The current renaissance of botanical art began in the 1980s. Dr. Shirley Sherwood is credited with reviving the public’s awareness of botanical art. Since the first certificate program in botanical art was established at the New York Botanical Garden, programs have been established in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC. Public workshops in botanical art are offered in almost every state across the country at botanical gardens, community centers, and even online. Regular readers of this website are treated to news of new workshops almost weekly and are not surprised by the rich offering of learning opportunities across the country.
Newcomers to botanical art and illustration, on the other hand, are surprised to learn there are certificate programs for this centuries old discipline considered by some to be merely a hobby of weekend art enthusiasts. Because ArtPlantae has the attention of such a large audience this week, I thought it would be a good time to address a question I’ve heard more than once which is:
So what is a certificate program in botanical art, anyway?
Answering this question for us today are Lee McCaffree and Catherine Watters, founders of the certificate program at the Filoli Estate in Woodside, CA. Lee and Catherine serve as the primary instructors and curriculum designers for this program. Here is what they have to say about Filoli’s certificate program and the value of botanical art education:
Botanical art emphasizes the connection between nature and art. Botanical artists develop the skill of observing nature in detail so they can create an accurate image of plants. This art form is a way to document the plants in our environment. Artists have an awareness and understanding of plants because they spend many hours observing and painting them. When these paintings are displayed in an exhibition, audience awareness of plants increases.
The Filoli Botanical Art Certificate Program gives students a way to learn this art form by offering a unique, in-depth study of botanical art through challenging, integrated and comprehensive courses. The curriculum includes the systematic study of artistic skills and concepts, basic botany and botanical art history. A certificate is presented upon successful completion of coursework (180 classroom hours plus homework) and presentation of a portfolio and final project. This program is for the serious student who wishes to develop knowledge and skills in botanical art. The minimum time for completion of the program is generally 2 years; there is no limit on how long a student may take to finish.
What makes the Botanical Art Program at Filoli unique is that it is taught in the beautiful Georgian country house surrounded by a spectacular 16-acre English Renaissance garden and 600 acres of open space. The certificate program has long been an essential part of Filoli’s mission to interpret and preserve the history of this country estate and its surroundings in the San Francisco area. Plants from the garden are used regularly as subjects in the classroom.
The program at Filoli teaches individuals how to “interpret and observe” in the same way explorers, botanists, and artists recorded their discoveries so many years ago. In addition to the integrated coursework designed by Lee and Catherine, the Filoli program invites highly acclaimed national and international interpreters/observers to teach at Filoli. Programs with visiting instructors are usually intensive multiple day courses and provide students with truly unique learning opportunities.
Filoli is participating in National Environmental Education Week through its nature education program which, like the botanical art program, encourages environmental awareness. View Filoli’s EE Week activities on their website. Be sure to also read about their Teachers and School Programs and the workshops for families and children, including a botanical art workshop for kids scheduled for April 24, 2010.
- Northern California Society of Botanical Artists
- American Society of Botanical Artists
- Botanical illustrators document the flora of the Grand Canyon
Question for EE Week Readers: