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by Diane Daly and Deb Shaw

The Opuntia cactus in the courtyard at the entrance to Bowers Museum. Another beautiful Fall day in Southern California. Photo © Deborah Shaw, 2015.

The Opuntia cactus in the courtyard at the entrance to Bowers Museum. Another beautiful Fall day in Southern California. Photo © Deborah Shaw, 2015.

BAGSC members Diane Daly, Deb Shaw, and new BAGSC member Linda Carpenter spent a gorgeous Fall day at the Bowers Museum on November 22, demonstrating botanical art and talking with visitors to the Museum. BAGSC members are demonstrating in conjunction with the Bowers exhibition “The Red that Colored the World,” on display through February 21, 2016.

Cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) is a scale insect that lives on Opuntia cacti. The insect produces carminic acid, from which carmine dye is derived. The females and their nymphs secrete a waxy, white web to protect them from the sun and predators. Photo © Deborah Shaw, 2015.

Cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) is a scale insect that lives on Opuntia cacti. The insect produces carminic acid, from which carmine dye is derived. The females and their nymphs secrete a waxy, white web to protect them from the sun and predators. Photo © Deborah Shaw, 2015.

There is a huge Optuntia (Prickly Pear) growing in the courtyard at the entrance to the Bowers, serendipitously covered with Cochineal. We were lucky to have a large pad that had fallen to the ground, and, in addition to botanical art, we were able to show visitors the Cochineal scale insect, the color, and even some Mealybug Ladybird (ladybug) larvae who were feasting on the Cochineal. It was a whole world on one cactus pad. Visitors to the museum were fascinated (as were we!).

Live Cochineal (under the white on the Opuntia cactus paddle); dried Cochineal; and paint from the crushed insects. Photo by Diane Daly, © 2015, all rights reserved.

Live Cochineal (under the white on the Opuntia cactus paddle); dried Cochineal; and paint from the crushed insects. Photo by Diane Daly, © 2015, all rights reserved.

Diane Daly teaches at the Bowers Museum Treasures Program, which reaches out to senior centers, community centers, libraries, social service agencies and residential communities, engaging older adults who may be feeling isolated through art. The Thursday program focused on Cochineal as well, complete with demonstrations of crushing the bugs and using them to make paint. The seniors then painted an Aztec design using the paint. They could add lemon juice to some of the paint, which made it a lighter, warmer red.

Deborah Shaw will be teaching a a two-day color mixing class, “What’s Cool (and Warm) about Red” (with paint from the art supply store) on Saturday, December 12 and Sunday, December 13 at Bowers. Registration is through the Bowers website.

Additional BAGSC demonstration days in conjunction with the exhibition will be held in January and February. Come join us and learn about a color that changed the history of the world, that’s still in use today. (You’ll be amazed at how much Cochineal is still used in food, make-up and clothing dyes.) Email Deb to sign up!

by Diane Daly, posted by Deb Shaw

Treasurers' student working on a beautiful watercolor. Photo courtesy of Bowers Museum/Council on Aging Orange County © 2014.

Treasurers’ student working on a beautiful watercolor of a sunflower. Photo courtesy of Bowers Museum/Council on Aging Orange County © 2014.

The James Irvine Foundation generously provides grants to the Bowers Museum Treasures Program. Bowers, in turn, uses the grants to reach out to the senior community. One way to engage older adults who may be feeling isolated is through art. The Treasures program reaches out to senior centers, community centers, libraries, social service agencies and residential communities by offering lectures, films, classes and tours.

The Council on Aging of Orange County is one of those agencies that works with the Bowers Treasures program. Since 1973, their mission has been to promote independence, health and dignity of older adults through compassion, education and advocacy. I have had the most rewarding experience and opportunity to teach a botanical drawing and painting class to the seniors at the Council on Aging. They provide translators since some of the seniors speak minimal English. I went home after the first class and brushed up on my Spanish and learned a greeting in Korean. The language differences seem to disappear when we are all involved in the art process of observing and drawing a fruit or plant. For eight sessions, we had a variety of specimens, starting with an apple and pear, a single tulip, a zinnia, a variety of peppers and chilis, a rose and finishing with a sunflower. It was pure joy to see the delight on their faces as they walked in and saw what the subject would be for the day.

Students who were completely blind (but formerly sighted) were able to produce beautiful drawings. Photo courtesy of Bowers Museum/Council on Aging Orange County © 2014.

Students who are completely blind (but formerly sighted) were able to produce beautiful drawings. Photo courtesy of Bowers Museum/Council on Aging Orange County © 2014.

At first, when I was briefed on what the class should entail, I was told that there would be a few adults who were totally blind or had some sight impairment. Now, after all these years of trying to get as much detail in a botanical painting, I was truly baffled on how a blind person would be able to draw and how would I be able to teach them anything about drawing a flower. But, I was the one to learn a few things about drawing. They were able to feel the fruit or flower with their hands, emboss the paper with firm pressure on the pencil, use circle templates for guidance, and feel where to fill in the shape with color, with the aid of an assistant. I was amazed at the results. It is not botanical art as we know it, but is art that helps bring people together and give them pleasure and satisfaction. I made simple portfolios for them to take their drawings and paintings home on the last day.

Treasures' student drawing a radish in graphite. Photo courtesy of Bowers Museum/Council on Aging Orange County © 2014.

Treasures’ student drawing a radish in graphite. Photo courtesy of Bowers Museum/Council on Aging Orange County © 2014.

I had another opportunity through the Treasures program to teach a class on painting Asian flowers on parasols. Since there were 90 adults coming to this program, we used markers instead of paint. With 90 parasols opened and everyone drawing flowers on them, it was quite a challenge to move around to all the tables. Once again, I was delighted at the results; beautiful, original designs on all the parasols. The parasols were used for a display in the museum that weekend for a cultural event. They were able to take home the parasols, as well as all the other art projects that they created.

Diane Daly giving feedback to Treasures' student. Photo courtesy of Bowers Museum/Council on Aging Orange County © 2014.

Diane Daly giving feedback to Treasures’ student. Photo courtesy of Bowers Museum/Council on Aging Orange County © 2014.

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