8412
Fax: +27 (0)21 761 5626

Tel: +27 (0)21 686 6731
Cell: +27 (0)72 118 7625

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Congratulations to Jane Lambert

Jane Lambert, previously a BAASA Gauteng member, has been appointed Australia's next High Commissioner to Malta, with non-resident accreditation to Tunisia. She is expected to take up her appointment in December 2012. Congratulations to Jane from the Gauteng BAASA members. It was through Jane offering her home as a venue, that the Pretoria Painting group was established and because of her that the group held two small exhibitions at Cameo Framers in Waterkloof. When she returned to Australia, she continued attending botanical art courses as her schedule permitted.

Botanical Artists' Association of Southern Africa ~ Gauteng Region

Monday, 15 October 2012

Johannesburg Botanical Art Exhibition 2012

The JBAE 2012 closed yesterday to a great sigh of relief from the organising committee and what a wonderful event it was. A HUGE vote of thanks goes to the organising committee (and some 'better' halves) who put in endless hours of work to make this exhibition a resounding success. Thank you all for a job well done.

Below is a selection of photos by Isabelita van Zyl and Angie Hill. And now it's time to get serious about painting for the Kirstenbosch Biennale.................
Ann Harris & Nitsa Christopher (both JBAE committee)

Sue Cochrane (JBAE committee) with Fahrat Iqbal's art

The cards were a great success

Ingrid Howes with visiting UK artist

Keith Kirsten & Shirli Sergay

Shirli Sergay & Hettie van Veuren (JBAE committee)

Gillian Condy with Strilli Oppenheimer

Ann Wanless (JBAE committee) opens the exhibition

Keith Kirsten was the Guest Speaker at the opening

Helene Joubert & Susan Cronje admire Jenny Hyde-Johnson's work

Strelitzia nicolai by Isabelita van Zyl

A view from the top with Sibonelo Chiliza's art facing

Miniature Art Society Exhibition - November 2012

Friday, 5 October 2012

Inspiration for the Sarah Simblet Workshops

Sunday, 30 September 2012

KwaZulu Natal October Workshop

Charcoal by Fransie Pretorius


DATE:   Saturday  20th October 2012
TIME:   09H00 - 12H00
VENUE:  Discovery Room, Durban Botanic Gardens


  • box of charcoal sticks (soft) & charcoal pencils in medium & soft.
  • black charcoal & conte
  • plastic & putty eraser
  • Fixative-Ashrad or Winsor Newton Fixative
  • Good quality etching paper or other paper with a matte finish with some "bite" eg Matte brown paper or pastel paper
  • unprinted newsprint (for practicing)
  • tortillons (blending tools)
  • tissue paper/blank newsprint (for protecting work)
  • apron/old clothes
  • drawing board
  • plant materials

  • basic set of pastels  - good quality pastels :-  Faber Castell, Rembrandt, Winsor & Newton, Holbein etc.  Maries makes a set of 48- box A- bright colors & box B - earthy colors
  • pastel paper, etching paper, watercolor paper or "dressmakers" brown paper (190 grams or more)
ARTIST'S  PROFILE:  Fransie  Pretorius is a well known artist and art tutor and is excellent with charcoal and pastel.

Bookings:  Contact  Lynne Griffin on 083 630 5351

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Flower power in Johannesburg!

Spring is in full bloom and Morningside Shopping Centre is celebrating the season by hosting its second botanical art exhibition.

Master horticulturist Keith Kirsten will open the show featuring this blossoming art form. The annual exhibition of the Gauteng branch of the Botanical Artists Association of Southern Africa (BAASA), takes place at Morningside Shopping Centre from Wednesday, 10 October at 6pm to Sunday, 14 October at 2pm.

Botanical art is a centuries-old art form in which South Africa enjoys a rich history inspired by our abundant flora. It mixes science and art to render exquisitely detailed creations of flowers, fruits, mushrooms and roots. The images of the plants are extremely realistic, down to the smallest detail, and can form an important record of plant morphology.

Organiser Hettie van Veuren says: “Morningside Shopping Centre is providing an exciting platform for botanical art, which is a growing art form in South Africa.”

There will be daily guided walkabouts of the exhibition for the public, so go green and be seen.
And BAASA is even creating a special section of smaller paintings, with prices to match, as a great way for everyone to appreciate and embrace Botanical Art.

So put the ‘petal’ to the metal and hurry down to Morningside Shopping Centre to experience beautiful and inspiring botanical art, before the show goes to seed for another year.

