More than thirty years ago, The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) established the first formal certificate program in botanical art in North America. This program is comprised of ten foundation courses plus electives in either watercolor, colored pencil, drawing, or natural science illustration.

If you’ve always been interested in this program, but never had the time to take a class during the regular school year, consider the Garden’s summer school program. Next month NYBG will launch their summer school for botanical artists. Four courses will be offered and all will be taught as summer intensive classes. These fast-track classes will be taught in less than half the time of regular classes.

Fast-track Botanical Art Courses (Summer 2018)

    Botanical Drawing I: Methods and Materials Intensive
    Learn observation techniques and learn about proportion, foreshortening, perspective, and line weight. This class is a prerequisite for all classes in the certificate program. Two sessions will be offered this summer.

    Cost: $479.00 Non-Member, $435.00 Member

    NYBG Location:
    Instructor: Linda M. Nemergut
    July 9-20, 2018
    10 AM – 1 PM

    Midtown Center Location:
    Instructor: Rose Marie James
    July 9-20, 2018
    10 AM – 1 PM

    View Details/Register

    Pen and Ink Intensive

    Monday, Wednesday & Friday
    July 9, 11 and 13, 2018
    Learn how to create lifelike botanical illustrations in pen and ink from botanical illustrator and fine artist, Carol Ann Morley.

    Course prerequisite:
    Botanical Drawing II: Developing Your Skills.

    Cost: $479.00 Non-Member, $435.00 Member

    View Details/Register

    Colored Pencil Intensive

    Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays
    July 17 – 26, 2018 (no class on July 25)
    10:00 AM – 2:00 PM

    The focus of this course is color theory and application. Learn the techniques botanical illustrators use to create plant portraits and how they can make their portraits look like a drawing or a painting. This class will be taught by botanical illustrator Laura Vogel.

    Course prerequisite:
    Botanical Drawing II: Developing Your Skills.

    Cost: $479.00 Non-Member, $435.00 Member

    View Details/Register

    Botanical Drawing II: Developing Your Skills

    Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays
    July 30 – August 10, 2018
    10 AM – 1 PM

    Apply Botanical Drawing I skills and techniques to simple relevant subjects. Focus on concepts of light source, value, and shading to create form. Learn to translate color into black and white, and create the illusion of depth and space in your work. This class will be taught by Linda M. Nemergut.

    Course prerequisite:
    Botanical Drawing I: Methods and Materials

    View Details/Register

Learn more about the New York Botanical Garden

Each year The Linnean Society of London issues the Jill Smythies Award to a botanical artist for outstanding illustrations.

The Jill Smythies Award is awarded to “a botanical artist in recognition of excellence in published illustrations, such as drawings or paintings, in aid of plant identification, with the emphasis on botanical accuracy and the accurate portrayal of diagnostic characteristics.” The work submitted for consideration must be “excellent botanical art (drawing or painting) that is ‘an aid to identification and a portrayal of diagnostic characteristics.’”

I am thrilled to announce that
Niki Simpson is one of two recipients of the 2018 Jill Smythies Award and that she received this award for her digital botanical illustrations.

If you are a longtime reader of this blog, you may remember Niki’s story. Already an award-winning botanical artist, Niki began developing a technique combining digital photography and traditional botanical art back in 2003. Aware of the argument that traditional illustrations are thought to be more informative than photographs, she investigated ways to increase the amount of information presented in digital illustrations. Her dedication and outside-the-box thinking resulted in digital illustrations that have introduced new audiences to botanical art and have changed the way people view and think about plants.

Niki and botanist Peter G. Barnes first wrote about this new approach to botanical illustration in Photography and contemporary botanical illustration, an article published in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine in 2008. In this article, they discuss photography’s “evolving role in botanical illustration” and present digital composite illustrations as “a natural development of the composite watercolour or line illustrations that are familiar to all botanists” (Simpson & Barnes, 2008).

