Rendering the natural world of plants in a scientifically accurate and aesthetically pleasing manner requires a skilled artist with a knowledge of the science of botany. Whatever artistic style the artist uses (illustration, drawing, or painting), the steps for creating botanical art are the same: research, detailed observation, preliminary drawing, and composition planning before completing the work of art.

Knowledge of plant anatomy allows the artist to understand the plant and how its structures relate to each other. Understanding botanical terminology is an essential part of this process of observation and recording.

The problem of rendering a three-dimensional subject on a two-dimensional surface is solved by the technique of varying values of lightness and darkness. Using this technique, a skilled artist can accurately create the form and depth of a plant.

Renderings of a single species of plant may vary greatly depending of the purpose for which it is being done. A highly detailed pen and ink illustration showing many enlarged plant structures prepared for a scientific publication will vary greatly from a watercolor painting created to give a sufficiently accurate depiction of the plant and its flowers to enable the viewer to recognize the plant.

This section of the online exhibit was developed from materials displayed in the original exhibit. ‘Creating Botanical Art’ was a two-panel display board that described and illustrated the steps involved in preparing a work of botanical art. Additional materials designed to enhance understanding of botanical art were made available to visitors – a diagram of the basic floral structure and a list of botanical terminology that the viewer would encounter in the exhibit narratives.

credits for supplemental images

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