You don’t have to be a professional artist to enjoy drawing plants, any more than you have to be a professional writer to compose an e-mail or write a letter.
— Gail Selfridge
Scientific illustrator, Gail Selfridge, shares how she was inspired to start collecting and documenting Stapelia after reading a book about these interesting South African succulents. While she had prepared countless illustrations for books, journals, and museums as a professional illustrator, she had never prepared extensive illustrations for herself. Drawing her personal collection of Stapelia was a rewarding experience taking more than two years to complete.
In her article, Selfridge (2008) explains how she created her colored pencil illustrations and shares images of work-in-progress. Using little more than graphite pencils, colored pencils, a portable sketchbook, paper from a desktop printer, and discarded cardboard boxes from the grocery store, Selfridge (2008) built a collection of work about her favorite plant. With these mundane materials, she created a studio-worthy collection of portable drawing supplies, inexpensive sketching paper, and a homemade flat file. The “formal” art supplies in her studio included Prismacolor colored pencils, tracing paper, a kneaded eraser, drawing paper, illustration board, and a 10x linen tester with which to study a plant’s details (instead of an expensive dissecting microscope).
In Selfridge’s collection is an educational piece about Stapelieae designed specifically to introduce people to this group of plants and to “spark an interest in (viewers) to observe and learn more about their own plants through drawing” (Selfridge, 2008). This piece has traveled to museums and has been included in exhibitions such as Focus on Nature VII and a show at the Bruce Museum of Art and Science in Connecticut about flowers and their pollinators.
To learn more about Selfridge’s practical approach to creating a personal florilegium, you can purchase 5-day access to her article through BioOne for $10.
Selfridge, Gail. 2008. Drawing from your collection. Cactus and Succulent Journal. 80(1): 7-11.
QUESTION FOR READERS:
What everyday items do you like to use to document your observations about plants and nature? Tell us about your favorite simple art supply.