It has been fascinating to watch photography’s role in botanical art evolve, and it is exciting to see Niki Simpson’s contributions recognized by the world’s oldest active biological society.

Over the past 15 years, Niki’s digital botanical illustrations have been on view in numerous exhibitions and have appeared in four books, including the magnificent Nuphar lutea: Botanical images for the digital documentation of a taxon published in May 2016.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has also recognized Niki’s work. Between 1989 and 2008, the RHS awarded Niki medals for both her traditional watercolor paintings and digital botanical illustrations.

Learn more about Niki Simpson’s award-winning digital composite illustrations on her website Visual Botany.

View all 2018 medal winners on The Linnean Society’s blog, including
Juliet Williamson, illustrator of The Kew Plant Glossary: An Illustrated Dictionary of Plant Identification Terms who also received the 2018 Jill Smythies Award for her contributions to botany and botanical art.

Congratulations to Niki and Juliet and thank you for teaching us all so much.

Literature Cited

Simpson, Niki and Peter G. Barnes. (2008). Photography and contemporary botanical illustration. Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, 25(3): 258-280

Also See

The Ruskin School of Art will host three summer classes with artist and author Sarah Simblet that will change how you observe and capture Nature in all your creative endeavors.

The following classes offer immersive drawing experiences. Participants will receive instruction both in the studio and in the field.

    Botanical Drawing

    August 6-12, 2018

    A seven-day intensive in botanical illustration based on the best-selling book, Botany for the Artist: An Inspirational Guide to Drawing Plants. Participants will immerse themselves in plant morphology and the techniques of botanical illustration to produce drawings featuring the plants at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden and Christ Church Meadows. This course will inspire confidence in the beginner and refresh the work of experienced artists. No previous experience needed. View course itinerary online.

    The New Sylva: Drawing Trees with Sarah Simblet

    August 20-24, 2018

    Based on the book The New Sylva: A Discourse of Forest and Orchard Trees for the Twenty-First Century by Gabriel Hemery and Sarah Simblet, this course will be held in the studio at the Ruskin School of Art and in the beautiful gardens of Rousham House in West Oxfordshire. Beginning and experienced students will learn about the morphology of trees and fill their handmade sketchbooks with observations. When reviewing the course itinerary, be sure to watch the short video in which Sarah discusses how she studies trees and prepares to draw them.

    The Drawing Book with Sarah Simblet

    September 3-9, 2018

    No experience is necessary to participate in this in-depth course about drawing. Participants will engage in practical drawing lessons, visit museums, and learn about the history, contemporary practice, and diverse role drawing plays in our lives. Elements of drawing to be discussed include frame, plane, shape, space, line, mark, gesture, time, rhythm, speed, form, surface, texture, lighting, illusion, and perspective. View the course itinerary here.


The Ruskin School of Art offers a range of short courses that may also be of interest to you. View the current schedule for details.

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord is an award-winning artist, author, and speaker. Her stunning handmade books and calligraphy work have been shown in exhibitions throughout the United States. Susan has authored seven books and has served as a contributing artist to several publications. Her current exhibition,
The Spirit Books is now on view at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University.

Susan’s Spirit Books series began in 1992. It represents an ongoing exploration of her love of books and her response to the natural world. Using branches, stems, roots, more than 22 types of media, and handmade paper from nine countries, Susan creates wordless books that speak volumes. Each book is placed in a cradle of natural material to produce a sculpture leading to “a contemplative experience that takes the reader out of the everyday world and into a state of gratitude and reverence.”

Spirit Book #82: Soaring Serenity (cradle from a butterfly bush), © Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord, all rights reserved

Spirit Book #43: Renewed Wisdom (cradle from lilac and blackberry vines), © Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord, all rights reserved

Spirit Book #99: Chambered Congruity (with a cradle made from sweetgum pods), © Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord, all rights reserved

Additional Spirit Books can be viewed in Susan’s online gallery. I am confident you will find these sculptures beautiful, emotional, and peaceful and that they will pique your curiosity about the countries and cultures behind the materials Susan uses.

