Art in Borneo - by Lesley Wallington

Nepenthes - pencil and ink by Lesley Wallington

In April 2019 I was lucky enough to join the second NatureArt tour to Borneo as accompanying art tutor. Not having travelled to this part of the world and knowing very little about the plants and wildlife we would encounter I was very excited to be a part of the trip.

The informal art workshops were one of the highlights for me. Sketching in such a different environment, with a lovely group of like-minded people was both relaxing and inspiring…. a time to catch our breath and settle our thoughts after all the new sights and experiences. The challenges of working in unfamiliar environments, with heat and humidity, sudden downpours and changes of light made us more adaptable, even to the point of working with headlamp torches. The forest views, sounds of gibbons hooting nearby and giant rhinoceros beetles flying in reminded us we were definitely in Borneo!

Our kit needed to be efficient and portable. We included a small pocket sketch book, pencil and pen for notes and sketches in field plus a larger pad for watercolour painting. We took watercolour travel pans and colour pencils for the afternoon mini workshops when we weren’t on the move. The humidity meant paper was often slightly damp and watercolours took a while to dry. A faster, one- step approach, going direct with mixed colour worked better than relying on layering.

From my perspective I can think of no better way to get to know and understand unfamiliar living things than by spending the time observing and drawing them. This is when the rest of the world quietens down and it becomes possible to feel an affinity with what is in front of you. In any follow up work I plan to create I will refer to my field sketches, notes and photos but the most valuable resource will be that direct connection I experienced in Borneo.

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