Botanical illustration started life as a means of creating a record for doctors so that they could identify the features of which could be used in medicine. (see Herbals and Florilegia).
In doing so they needed to draw plants so they could be clearly recognised - and they needed to highlight the parts which mattered for the medicine.
During the Age of Discovery, botanical illustration became a way of making a record of what a plant looked like so that the scientists in botanical gardens could make sense of the dried specimens of plants being brought back from overseas expeditions.
Often any dissections were undertaken on board ship and watercolour studies of the plants were painted to indicate colour and morphology.
Today, if you want to succeed as a botanical artist you need to:
To become a professional botanical illustrator you need to have frequent discussions with botanists regarding dried specimens from the herbarium. You must understand what a botanist is saying about what makes a plant special and needs to be highlighted in an illustration (see Scientific botanical illustration).
I've met a number of the younger professional botanical illustrators working today in Botanic Gardens across the world at the rHS and major exhibitions. Several of them have developed their knowledge of botany via undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Botany. It's not unusual these days to find myself talking to a professional botanical illustrator with a PhD in Botany!
Cydonia oblonga (Quince) By Franz Eugen Khler, Khler's Medizinal-Pflanzen
Source: via Wikimedia Commons
If you want to win a gold medal for your art from the Royal Horticultural Society then you very definitely need to get your head around the botany aspects of botanical art. You can read more about the importance of botany to RHS Gold Medal Winners in my blog posts:
Banner Image: Pinkneya Pubens by P.J Redoute - from Flora boreali-americana
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