Botany and botanical art enter the digital workspace
Niki Simpson is an award-winning artist who has earned medals in photography and watercolor from the Royal Horticultural Society. In 2003 she began developing a technique combining digital photography and traditional botanical art. She has spent the past 12 years perfecting the art of digital botanical illustration and the creation of information-rich botanical plates she calls composite botanical illustrations.
Since 2007, Niki’s digital botanical illustrations have appeared in four books. The most recent publication, Nuphar lutea: Botanical images for the digital documentation of a taxon was published this past May.
In her beautiful new book, Niki explores different ways of observing plants and demonstrates how composite botanical illustrations can be used to describe a specific plant species–in this case Nuphar lutea (Yellow Water Lily). Twelve botanical plates are featured in her new book, each highlighting some aspect of the morphology or life cycle of the yellow water lily. Botanists, gardeners, educators and artists will find Niki’s presentations exciting and informative. Because the illustrations were inspired by the engravings found in herbals, readers will find the format of these contemporary botanical illustrations very familiar, with the exception of two modern elements. In her signature style, Niki adds a 21st-century twist to her botanical plate by adding Nuphar lutea‘s DNA sequence and barcode to what would otherwise be a very traditional format.
While my images are inspired by, and draw heavily from, the accuracy and detail found in traditional botanical art, for me, the future of botanical illustration lies in exploring the potential of the dynamic digital workspace, so that botanical illustration can fully support botanists in the future.
— Niki Simpson
Keeping with her goal to blend botany, botanical art and digital technology, Niki also discusses design, smartphones, tablets, virtual books and other digital techniques. Here is look at the topics addressed in her new book:
- Artist’s statement
- Composite illustration or image voucher of Nuphar lutea
- Nuphar–rearranging, resizing and recombining parts
- Nuphar–from flower to seed
- Nuphar–taking a closer look at the flower
- Nuphar–evolution of my floral diagram
- Nuphar–from fruit to seed dispersal
- Nuphar–from seed to adult
- Nuphar–for design
- Nuphar–poster style
- Nuphar–herbarium specimens
- Composite illustration of Nuphar lutea including DNA sequence data
- Composite illustration of Nuphar lutea including DNA barcode visualization
- Nuphar–developing interactivity by starting with a virtual book
- Nuphar–on smartphones and tablets
- Nuphar–digital black and white line drawing
- Nuphar–digital hybrid images
- Nuphar–my virtual sketchpad
- Final Thoughts
If you have an interest in botanical illustration or botany education, you will appreciate this book and the path Niki is forging in botany and botanical art education.
Learn more about Niki in this interview and learn how she is expanding the future of botanical illustration through her website Visual Botany.
Nuphar – from fruit to seed dispersal, ©2016 Niki Simpson, all rights reserved
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