If you were a biology student anywhere in California during the past 20 or so years, you are already familiar with the work of this month’s featured guest. You have seen her work on your desk, in the lab, on school field trips and in the dirt out in the field somewhere. You have also experienced her work weighing down your field bag.
You would already be familiar with Linda Ann Vorobik‘s work because, as a principal illustrator of The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California (1993), her work fills the pages of this detailed taxonomic guide to California plants.
Linda’s career as a botanical artist had its beginning in childhood. Although she was not drawing plants at the time, she spent a lot of time in her mother’s garden and had parents who gave art supplies as birthday gifts and holiday gifts.
A practicing artist from almost Day One, Linda learned from wonderful art teachers in junior high and in high school. Her experiences in college, however, were a different story.
Linda says that when she presented her first plant drawing to her college art teacher, he told her, “That’s not art.” Linda took five art classes while in college, but eventually switched from having a minor in art to a minor in math.
It wasn’t until she saw the botanical illustrations by Jeanne Janish in Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest did Linda think, “I want to learn how to do this.”
Linda showed Janish’s illustrations to the instructor of her systematic botany class and shared her interest in learning how to create illustrations like Janish. A couple weeks later, her instructor proposed that she create illustrations for his lab manual. Many drawings and a few months later, Linda had earned 9 credit hours creating botanical illustrations. After graduation, her instructor paid her $100 to draw four new plates for the glossary of his lab manual. Linda’s career as a professional botanical illustrator had been launched!
Later, Linda had the opportunity to learn from Jeanne Janish in person when Janish was invited to teach at Southern Oregon University. Janish was kind enough to correspond with Linda by mail after her class and provided Linda with feedback about her work.
Today Linda is a visiting scholar at the University Herbarium at UC Berkeley and at the University of Washington in Seattle. She has served as the principal illustrator for botanical works such as The Flora of North America (Grasses), The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California, The Jepson Desert Manual, A Flora of San Nicolas Island, and A Flora of Santa Cruz Island. Linda conducts field research and teaches botany and botanical illustration workshops in California, Oregon and Washington. She also leads a week-long orchid-painting workshop on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Linda’s illustrations appear in a long list of published work. Over the years, she has had the opportunity to learn about many species of plants. Because she is often called upon to draw many plant species for a floristic work, almost all of Linda’s professional botanical illustration work is from herbarium specimens. For this reason, she has developed the ability to transform flat, squished and crunchy plants into three-dimensional illustrations.
How does she do it?
Please join me in welcoming botanist and illustrator Linda Ann Vorobik, as our featured guest for August.
Would you like to paint orchids on the Big Island of Hawaii with Linda in October? The deadline for the October workshop is August 15, 2012. View photos and additional information on Linda’s website. Or, visit Vorobik Botanical Art on Facebook.
When working with flat, dry herbarium specimens, how do you transfer key information about a plant from the herbarium sheet to a botanical plate? How do you add “life” to a dry, crunchy subject?
It is interesting to, at the age of 57, look back at my list of accumulated life-skills and know that it includes one as esoteric as being able to pull a 3-D image out of a 2-D herbarium specimen. Not the most marketable skill, but one that is essential for the scientific botanical artist (as compared with those who create floral images from live specimens or photographs). Herbarium sheets are research collections that include collection information and representative parts of a plant needed for that plant’s identification, or in museum language, that specimen’s “determination” (species, subspecies, or varietal taxonomic identity). There are a few tricks to bring botanical illustrations into 3-D, but let me first state that the style necessitates that the drawing is only partly 3-dimensional.
To a botanist, curving twisting shapes of leaves is of interest, but of more importance is the 2-dimensional shape, the margins of the leaf (whether dentate, serrate, crenulate, etc.), and the vestiture or indumentum on the leaves (“hairs”…which only animals have. Vestiture or indumentum refers to hair-like or scale like growths from the leaves). These are best shown when the subject is drawn flat. Fruits and seeds can usually be found in a non-flattened state, as they are for the most part small and preserved well on the herbarium sheet. Larger fruits and seeds are often either photographed or preserved in boxes in a separate collection space in the herbarium.
That leaves flowers, inflorescences (flowering stalks), and the overall plant habit (entire plant for small plants, or enough of the plant to show diagnostic characteristics, such as a branch or part of a branch, for larger plants). Flowers are the most difficult, and as a botanist and a photographer, I have had an advantage over many illustrators in that I am familiar with, if not the plant to be illustrated, at least members of its genus, which most often have a comparable flower form, and so I can make a life-like drawing based on extrapolating from what I have seen and or photographed already.
These drawings, combined with the pressed specimen, give me what I need to draw the inflorescence, as the specimen shows the spacing between the flower stalks (pedicels), their number, and their angle with the stem. It is merely a mental exercise to put it all together (take a Vorobik workshop to learn more!). Once all these parts have been drawn I can similarly draw the habit, showing leaves with more three-dimensionality by either referring to photographs (and on the west coast, CalPhotos, calphotos.berkeley.edu, is an excellent website) or by using artistic contrast (such as darks and lights) to create depth in illustrations.
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