Archive for the ‘natural science illustration’ Category

See the new page for Classes Near You > New Zealand!

Rebecca Brown-Thompson

Rebecca Brown-Thompson is a botanical artist from Oregon and New Zealand who works with paper, paint, felt and beads.

    Field Sketching and Drawing Workshop
    Saturday and Sunday, March 22 – 23, 2014
    9 AM – 5 PM

    Participants will learn introductory drawing techniques and will apply these techniques to field sketching. They will also learn how to accurately record what they see whether is it for journalling, a science study, or just for fun. This workshop at the Lake Hawea Community Centre at Lake Hawea, Central Otago in New Zealand.

    For more information and to register, contact Rebecca
    by March 1, 2014.

    Visit Rebecca’s website to learn more about her and to view her online gallery, including sample pages of her book Rebellious Beads in which she demonstrates how to create natural history-themed beadwork.

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Last week’s column about Jeanne Baret’s dedication was popular with many people. I thought I would follow-up and share an idea about how to integrate the field work of Jeanne Baret and other explorers into the classroom by using the field journal lesson plans written by Devon Hamner. Hamner presents the framework for four 50-minute journaling sessions in How Does My Garden Grow? Writing in Science Field Journals.

Throughout these four sessions, students are prompted to write about their observations, pay attention to detail, ask questions and are expected to investigate topics with which they are unfamiliar. They are also expected to act like researchers and are required to discuss their work with their peers. Hamner’s approach to learning about plants is very flexible and does not require an established schoolyard garden. Her activity can be applied to windowsill gardens and to container gardens. She even has a plan teachers can use in the event there is a mass die-off of students’ seedlings.

Hamner explains how to implement each journaling session and addresses everything from how to introduce students to gardening topics, to how to how lead collaborative inquiry-based activities.

If you’re looking for a way to merge botany, history and art using exploration as a theme, consider adding Hamner’s article to your tool kit. It is available for free online. Included are links to additional Web-based resources.

Also consider adding Paula Panich’s book about garden writing and Christian McEwen’s guide to nature writing to your teaching library.

Literature Cited

Hamner, Devon. How does my garden grow? Writing in science field journals. Retrieved from http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/does-garden-grow-writing-846.html


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This month we’re looking at how our hands are involved in how we create, teach and communicate. Today we continue to explore this topic by considering what scientists draw and create with their hands.

In Envisioning Explanations – The Art in Science, professor David C. Gooding discusses how scientists tell visual stories. He distinguishes between static visualizations (i.e., printed images), multimedia images and the types of images visual artists and scientists create in their respective disciplines.

Regarding the latter, Gooding (2004) compares images in the visual arts to images in the sciences. He describes images in the visual arts as being “self-sufficient…carriers of meaning” (Gooding, 2004) and describes images in the sciences as having more than one purpose. He explains that scientific images have many functions. They first serve to convey “a tentative understanding” of an event and then serve as an aid to communicate this event to others (Gooding, 2004).

In his article, which is part of a collection of articles about science illustration, Gooding provides examples of how scientists have translated observations and large amounts of information into hand-drawn images and hand-built models — forms of visualization, he explains, science demands because “science is mostly about processes we cannot experience” (Gooding, 2004).

The examples of visualization he refers to include:

  • Michael Faraday’s sketch describing the relationship between electricity, magnetism and motion.
  • Re-animating extinct organisms by reconstructing fossils using drawings and the transformed mental imagery of the scientist and artist.
  • Constructing visualizations of vascular structures.
  • Stacking images to create 3-D models.
  • Plotting patterns to build molecules.
  • Using diagrams to explain an invisible process.

Through these examples and others, Gooding (2004) brings attention to the art (i.e., patterns, dots, sketches, datasets, etc.) in science while showing how scientists, as science communicators, try to deliver “intellectual understanding” (Gooding, 2004) of an experience through visualization.

While Gooding’s focus is science illustration in general, what he writes about applies also to the study of plants.

If you are interested specifically in how botanists and artists have historically described plants and presented plants to a general audience, consider books about the history of botanical art, such as Martyn Rix’s The Golden Age of Botanical Art and Karin Nickelsen’s superb book about the creation of 18th-century botanical illustrations.

Dr. Gooding’s Envisioning Explanations was published in a special issue of the journal of Interdisciplinary Science Reviews dedicated to the topic of science illustration. Gooding (2004) can be purchased online for $39 or obtained at your local college library.

Also included in this issue of Interdisciplinary Science Reviews is
When the Botanist Can’t Draw, an article about how Linnaeus described plants.

Literature Cited

Gooding, David C. 2004. Envisioning explanations – the art in science. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews. 29(3): 278-294.

