Dear Readers,

In September I archived this blog to focus on a new project investigating how freelance educators in natural resource fields and environmental education contribute to lifelong learning in their communities. Last month I launched a new component to this project and I thought it might be of interest to you.

The new component I launched is a weekly podcast for freelance educators. On the podcast, I feature an independent educator or a topic of interest to freelance educators. To learn more about this podcast, please visit the show’s website at Talaterra.com.

Alternatively, you can listen to the trailer below.

Thank you for your time,


Talaterra Trailer, Season 2

ArtPlantae blog archived

Dear Readers,

I write a personal note to you today to inform you I am moving on to another project and will stop updating the ArtPlantae blog.

I am currently investigating the contributions freelance educators make to lifelong learning in communities. My specific focus is educators who address nature and the environment in their work. I believe that freelance environmental educators working in informal learning environments are uniquely positioned to create change at the community level. This project requires all of my attention, so I have decided to stop editing the ArtPlantae blog. The blog will remain online, however, and will stay available to you. I hope you continue to refer to the content featured on this site.

I would like to thank you for your support of ArtPlantae during the past 16 years. Some of you have followed ArtPlantae from the beginning and have watched ArtPlantae evolve from the original Artists’ Botany newsletter into the Artists’ Herbarium, then the ArtPlantae blog and its sidekick ArtPlantae Books. To everyone who stopped by the ArtPlantae booth at environmental education events, garden shows, family book festivals, teacher and librarian events, exhibitions, and conferences — thank you for visiting.

Thank you all for contributing so much to this blog over the years and for your interest in my mission to bring botany and botanical art education to the public.

With heartfelt appreciation,

Tania Marien


If you are a freelance informal educator (part-time or full-time) addressing natural resources or the environment through your artwork, classes, programs, or service and are interested in meeting other people like you, please join me here.

If you enjoy doodling, sketching, drawing, or painting plants, chances are you’ve had a moment in which you did not know the name or function of the plant part in front of you.

Fortunately for the contemporary botanical illustrator, there are books to help artists navigate the world of plant morphology. These books have been reviewed here in the past.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to a botany book that serves as a comprehensive guide to the botanical world. While written for botanical illustrators, classroom teachers will also enjoy the thorough treatment of plant biology, and naturalists will find this book to be a welcome companion in the field.

Understanding the Flowering Plants: A Practical Guide for Botanical Illustrators is a book by botanist, teacher, and botanical illustrator Anne L.D. Bebbington. It is based on material from a course Anne taught with Mary Brewin for the Institute for Analytical Plant Illustration (IAPI) back in 2010. The program they led was a botany program created specifically for botanical artists. In this course, they aimed to help botanical artists “gain a better understanding of the flowering plants and so inform their artwork” (Bebbington, 2014). Since then Anne has taught many workshops as interest in plants and botany has grown among art groups in the UK. Anne currently runs workshops as part of the Kew Illustration Course and works as a botanist/tutor in the Society of Botanical Artists Long Distance Diploma Course. Fellow IAPI members are also visiting art groups and leading workshops.

Whether you are a botanical artist entering juried exhibitions, a passionate nature journaler, or an avid gardener, Understanding the Flowering Plants is a reference not to be missed.

Anne’s book is extensive and she discusses a lot of information in the book’s 256 pages. Here are the main topics addressed in the book’s twelve chapters:

  • What is a flowering plant?
  • The Approach to a Botanical Study
  • Tools and Techniques
  • The Flowering Plant – Structure and Living Processes
  • Leaves
  • Roots and Stems
  • Life Spans and Asexual Reproduction
  • Flowers
  • Sexual Reproduction
  • Fruits and Seeds and Their Dispersal
  • Seeds — Their Structure and Germination
  • Winter Twigs

This book does not read like a typical botany book. Anne has kept the text brief and informative and uses line drawings and color photographs to illustrate the points she makes. The book’s supporting images are more than just helpful. I think they make the book and enable readers to establish a working knowledge of plants. Here are a few features I think are especially good:

Writing Plant Names

    • This section is a wonderful guide to writing plant names. Illustrators can’t go wrong following Anne’s advice.

Collecting, Storing and Reviving Specimens

This section features helpful tips for artists and gardeners.

Tools & Techniques

The Tools & Techniques chapter is filled with practical information about how to use microscopes, cameras, scanners, and computers to document plants.

Inflorescence Types

Inflorescences are clusters of flowers. Think hollyhock, orchids, and snapdragons. What makes Anne’s treatment of this subject stand out is that she pairs the standard line drawings of inflorescence types with photographs of actual inflorescences.

Pollination Mechanisms

There are wonderful labeled photographs in this section.

The Mistletoe Story

I knew the story, but have never seen a photograph of a mistletoe seed germinating on a branch. Fascinating!

Throughout this book, Anne gives thoughtful attention to the structures illustrators may encounter in their work.

Also included in this book are art projects designed to help readers assess their understanding of information in the chapters about leaves, roots, stems, reproduction, flowers, fruit, seeds, seed dispersal, and twigs.

Completing this book are a glossary of terms, a bibliography, a listing of equipment suppliers (in the UK), and a listing of societies and courses (also in the UK).

While the resources in the book are UK-specific, Anne’s instruction is not. If you are attending the annual meeting of the American Society of Botanical Artists next month, you will have the opportunity to learn from Anne directly. Anne will give a free lecture about the pollination of flowers and lead a one-day workshop titled, “Looking Inside a Flower.”

Understanding the Flowering Plants
can be purchased at an independent bookstore near you.

Literature Cited

Bebbington, Anne L.D. (2014). Understanding the Flowering Plants: A practical guide for botanical illustrators. Ramsbury, Marlborough: Crowood Press.

Here is what’s new at Classes Near You > Washington!

Photo by Sharon Birzer, all rights reserved.

Sharon Birzer

Scientific illustrator Sharon Birzer has a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts, an​ MFA from the University of Washington, and a certificate in science illustration from the University of Washington. She has held residencies at the North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center, the Helen Whiteley Center at Friday Harbor Laboratories at the University of Washington College of the Environment, and the Nordic Art Association in Stockholm, Sweden. View a portfolio of Sharon’s scientific, botanical, and interpretive work on her website.

    Natural History Illustration: A Foray into Observations Drawing
    Center for Urban Horticulture
    Seattle, WA
    October 3 – November 14, 2018 (7 Wednesdays)

    Artist and natural history illustrator, Sharon Birzer, will lead this seven-week drawing course. Participants will sharpen their observational skills while learning how to create gesture sketches and illustrations for scientific purposes. Participants will work in the following media: graphite, pen​ and ink, colored pencil, and watercolor. Additional information is available on the course webpage. Cost: $275

    View Details/Register

Here is the latest news for Classes Near You > New York:

Gretchen Kai Halpert

Gretchen Kai Halpert is the founder and instructor of an online program in scientific illustration. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design/ CE, Gretchen has many years of experience working as a scientific illustrator and teaching natural science illustration.

Learn more about the distance learning program in scientific illustration at www.gretchenhalpert-distanceprogram.com. Check out her blog and enjoy the student artwork. Sign up for the SIDP newsletter to keep abreast of opportunities.

    Scientific Illustration, Session I, Graphite

    September 10-November 19, 2018 (Mondays)
    1:00-3:00 or 7:00-9:00 EST or email

    How do you take a three-dimensional object and translate it on to a two-dimensional plane? This course offers botanical and scientific illustration drawing skills in graphite; perspective, proportion; value; textures; introduction to pen and ink; scientific conventions; lighting; transferring and scanning. It includes handouts; tutorials; live video conferencing; and email. Beginning and intermediate students.