For more information about the botanical art exhibition contact:
Morningside Shopping Centre on 0879403833
Any queries can be directed to:
Hettie van Veuren 0731607173
Ann Wanless 0822207720
Ann Harris 0826307230

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Member News from the Western Cape: Vumile and the Dragon

See Lisa Strachen's lovely illustrations in Vumile and the Dragon.  Lisa is a member of BAASA, Western Cape. 

Click on image to enlarge!

Sarah Simblet presenting workshops in South Africa in 2013

Sarah Simblet at work. Photo source:
Well known botanical artist, and author of Botany for the Artist, Sarah Simblet will conduct pencil, pen and ink drawing skills workshops in Cape Town and Pretoria in January and February of 2012.
Please book your places soon.

21 - 25 January 2013  Cape Town Introductory course through UCT Summer school. Maximum 20 participants
28 January - 1 February 2013  Cape Town
Master class for botanical artists who have attended at least two botanical art classes. Maximum 20 participants
04 -  07 February 2013  Pretoria
Sarah will run two 2-day courses in Pretoria.

For more information on the courses, please contact:
Cape Town     Pat Bowerbank
Pretoria          Gillian Condy

Medicinal Plants and Biennale 2013

Salvia africana lutea
For our course work, in addition to basic plant information we have to research the various uses of plants, including their medicinal uses.  I've found the following references very helpful sources of information:

Trees of Southern Africa Palgrave
Making the Most of Indigenous Trees Venter (ok, we focus quite heavily on trees!)
Creative Gardening with Indigenous Plants Jaffa - the information includes photos, a wide range of plants and further references.
Muthi and Myths Van Wyk and Dugmore
Zulu Botanical Knowledge: An Introduction Ngwenya et al.    

Back in 2010 when the theme for the Biennale was announced, Phakamani Xaba, of Kirstenbosch Gardens, very kindly collated the following lists for BAASA members, so I am republishing them as an additional references.  I am sure there are many more useful sources such as the Veld and Flora magazine.

Enjoy your painting.
Best wishes,

Fox, F.W. & Norwood Young, M.E. 1982. Foodfrom the Veld: Edible Wild Plants
of Southern Africa. Delta Books, Johannesburg & Cape Town.
Hutchings, A, Scott, A.H., Lewis, G. & Cunningham, A.B. 1996. Zulu MedicinaJ
Plants: An Inventory. University of Natal Press. Pietermaritzburg.

Van Wyk, B-E. & Gericke, N. 2000. People's Plants - A Guide to Useful Plants of
Southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.

Van Wyk, B-E, Van Oudtshoom, B. & Gericke N. 1997. Medicinal Plants Of South
Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.

Pooley, E. 1993. The Complete Field Guide to Trees of Natal, Zululand & Transkei.
Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.

Pooley, E. 1998. A Field Guide to Wild Flowers KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Region.
Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.

Scott-Shaw, R. 1999. Rare and Threatened
Neighbouring Regions. KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.

Quin, PJ. 1959. Food and Feeding Habits of the Pedi. Witwatersrand University
Press, Johannesburg.

Watt, J.M. & Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G. 1962. The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of
Southern and Eastern Africa. (second edition), Livingstone, London.

Watt, J.M. & Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G. 1962. The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa. (second edition), Livingstone, London.

Schewegler, M. 2003. Medicinal and other uses of southern Overberg fynbos Plants. Matthia Schewegler publications, Durban.

Fox, F.W. & Norwood Young, M.E. 1982. Food from the Veld: Edible Wild Plants
of Southern Africa. Delta Books, Johannesburg & Cape Town.

Hutchings, A, Scott, A.H., Lewis, G. & Cunningham, A.B. 1996. Zulu Medicinal
Plants: An Inventory. University of Natal Press. Pietermaritzburg.

Van Wyk, B-E. & Gericke, N. 2000. People's Plants - A Guide to Useful Plants of
Southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.

Van Wyk, B-E, Van Oudtshoom, B. & Gericke N. 1997. Medicinal Plants Of South
Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.

Pooley, E. 1993. The Complete Field Guide to Trees of Natal, Zululand & Transkei.
Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.

Pooley, E. 1998.  A Field Guide to Wild Flowers KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Region.
Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.

Roberts, M. 1990. Indigenous Healing Plants. Southern Book Publishers, Halfway House, Johannesburg.

Arnold, T.H. Prentice, C.A. Hawker, L. C. Snyman, E.E. Tomalin, M. Crouch, N.R. and Pottas-Bircher, C. 2002. Medicinal and magical plants of southern Africa: an annotated checklist. National Botanical Institute, Strelitzia 13, Pretoria.