Also See

Imagery in Scientific Communication

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TheGoldenAgeOfBotanicalArt Drawing

These are some of the techniques botanists and artists use to document plants. Each executed with a keen eye for observation and a steady hand. What we know about plants today would not be possible if it weren’t for the botanists, explorers, doctors, artists and observers who came before us. Many centuries before us.

A new book about the contributions made by these passionate educators was finally released in the United States. The stories of these brave, creative and hard-working souls are shared in The Golden Age of Botanical Art, a wonderful history book by Martyn Rix that is sure to be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in natural history art.

This book is filled with fascinating history and stories about famous and not-so-famous people, many of whom I learned about for the first time. Rix cross-references people, places and events throughout his book and while this helps readers form a big picture of history, it makes summarizing a challenge.
Allow me to give you a quick tour of each section.

    The Origins of Botanical Art
    Learn why botanical illustrations were created. Also learn about ancient herbals, flower painting during the Renaissance, Leonardo di Vinci, Albrecht Durer, woodcuts, the Turkish Empire, English herbals and why the paintings of Jacopo Ligozzi (1547-1626) were better than anyone who came before him.

    Seventeenth-Century Florilegia

    Learn about the plants brought to Europe by travelers and naturalists and how the work of botanical illustrators contributed to the development of botany.

    North American Plants

    Learn about the introduction of North American plants into English gardens and learn about the work of artists and botanists such as John Tradescant the Younger, Mark Catesby, John and William Bartram, Andre & Francois Michaux, Georg Dionysius Ehret and Carl Linnaeus.

    Travelers to the Levant

    European interest in Asia and the Ottoman Empire is the focus of this section. Botanists and painters receiving special attention are Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, Claude Aubriet, John Sibthorp, and Maria Sibylla Merian.

    The Exploration of Russia & Japan

    Learn about botanical expeditions into Russia and Japan. View images from Flora Rossica, Flora Japonica and learn about a collection of paintings on vellum started by botanist and naturalist, Gaston d’Orleans.

    Botany Bay & Beyond

    Learn about expeditions into Australia, the work of artists Sydney Parkinson and Ferdinand Bauer and the scientific contributions of Sir Joseph Banks.

    The Golden Age in England

    Learn how the Royal Gardens at Kew began and view beautiful plant studies such as the study of Pinus larix by Ferdinand Bauer and the graceful Galeandra devoniana, an orchid by Miss Sarah Anne Drake who was John Lindley’s chief artist.

    South American Adventures

    Expeditions into Spain and the amazing collections of work produced from these expeditions are the focus of this section.

    The Golden Age in France

    Learn about Gerard van Spaendonck (Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s teacher), Redouté and Empress Josephine in this section.

    Botanical and Horticultural Illustrated Journals

    Learn about the history surrounding illustrated journals such as Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, The Botanical Register and others.

    Early Chinese Plant Drawings

    Learn about the type of botanical art created in China before the Europeans arrived.

    The Company School in India

    Learn about the work of Indian artists, English artists and the publications produced during the time when the East India Company controlled trade in the East Indies.

    A New Era at Kew

    More history about Kew and how this world-famous garden was established.

    Victorian Travelers

    An introduction to the botanical contributions made by artists Janet Hutton, Lt. General John Eyre, Charlotte Lugard, Charlotte Williams, Marianne North and Henry John Elwes.

    Bringing China to Europe

    This section is about the introduction of Chinese plants into European gardens.

    The Flowers of War and Beyond

    Rix discusses the history of botanical illustration during World War II. Learn what botanist Geoffrey Herklots did while in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp and what Marianne North’s great nephew did after retiring as an Admiral from the Navy in 1960. Artists Margaret Mee, Barbara Everhard, Graham Stuart Thomas, Rory McEwen and Raymond Booth are also mentioned.

Rix closes his book discussing the work of contemporary botanical artists and by bringing attention to those making key contributions to the current renaissance of botanical art, namely instructor Anne Marie Evans and, of course, botanist and art collector Shirley Sherwood.

In the introduction to his book, Rix thinks aloud and wonders if what we are observing now in the world of botanical art is a new golden age. He explains that the period between 1750-1850 was considered a golden age because the demand for scientific information collided with the enthusiasm of wealthy patrons and with the availability of skilled artists capable of documenting new discoveries.

Today he wonders if the need to preserve disappearing habitat, combined with an abundance of botanical artists and the technological means to create botanical works faster and at a lower cost will create a new golden age even though there is a growing shortage of botanists.

What do you think?


Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” to Become Illuminated Manuscript

ArtPlantae is an IndieBound affiliate

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Botanical artist and botanical art collector, Tania Norris, has generously donated 41 rare books to The Getty Research Institute (GRI). The collection includes
Der Rupsen Begin (Birth of the Butterfly), a book published by Maria Sibylla Merian. Published in 1717, this book is the first book to depict insect metamorphosis and is one of the few surviving copies hand-colored by Merian’s daughter.