    Scientific Illustration, Session III, Color

    September 4-November 13, 2018 (Tuesdays)
    1:00-3:00 or 7:00-9:00 EST or email

    Session III includes watercolor, colored pencil, digital options, advanced composition and projects, professional practices and preparation for internships/independent studies/or portfolio development. Live video conferencing, email, weekly critiques and assignments, recorded tutorials. Prerequisites: having completed Sessions I and II, or permission from the instructor.

    In all classes, students choose their subjects, from botanicals to fossils, and draw primarily from specimens versus photographs.

    Classes are listed on the website:

: Download form or contact Gretchen.

To receive the newsletter of the SIDP, sign up at the website or email Gretchen.

Follow Gretchen on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Elaine Searle is an award-winning botanical artist and a Fellow of the Linnean Society. Her exquisite botanical paintings are included in the Highgrove Florilegium, Transylvania Florilegium, and more recently, The Illustrated College Herbal which is a florilegium celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Pharmacopoea Londinensis.

Elaine has announced her painting holidays for 2019. Plan now to join Elaine in Spain, Italy or both in 2019.

    Sketchbooks and Orange Blossom
    Soller, Majorca, Spain
    April 25 – May 2, 2019

    This 7-night botanical art holiday will be based at Soller botanic garden. Your choice of drawing subjects spans the flora, medicinal plants, vegetables, and fruit trees of the Mediterranean region.

    This class is filling up quickly. Only three (3) double rooms remain. If you are interested in attending, learn more about this trip today.


    • Painter (single occupancy of double room) £1562 (currency converter)
    • Painter in single room £1260 Sold Out
    • Painters sharing a room (price per painter) £1012. (currency converter)

    Painting Holidays in Umbria, Italy

    Choose from a 7-day or 15-day painting holiday. Each week is themed and includes tutored studio instruction, individual guidance, group discussion, and demonstrations. View itineraries and photos at Botanical Art Holidays in Italy 2019.

    Choose from the following themed programs:

    • Early Summer Flowers/Vegetables (June 3-10, 2019)
    • Botanical Textures (June 11-18, 2019)
    • Autumn Fruits and Vines (September 2-9, 2019)


Elaine Searle discusses how students learn botanical art

Hydrangea, ©2018 Paetra Tauchert, all rights reserved

By Botanical Dimensions

Join us to spend a delicious day dropping in to deeply observe nature and to draw what you see. Instructor Paetra Tauchert will lead us through making sketches, doing color studies, and then drawing a final piece. We will work in graphite and then add color using a limited palette of colored pencils. Paper, drawing boards, erasers, and sharpeners will be provided for use during the class. Students will need to purchase their own colored pencils in advance (list provided upon registration). Working with a limited palette is the easiest way to really get to know your pencils and what they can do. You will take home a piece of your own art, some new skills, and deeper ways of seeing plants.

    Summertime Botanical Illustration

    Sunday, August 5, 2018
    10 AM – 3 PM

    Class will be held in the remarkable Ethnobotany Library of Botanical Dimensions, surrounded by books of beautiful botanical illustrations and plant lore. Located at the Occidental Center for the Arts, in West Sonoma County, at 3830 Doris Murphy Ct., Occidental, CA (map).

    This class is appropriate for beginners and intermediate students, ages 14-101. Maximum number of participants is 12.

    : $80, includes most materials

    Register online

    Instructor Bio
    Paetra Tauchert is a lifelong artist of many mediums. She has spent the past five years focusing her art practice on the study of botanical illustration, working in colored pencil, pastel, watercolor and gouache. She is a Master Gardener and keeps a big garden in west Sonoma County, from which she draws much of her inspiration. She is also a consulting astrologer, and writes a lavishly illustrated, bi-monthly newsletter based around the new and full moons, ‘heirloom magic’, and nature.

About Botanical Dimensions

Botanical Dimensions is dedicated to ethnobotanical knowledge in all its forms. Projects include the Ethnobotanical Research library, reforestation in Hawaii, native plants in Northern California, the Amazonian Digital Herbarium Project, and the Mazatec Project in Mexico.

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