Posts Tagged ‘botanical illustration’

Botany and botanical art enter the digital workspace

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:

  • Foreward
  • Artist’s statement
  • Introduction
  • 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–foliage
  • 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
  • Acknowledgements
  • Bibliography

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

Nuphar – from fruit to seed dispersal, ©2016 Niki Simpson, all rights reserved

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The March 2016 issue of Arts and Activities magazine has an article about shading, ribbons and proportions that made me think of the ribbon and basket weave exercise many of us learned from Anne-Marie Evans.

In “Ribbons and Spheres: An Introduction to Still Life”, art teacher Rebecca Tarman writes about an exercise she uses with high school students. Tarman says the purpose of her lesson is to help students:

  • Draw from life
  • Draw only what they see
  • Learn how to sight proportion
  • Learn how to shade

Tarman describes how she accomplishes these goals by using a still-life model made of ribbon, ornaments and a piece of foam board. She explains how she attaches ribbon to foam boards using T-pins and how she uses ornaments of different sizes to teach students how to sight proportion. Her clever and very portable idea made me think that this would be a good exercise for anyone teaching botanical illustration at multiple venues. It is a good way to introduce first-time botanists and first-time artists to how to look at the growth patterns of tendrils, strap-shaped leaves, lianas, and twisting seed pods.

It also made me think:

  • What if the round ornaments on students’ boards were replaced with fruit, leaves, flowers or inflorescences?
  • How many ways could this lesson be used in a botanical drawing workshop?

Take a look at Tarman’s article and share your thoughts. Her article Ribbons and Spheres is available online for free on the Arts and Activities website.

Literature Cited

Tarman, Rebecca. 2016. Ribbons and spheres: An introduction to still life. Arts and Activities. March. Retrieved from http://artsandactivities.com/ribbons-and-spheres.


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Contribute to the Dendrological Atlas Project

Contribute to the Dendrological Atlas Project

“Every so often there comes into your life a reference work of such monumental scope and execution that you are initially rendered speechless. This is such a work…”

— Roy Lancaster, Royal Horticultural Society, United Kingdom

In 1971 botanist Zsolt Debreczy and botanical illustrator Vera Csapody (1890-1985) launched the Dendrological Atlas Project at the Hungarian Natural History Museum. Their aim was to create an illustrated Dendrological Atlas of the temperate zone’s woody plants. Photographer and botanist István Rácz joined the team in 1976 and, after documenting woody plants in Europe, they expanded their work to include Caucasus, West Asia, North Africa and North America.

From 1991-2004 the Dendrological Atlas team traveled to temperate zones in both hemispheres and worked tirelessly to document tree species in their native habitats.

More than 30 years of research have resulted in two publications, “Conifers Around the Earth” (2000) and “Conifers Around the World” (2011). These publications were created to raise funds for the Dendrological Atlas. The atlas will consist of eight volumes. Volumes 1-4 will focus on gymnosperms and include detailed botanical illustrations and color photographs. Volumes 5-8 will focus on flowering plants and will also include illustrations and photographs.

Normally shipped from Hungary, Conifers Around the World is now available at ArtPlantae and shipping from California. Proceeds from sales of this title support the Dendrological Atlas Project and its team of botanists and botanical illustrators.

What’s Inside

Conifers Around the World is a two-volume set featuring 1,089 pages, 474 range maps, nearly 1,300 illustrations and more than 3,700 color photographs.

Volume 1 addresses
Conifer identification and morphology, conifer families and genera, conifers from Europe, North Africa, Anatolia, Macronesia, Continental Asia and Hainan, Japan and Adjacent Islands, and Taiwan

Volume 2 addresses
A bark gallery featuring 648 photographs, range maps, a glossary, and descriptions of conifers from North America, Mexico and Central America, West Indies and Bermuda, Chile and Argentina, Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand.

Conifers Around the World
is an award-winning book accessible to both laypeople and scientists. It has received the following awards:

    Council on Botanical & Horticultural Libraries
    Outstanding Contribution to the Literature of Horticulture or Botany, Technical Interest Category 2013

    California Horticultural Society
    Writer’s Award 2011
    Zsolt Debreczy & István Rácz

    California Horticultural Society
    Editor’s Award 2011
    Kathy Musial

    California Horticultural Society
    Photographer’s Award 2011
    István Rácz

    California Horticultural Society
    Publisher’s Award 2011
    Dendro Press, Ltd.
    Budapest, Hungary

Conifers Around the World
is available at ArtPlantae.
$250.00 + $14.65 shipping (shipping weight 16 lbs)

More about Zsolt Debreczy

Zsolt Debreczy is the Research Director of the International Dendrological Research Institute and has held this position since 1990.

Do you have the Book of Leaves (2010) by Allan Coombes in your library? If you do, then you are already familiar with Zsolt’s work. Zsolt edited this guide to 600 of the world’s great trees.