Goldblatt, P. Manning J.2002. Cape Plants. “ A conspectus of the cape flora of South Africa”. MBG Press, Missouri Botanical Garden & National Botanical Institute, Strelitzia 9, Pretoria

Dold, A and Cocks, M. 2012 Voices from the Forest. Jacana Media, Johannesburg

In addition, we quote the following extract from:
Scott-Shaw, R. 1999. Rare and Threatened Plants of KwaZulu-Natal and Neighbouring Regions. KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service, Pietermaritzburg.

A significant number of these plants are also in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants

Species are used for medicinal purposes unless indicated otherwise. Parts harvested are indicated. Only species that are widely used have been selected. Most of the plants in greatest demand in the medicinal plant trade are in this list. In most cases a root is a rhizome. The following three references have been consulted: Bryant (1970); Cunningham (1988); Hutchings (1996).

This book deals with threatened plants at a global and regional (provincial) scale. However these spatial scales are inadequate to accurately account for threats at a smaller scale of, for example, a rural district of only several thousand square kilometres. At the smaller scale many more species than those listed below, are threatened. Local extinctions of such species are common. Examples of these are given at the end of the list.

Encephalartos cerinus - stem
Diaphananthe millarii - whole plant
Encephalartos aemulans - stem
Encephalartos msinganus - stem
Siphonochilus aethiopicus - root
Warburgia salutaris - bark
Albizia suluensis - bark
Ansellia africana - whole plant
Begonia homonym a - stem
Bowiea volubilis - bulb
Brachystelma pulchellum - root
Craterostigma nanum - whole plant
Encephalartos friderici-guilielmi - stem
Encephalartos ghellinckii - stem
Encephalartos lebomboensis - stem
Encephalartos ngoyanus - stem
Encephalartos senticosus - stem
Eriosema populifolium - root
Eucomus autumnalis - bulb
Euphorbia bupleurifolia - whole plant
Euphorbia franksiae - whole plant
Euphorbia woodii - whole plant
Gasteria croucheri - whole plant
Haworthia limifolia - whole plant
Huernia hystrix - whole plant
Hydrostachys polymorpha
Monsonia natalensis - root
Ocotea bullata - bark
Orbea speciosa - whole plant Orbea woodii - whole plant
Raphia austral is - leaves (structural)
Scilla natalensis - bulb
Aloe coo peri subsp. pulchra - whole plant
Polystachya zuluensis - whole plant
Alberta magna - bark
Curtisia dentata - bark
Encephalartos ferox - stem
Encephalartos natalensis - stem
Mondia whitei - root
Myrothamnus flabellifolius - whole plant
Prunus africana - bark
Sandersonia aurantiaca - bulb
Stangeria eriopus - root

Acalypha angustata - root
Alepidea amatymbica - root
Aloe aristata - whole plant
Ceropegia woodii - root
Clivi a miniata - rhizome
Crinum moorei - bulb
Cryptocarya myrtifolia - bark
Cyathea dregei - leaves and stem
Oioscorea sylvatica - stem (caudex)
Faurea macnaughtonii - bark
Gasteria batesiana - whole plant
Hoffmanseggia saund ersonii - root
Peucedanum thodei - rhizome, leaves and stem
Synaptolepis kirkii - root
Vitellariopsis dispar - bark

Acokanthera oppositifolia - root
Adenia gummifera - stem
Albuca fastigiata - bulb
Aloe linearifolia - whole plant
Bulbine latifolia - whole plant
Clivia nobilis - rhizome
Crocosmia paniculata - corm
Dioscorea dregeana - tuber
Orimia robusta - bulb
Eriospermum mackenii - tuber
Eulophia petersii - bulb
Gloriosa superba - bulb
Helichrysum odoratissimum - whole plant
Hypoxis hemerocallidea - tuber
Justicia capensis - whole plant
Knipofia spp. - rhizome
Knowltonia bracteata - whole plant
Mystacidium capense - whole plant
Ornithogalum longibracteatum - bulb
Peucedanum caffrum - root
Pimpinella caffra - root
Plectranthus grallatus - whole plant
Polystachya ottoniana - whole plant
Sarcophyte sanguinea - whole plant
Schizobasis intricata - bulb
Schlechterina mitrostemmatoides - root
Secamone gerrardii - root
Stapelia gigantea - whole plant
Tridactyle bicaudata - whole plant
Tulbaghia ludwigiana - bulb
Turbina oblongata - tuber
Urginea altissima - bulb
Urginea delagoensis - bulb