With the acquisition of the Tania Norris Collection of Rare Botanical Books,
The Getty Research Institute can provide future generations with a unique in-depth look at the history of botany and botanical art.

David Brafman, curator of rare books at the GRI, said “The Norris Collection offers inestimable rewards for scholars researching global botanical trade and the ensuing stimulus of cultural exchange to the trend of collecting curiosities spawned in Renaissance and Baroque European culture. Other books in the collection document the codependent progress of technologies in the history of medicine, pharmacology, and the color and textile industries from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. No less important are the opportunities to study the complex artistic relationship between physiognomy and ‘naturalism’ in visual representation, as well as developments in urban planning and landscape architecture. Ms. Norris’ generous donation enhances significantly GRI’s existing collections in such subjects and promises to transform the way art historians examine the past in the future.”

In particular, the unique hand-colored copy of Maria Sibylla Merian’s
Der Rupsen Begin (Birth of the Butterfly) from the Norris Collection will find a companion in the GRI vaults: Merian’s stunning Metamorphosis of the Insects of Surinam (1719), the self-published book which documented the watercolors, drawings, and scientific studies she executed and conducted while exploring the wildlife of the South American jungles. The GRI copy was featured prominently in the Getty Museum’s exhibition, Merian and Daughters, which celebrated the extraordinary pioneering contributions of the artist-naturalist, the first European woman to travel to America expressly for artistic purposes.

The Norris Collection will also prove an invaluable complement for research in landscape and still-life painting, as well as insights it will provide to conservators and conservation scientists about recipes and global trade in color-pigments and other preparations in the decorative arts.

In addition to being a botanical artist and collector, Tania Norris is a founding member of the Getty Research Institute Collections Council and also serves on the J. Paul Getty Museum Disegno Drawing Council and Paintings Conservation Council.

On the Getty accepting her books, Ms. Norris said:

It was one of the proudest moments of my life when the Getty Research Institute accepted my books for their library. I never collected expecting anyone else to think my books of interest. But now at the GRI, anyone can view them; some have been or will soon be in exhibitions and programs. More importantly, they will be preserved for generations to come.

Learn more about this wonderful contribution to botany and botanical art education at The Getty Research Institute.

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Bird Fest image The Santa Ana Watershed Association will host their annual Fall Festival of Birds next weekend at Chino Creek Wetlands and Educational Park. There will be bird-themed activities, exhibitors and a NestWatch Workshop. Come to the festival to learn more about the NestWatch citizen science program operated by the
Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

2013 Fall Festival of Birds
Saturday, November 2, 2013
10 AM to 2 PM

Directions to Chino Creek Wetlands

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By Kathleen Garness
Guest Contributor

What can you do with a sketchbook and a bag of professional colored pencils?

Well, what can’t you do???

When the call came after the 2012 ASBA conference in Chicago, saying that I had just been awarded $1,000 to bring botanical art experiences and materials to underserved audiences, I was shocked to say the least! But excitement set in too, because this had been a long-held dream of mine. You see, botany hasn’t been part of a Chicago high school curriculum since 1965, the year before I started. And I felt cheated. I had really wanted to take botany in high school, and it was gone.

In the first part of the 20th century, botany was a standard item in the high school science curriculum. Noted Chicago botanist and Lakeview High School teacher Herman Silas Pepoon had written and collaborated on several botany texts, stunning in their depth of detail, for the Chicago public schools. But as a thirteen year old rising freshman, I didn’t know any of that yet, just that I wouldn’t be able to study plants as I had hoped to in ninth grade. That took the wind out of my sails, scientifically speaking, for much of the next forty years. While I continued to pursue art, I also felt adrift from my inner purpose.

But then I discovered the citizen science program, Plants of Concern, at the Chicago Botanic Garden. A new world of rare plant conservation opened before me, and inspired me to start drawing and painting again. As I became more involved with natural areas stewardship, my experience as a young person still haunted me – how many other young people were we missing in not having botany as a part of a standard school curriculum? Who would be the next generation of environmental leaders and field botanists if there weren’t any early experiences and classes to excite young minds?

So I wrote the grant, inspired by a ‘Why not?’ from Suzanne Wegener, Nature Arts Education Manager at the Morton Arboretum. And I had NO idea what I was getting myself into.

