Wednesday 19 February 2014

Evelyn Brandt

Evelyn Brandt -- Botanic artist

Chenopodium cristatum
Crested goose foot

I just love being part of the group project, knowing that I am part of something historic. This is my third year in a row and the project is important enough to me to come here in my holidays!
Evelyn's work space (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)

It happens that I have been following plants that have the same habit. They are not in the same genus or family, but it means that I will have a series of paintings that look similar.

Chenopodium cristatum
At the moment I am really interested in microscopic work. I want to understand the important botanic characteristics that define the species. The key characteristic for this one, Chenopodium cristatum, is the perianth. This is part of the flower. There are 5 perianth segments that encapsulate the seed, which you can only see under the microscope. It is the characteristics of the perianth that define it and differentiate it from the other chenopodium species.

Our botanist found it out in the field because it had a distinctive aromatic smell. However we had to confirm it under the microscope back in the Hall.

I have developed my own process for the microscopic work I do for my paintings. I make reference drawings that I can use long after the plant has expired. I start with a habit photo in the exact position that I am going to paint. My next step is to dissect all the parts of the plant that require microscopic investigation, and check the plant's characteristics against descriptions in botanical reference books. I then sketch the subject and colour each sketch in, as the colour fades quickly under the lights of the microscope. I take USB microscopic photos of the fresh specimens and dissections as well.
Evelyn's drawing on tracing paper, with the actual specimen. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)

After I have all the reference drawings, I start working on the final painting. The reference drawings are important in case the plant dies before I have a chance to finish the painting. I usually keep most of the plant samples in the fridge and keep one out to dry for reference material.

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