Fictional heroine Frances McDonald develops her skills by drawing the daisies and gorse she finds on her local Common in England. When she moves to South Africa in the 1930s, she is overwhelmed by the variety and exuberance of the Cape flora and, later, by the contrasting starkness of the Karoo. Botanical illustration is a precise art. Frances must spend hours perfecting every line, and mixing her watercolours to capture the exact shade that nature has endowed. Her art becomes a refuge from uncertainty, a way to remember what she has lost - but might find again.
I am painting furiously. Pincushion proteas, bearded proteas, silver proteas. All need brighter colours and stronger brushstrokes than the ones I perfected for English roses.
My fingers are permanently stained, I rise in the middle of the night to work, I fall asleep at my easel in the grey hour before dawn.
Artwork by Betty Bowker, 1924 – 2015