2. The Beauty and Science of Botanical Art
The botanical works presented in this exhibition are painted in the traditional English style
I work primarily in a limited palette of transparent watercolor paint. The six watercolor
paints I use are Cadmium Red, Quinacridone Gold, Cerulean Blue, Permanent Alizarin
Crimson, Lemon Yellow, and Ultramarine Blue. On rare occasions, a specialty color may be
used. Any color can be mixed from these six tubes of paint. No black or white watercolor
paint is used.
By using washes, glazes and dry brush techniques, watercolor paint is applied layer upon
layer to achieve transparency and luminosity. The slow, methodical work of building up
color and painting in the identifying details of a subject are enjoyable and satisfying.
As you view the exhibition, please know that photographs simply cannot capture the
luminosity, vibrancy, depth, and transparency of watercolor.
6. What's the difference between
botanical illustration and flower painting?
“One basic difference between a botanical artist and a flower painter is
intention: the botanical artist wishes his (or mostly her) work to be useful
to the scientist. Each painting here is botanically accurate, often displaying
roots, seeds and buds as well as flowers and leaves.” 1
In botanical illustration/plant illustration, the emphasis is on the scientific
record and botanical accuracy to enable identification of a plant.2
1The Spectator - review of "A New Flowering: 1,000 Years of Botanical Art" at the Ashmolean Museum
in Oxford 16 July 2005
13. The botanical art tradition combines science and art
Botanical art encompasses a range of styles and may take the
form of scientific illustration or realistic drawing and painting
of botanical subjects.
Botanical artists seek to understand the structure of plants and
to communicate this knowledge to their audience in an
aesthetically pleasing manner.
The subject plant must be the prominent feature of the work.
All images should be of work executed by hand in traditional
Image Policy / Gallery Guidelines of the American Society of Botanical Artists
20. Botanical Art
• Botanical accuracy is a requirement of all botanical art. However paintings
as opposed to illustrations - particularly those of flowers - do not always
identify every feature of a plant
• A white background - typically but not always used for botanical paintings.
This helps isolate the subject matter so the focus is on the features of the plant
• Painted in watercolor - this convention is typical of work produced in the
past and is still the dominant media used for botanical art. However other
media are now used as well
• Painted on vellum - vellum is more archival than paper
Consisting of repeated patterns of shapes, tessellations are found in
human-made objects like quilts, soccer balls, tile floors, and the image
seen through a kaleidoscope. They also occur in nature as the patterns
in honeycombs, snakeskin, spider webs, and pinecone scales. With the
aid of a microscope, tessellations can even be observed in a plant’s
vascular structure, the tissues that move water and nutrients
throughout the plant.
Botanical tessellations can be found in wallpaper, textiles, ceramic
tiles, etc. Designer William Morris (1834-1896) used tessellations
extensively in his home products and furniture collections and is one of
the most outstanding figures of the Arts and Crafts Movement.
35. Why include insects?
“Another type of (botanical) illustration is the florilegium style, usually
done in watercolor or color pencil. This brings vibrant, lifelike color to the
plant being illustrated and varies with each artist’s personal style.
Details such as a close-up of the flowers or seed, a cross section of the fruit,
a sketch of the habitat, growth habit of the plant, and even associated
organisms such as herbivorous insects or pollinating birds or butterflies
may be included in the illustration.”
—Alice Tangerini, Staff Illustrator at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History,
Department of Botany
36. 22-spot Lady Beetle Broken-dashed Lady Beetle
(Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata) (Myzia interrupta)
Watercolor on paper 2020 8 x 10 inches Watercolor on paper 2020 8 x 10 inches
47. In appreciation
Buds, flowers, seeds, pods, leaves, stems bulbs, tubers, roots, and
watercolor paint, what more could I ask for? Botanical Art combines
beauty, nature, science and painting into one art form. My watercolor
paintings focus on what I love best: drawing, watercolor painting, science
Through chance attendance at a lecture at the Minnesota School of
Botanical Art, I discovered Botanical Art watercolor painting and fell in
love with this historically significant and almost forgotten art form. I want
to express through watercolor, the beauty and form of nature around us.