This was what I wrote:

    Grant Activity Description & Details

    Description: Botanical Art Introduction for Natural Areas Stewardship Youth Programs
    Date/Timeframe: April – September 2013 – selected days within that timeframe
    Location: Volo Bog Youth Art Guild; Cook County Forest Preserves Education Offices

    Goals of Activity

    Direct Aims:

    To introduce new audiences to the use of botanical art to communicate scientific concepts – taxonomy, measurement, observation of species in habitat. (Examples of new audiences: people who enjoy drawing but aren’t familiar with plants, people who know plants but don’t know how to use drawing to communicate their understanding of same, and underserved high-school-age youth who will be enriched by both activities)

    To familiarize participants with basic botanical art techniques and terminology.

    To teach local flora with a view towards participants learning to understand the value of native versus non-native invasive flora and the value of biodiversity.

    Indirect Aims

    To have participants become more involved in natural areas preservation, restoration and/or advocacy.

    To nurture confidence in beginning artistic and scientific observation and documentation skills and encourage further participation in botanical art activities.

Our audience would likely be natural areas stewardship volunteers, high school students and the general public. I planned for two workshops of about 12 or 13 students each, for a total of 25 students. (I was pretty stingy about in-kind contribution expectations.)

But then when the funds were secured, I started calling around. And a very nice person at Dick Blick saw to it that they offered a better discount than anyone else I had contacted about it (Actually, they were the ONLY ones who offered a discount!). So instead of outreach to 25 students we would be able to provide outreach to 50! So I sent her a wish list and she sent me a quote. I started making color wheels – how few pencils could we use and still have the full spectrum we needed for the class? What brands? What colors? Sketchbooks? Tracing paper? So many decisions! Her first quote was $150 under the grant. I wanted the grant to exactly cover the materials. So I thought, just 50? What about 70??! I took a leap of faith that some in-kind donations would help offset any additional costs.

So there we had it. Seventy 25-piece sets of art supplies containing: Dick Blick and Prismacolor colored pencils, Derwent 4B and 4H graphite pencils, an inexpensive clickie pencil, kmg_ColoredPencils 2 a kneaded eraser, a metal single-hole sharpener, a 6” clear ruler in inches and metrics, a Dick Blick zipper pencil bag to hold all the loose bits, and a spiral-bound sketchbook. Oh, and a folder full of handouts addressing how to’s, basic botanical nomenclature and diagrams, a bibliography and a few of the plant family pages I had developed for the Field Museum.

We ended up presenting the workshop at seven different venues in three Illinois counties (Cook, Lake and Will). The venues were one art museum, three different nature preserve centers with a variety of amenities, two forest preserves (yes, you can do an art workshop on a picnic table!) and the beautiful Forest Preserve District of Cook County general headquarters.

When we draw something we see it differently; we develop a relationship with it. A deeper interest and understanding evolves of our subject born of the time it takes to look, explore, draw, look again, learn context. And this evokes something deeper, more spiritual even, in us, bringing a new respect for our floral subjects to our life. If we and others do not love nature, how will we continue to protect it? Drawing can be a wonderful ‘gateway drug’ to botanical art and, from there, possibly advocacy and stewardship!

The handouts were key – we were giving them the tools, but more importantly, the visual language to describe their experience. First they worked on their grey value scales. Then a color wheel, then a color grid, showing the many nuances of color available with layering and blending, using their colorless blender. After a break, they put their new understanding of the tools to use rendering a piece of fruit in full color. I brought pears, radishes, tiny oriental eggplants, mushrooms, knob onions – depending on what was available at the fruit market. Less than two hours into their first colored pencil lesson, the results were impressive:

kmg_FirstColoredPencilLesson 2

kmg_OutreachGoals 2

I think our outreach goals were met:


And an unexpected bonus was developing partnerships with area high school and college teachers, who were very interested in how the format of the class could be implemented in courses they were already teaching.

I’m already thinking about how I can do this again next year, and the next, and the next. The per-student cost was under $25, with professional-quality materials, donating my time and gas, still life materials and handouts. With what other introductory medium can you achieve such flexibility with comparable results? And what an enticing way to help people fall in love with plants!

There’s a part of me that hopes this concept will go viral.

What would you do if you believed you would not fail?

About Kathleen Garness
Kathy is passionate about plants and conservation – and getting the next generation to be enthusiastic about them too. She enjoys being ‘boots on the ground’, conservation-wise, and has been a steward of Grainger Woods, an Illinois nature preserve, since 2003. She teaches watercolor, colored pencil and book arts. She is the current Artist-in-Residence at the Oak Park Conservatory and was an exhibitor in the international exhibition, Losing Paradise? Endangered Plants Here and Around the World, created by the American Society of Botanical Artists. Kathy received the 2008 Chicago Wilderness Grassroots Conservation Leadership Award and has served as president of the Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago. A selection of Kathy’s regional plant family illustrations can be viewed on the Field Museum’s website.


Discover Plants of the Chicago Region

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