To learn more about the Spirit Books on view at the Arnold Arboretum, follow Susan on her blog where she writes about the fourteen books in the exhibition.

If you live in the Boston area, you have the opportunity to learn from Susan personally during her artist’s talk scheduled for Saturday, June 2, 2018 (3-4 pm).

Visit The Arnold Arboretum

BONUS: Make Your Own Books!

Susan is not only a busy artist, but she is also the generous force behind MakingBooks.com, a resource for teachers and parents interested in sharing the book arts with students of all ages.

Visit MakingBooks.com and you’ll find:

  • Free projects
  • Tips & Tools for Teachers
  • Tips & Tools for Families
  • Videos
  • Downloadable projects and other resources in the eBookstore.

Of particular interest to botanical and scientific illustrators are Susan’s videos about how to make and use a Plant Tag Fan Book, a Step Book, and a Stick & Elastic Book.

Attention readers near Cambridge, MA!

Scientific illustrator Erica Beade will teach four outdoor sketching workshops at Mount Auburn Cemetery. Here’s what’s new at Classes Near You > Massachusetts.

Erica Beade, Scientific Illustrator

Erica Beade is an illustrator specializing in science, health and nature subjects and has taught observational drawing for many years, with a particular focus on the natural world. She offers independent workshops and more formal classes through the Harvard Museum of Natural History (and occasionally other venues). She also offers private classes and workshops for individuals and groups. Information about upcoming classes can be found on her teaching website, Observational Drawing.

View portfolios of Erica’s work at www.mbcgraphics.com, Science-Art.com, and www.cafepress.com/mbcgraphics.

    Outdoor sketching workshops will be held at Mt. Auburn Cemetery and indoor workshops primarily at the Harvard Museum of Natural HIstory or the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, unless otherwise noted. I am offering these workshops independently, so please contact me directly if you’re interested in signing up or learning more.

    • Sketching Plants & Flowers: Thursday, May 24 from 9:00am to 11:00am
    • Sketching Trees: Wednesday, June 6 from from 9:00am to 11:00am
    • Landscape Sketching: Thursday, June 21 from from 9:00am to 11:00am
    • Sketching with Colored Pencils: Saturday, June 30 from from 9:00am to 11:00am

Workshop Fee: $40 each

To register, please contact Erica via email.

To receive information about future workshops, please join Erica’s email list at ObservationalDrawing.com.

Follow Observational Drawing on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/observationaldrawing.

Botanical Dimensions is a non-profit organization dedicated to exploring plants and the cultural knowledge surrounding them.

Next month Botanical Dimensions will host Picturing Plants: Cyanotype and Botanical Drawing as Tools for Depicting Nature. This workshop will be taught by visual artist Klea McKenna and Kathleen Harrison, Director of the Ethnobotany Library in Occidental, CA.

In this weekend workshop, participants will learn how to create botanical illustrations using graphite, pen and ink, and colored pencil. Participants will also learn about cyanotype printing and the history of botanical illustration. Also scheduled is a Saturday evening talk with artist Klea McKenna.

    Picturing Plants: Cyanotype and Botanical Drawing as Tools for Depicting Nature
    Klea McKenna and Kathleen Harrison
    Occidental Center for the Arts
    June 2-3, 2018
    10 am – 4 pm
    Cost: $350
    View Details/Register

By Taina Litwak, Program Co-coordinator, GNSI Conference

The Guild of Natural Science Illustrators would like to invite you to join us at the 50th Anniversary GNSI Conference in Washington, D.C., July 15-21, 2018. Illustrators, artists, scientists and educators will gather to showcase award-winning work and new techniques that shape diverse fields of inquiry where science and art converge. We hope you will join fellow artists and science communicators this summer at this historic gathering in Washington D.C., where the GNSI began back in 1968.

Conference registration is now open.

View the conference website at http://2018.conf.gnsi.org.

For more information, please contact Shannon Russell, Local Expert, GNSI Conference 2018.

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