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Information about the Spring 2015 workshop Botanical Illustration of Desert Flora has been announced. Here is the latest at Classes Near You > Southern California!

UC Riverside Extension Program


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A new ten-week class has been added to Classes Near You > England!

Lewisham Arthouse, London

The Lewisham Arthouse once served as the central library of Deptford. Designed by architect Sir Alfred Brumwell Thomas (1868-1948) and funded by Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), this former library is now a public gallery and studio space for professional artists. Artist studios are open to the public once per year. Exhibitions in the gallery are open to the public year-round, free of charge. Botanical illustration classes are taught by Alison Day.

    Drawing from Plant Life
    September 29 – December 8, 2014
    Mondays, 1:00 – 2:30 PM

    This introductory ten-week course aims to provide an opportunity to explore the art and science of botanical Illustration. Students will have the opportunity to explore both drawing and painting plants while learning a range of graphic techniques used to represent plant material. Some basic theory is taught and, where relevant, historical and contemporary practice is referenced. The course is taught by a practicing artist who has a background in the science of botany and the practice of fine art.

    Students are asked to bring their own ideas and specimens to the course as well as drawing plants provided. Basic materials are provided, together with reference literature, students must provide their own sketch book pencils and colors. All are welcome, no experience needed. This is a small class and provides and supportive and relaxed environment in which to draw. Places are limited so booking is required.

    Cost: £95/90 concessions

    To register, contact Alison Day at Lewisham Arthouse.

    Transport :
    BR/Overground New Cross/New Cross Gate
    Bus 136, 21, 436, 321
    Disabled access

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A fascinating exhibition will open at the Folger Shakespeare Library this November. Its focus will be 600 years worth of secret communication, from Shakespeare to Snowden. On view for the first time at the Folger Shakespeare Library will be the Voynich Manuscript, the mysterious text of botanical drawings, astronomical drawings and biological drawings dating back to the 15th or 16th century.

A discussion about the Voynich Manuscript will be held on November 11, 2014 at 7:30 PM. This panel discussion will be lead by Folger curator, Bill Sherman, who is also the Head of Research at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and a Professor of Renaissance Studies at the University of York. Joining Professor Sherman is René Zandbergen, Voynich researcher and one of the developers of the European Voynich Alphabet and curator of www.voynich.nu.
Tickets are $15 non-members, $10 members.
View Details/Register

Decoding the Renaissance

Folger Shakespeare Library
Folger Great Hall
Washington, DC
November 11, 2014 – March 1, 2015

Visit the Folger Shakespeare Library

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See what’s new at Classes Near You > Southern California!

The Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is in Twentynine Palms, CA. This 800,000 acre park is home to 750 species of plants, five fan palm oases and geological features. Visit the park’s website to learn more about the park and its botany class and field classes for families.

    Botanical Drawing with Ink on Clayboard
    October 4, 2014
    8:30 AM – 4:00 PM
    Cynthia King will teach you how to capture the details of the desert with ink using both additive and subtractive drawing techniques on clayboard. Draw and scratch details that you observe on the board. Artistic level: Beginning to Advanced. Students will be responsible for providing their own supplies.
    View Details / Register

    Meet at:
    Black Rock Visitor Center
    9800 Black Rock Canyon Rd., Yucca Valley, CA
    Fee: $60 for JTNPA/PINE members, $70 nonmembers

    Light & Color: Oil Painting in Joshua Tree National Park

    November 2, 2014
    9 AM – 4 PM
    Diane McClary will teach fundamental plein air painting techniques while immersed in the beauty of the desert. She will demonstrate the method behind her unique use of color and her approach to color harmony in the field. There will be plenty of time for individual instruction, questions, and review during this pleasant and easygoing class. No previous experience required, just come to relax, enjoy, and paint. Students will be responsible for providing their own painting supplies. This class will be held in the historic homestead, Keys Ranch.
    View Details / Register

    Meet at:
    Joshua Tree Visitor Center
    6554 Park Blvd., Joshua Tree, CA 92252
    Fee: $60 for JTNPA/PINE members, $70 nonmembers

    Watercolor Painting in Joshua Tree National Park

    November 16, 2014
    9 AM – 4 PM
    Anahita King, artist and instructor, will help students shift the desert scenery to paper with watercolor paint. Participants will learn basic methods for transforming nature into art through techniques that maintain color clarity and high quality value differences with glazes, washes, wet-on-wet, and dry brush. This pleasant non-intimidating class provides ample time to relax, investigate and paint. Participants need to bring their own art supplies.
    View Details / Register

    Meet at:
    Joshua Tree Visitor Center
    6554 Park Blvd., Joshua Tree, CA 92252
    Fee: $60 for JTNPA/PINE members, $70 nonmembers

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