“My love of the Australian flora, particularly in the south-west of WA leads to a genuine desire to leave a legacy for future generations, through conservation, documentation and especially my illustration.”
Ellen Hickman with Schiekia timida in Guyana
(Photograph by Rhian Smith)
I love nature, understanding it and portraying it through my art. My career path has been a tug-of-war between my two passions : Art and Science. I studied Science, majoring in Botany, at the University of Western Australia. During my degree I continued to do my art, illustrating some grasses for the Flora of the Kimberley Region, and members of the plant family Restionaceae for Australian Rushes. Through these illustration projects I found a way to combine my two passions into a single career, as a Botanical Illustrator.
Botanical Illustration is a difficult career to make a living, so my main line of work is as a Botanist. I started as Rare Flora Officer for the Albany Region with the Western Australia Conservation Department, and then began my own business as an independent botanical consultant, doing flora surveys across the South Coast, of Western Australia. Between work commitments I continued to illustrate including: childrens’ books Hooray for Chester and Tuart Dwellers; pieces for exhibitions with the Botanical Artists Group (BAGs) Brush with Gondwana; various botanical illustrations Two with Nature.
In 2001 I commenced a major project to illustrate members of the Haemodoraceae plant family. This family includes the Western Australian floral emblem, Anigozanthos manglesii, the Red and Green Kangaroo Paw, but its members occur across the world. Research funding and a Winston Churchill Fellowship allowed visits to Cuba, North and South America and South Africa to illustrate the overseas species.
Juggling earning a living from botanical consulting and finding time for my botanical illustration is increasingly difficult. In 2013 I started full-time postgraduate studies and was awarded my PhD in 2019. My thesis is titled : Discovery through Illustration – Botanical Art, Traits and their Phylogeny in the Haemodoraceae. Basically I combined my two passions to discover new plant species.