Hydrangea, ©2018 Paetra Tauchert, all rights reserved

By Botanical Dimensions

Join us to spend a delicious day dropping in to deeply observe nature and to draw what you see. Instructor Paetra Tauchert will lead us through making sketches, doing color studies, and then drawing a final piece. We will work in graphite and then add color using a limited palette of colored pencils. Paper, drawing boards, erasers, and sharpeners will be provided for use during the class. Students will need to purchase their own colored pencils in advance (list provided upon registration). Working with a limited palette is the easiest way to really get to know your pencils and what they can do. You will take home a piece of your own art, some new skills, and deeper ways of seeing plants.

    Summertime Botanical Illustration

    Sunday, August 5, 2018
    10 AM – 3 PM

    Class will be held in the remarkable Ethnobotany Library of Botanical Dimensions, surrounded by books of beautiful botanical illustrations and plant lore. Located at the Occidental Center for the Arts, in West Sonoma County, at 3830 Doris Murphy Ct., Occidental, CA (map).

    This class is appropriate for beginners and intermediate students, ages 14-101. Maximum number of participants is 12.

    : $80, includes most materials

    Register online

    Instructor Bio
    Paetra Tauchert is a lifelong artist of many mediums. She has spent the past five years focusing her art practice on the study of botanical illustration, working in colored pencil, pastel, watercolor and gouache. She is a Master Gardener and keeps a big garden in west Sonoma County, from which she draws much of her inspiration. She is also a consulting astrologer, and writes a lavishly illustrated, bi-monthly newsletter based around the new and full moons, ‘heirloom magic’, and nature.

About Botanical Dimensions

Botanical Dimensions is dedicated to ethnobotanical knowledge in all its forms. Projects include the Ethnobotanical Research library, reforestation in Hawaii, native plants in Northern California, the Amazonian Digital Herbarium Project, and the Mazatec Project in Mexico.

Left, F for the Fox, watercolor and shell gold on sheepskin parchment by Kandis Vermeer Phillips (1954–), ca.2010, 20 × 15 cm, HI Art accession no. 7891.08, reproduced by permission of the artist and right, Setaria faberi Herrm. [Setaria faberi R. A. W. Herrmann, Poaceae alt. Gramineae], ink on paper by an unknown artist for Albert S. Hitchcock (1865–1935), Manual of the Grasses of the United States, ed. 2, rev. by Agnes Chase (Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 1950, p. 725, fig. 1106), Hitchcock-Chase Collection of Grass Drawings, on indefinite loan from the Smithsonian Institution, HI Art accession no. 2496.0187.

By Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation

The Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation presents Alphabetum Botanicum, which runs from 13 September through 14 December, 2018. This exhibition features Kandis Vermeer Phillips‘ illuminated letters, which are intertwined with plants, mammals and insects. Each letter is paired with a botanical artwork from the Institute’s collection to create a literal or amusing relationship between the two, such as the connection of ants with an aardvark and a peony bud, the sunflower as a food source for a cardinal or the similar shapes of a fox’s tail and foxtail grass.

Opening reception

The reception on Thursday, 13 September (5:00-7:00 p.m.) is open to the public.
At 5:30 p.m. the curators and Phillips will give a short introduction to the
exhibition in the gallery.

Artist demonstration

Phillips will give a demonstration on drawing letterforms in silverpoint in the
gallery on Friday, 14 September (10:00 a.m.-noon and 2:00-4:00 p.m.). She will
have available sketches showing the metalpoint process along with various metals
and prepared papers with which visitors may experiment. In addition, she will
discuss informally the history of illumination and metalpoint during the

Find out how Kandis Vermeer Phillips created her letterforms and view additional images on The Hunt’s exhibitions page.

About the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation

The Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, a research division of Carnegie Mellon University, specializes in the history of botany and all aspects of plant science and serves the international scientific community through research and documentation. To this end, the Institute acquires and maintains authoritative collections of books, plant images, manuscripts, portraits and data files, and provides publications and other modes of information service. The Institute meets the reference needs of botanists, biologists, historians, conservationists, librarians, bibliographers and the public at large, especially those concerned with any aspect of the North American flora.

Now at Classes Near You > Massachusetts:

Erica Beade, Scientific Illustrator

Erica Beade is a scientific 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 also 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 is posted on her teaching website, Observational Drawing.

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

During summer Erica teaches outdoor sketching workshops in Cambridge.
She invites you to join her at historic Mount Auburn Cemetery.

    Upcoming Outdoor Sketching Workshops
    Below is a list of topics, dates and times for July, August and September. Sign up is just via an email (or a Facebook message) to me – or feel free to send any questions. We’ll be meeting at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge from 9:00am to 11:00am. Workshops are $40 each.

    If you would like to receive regular email updates about upcoming workshops and classes, just let me know and I will add you to my mailing list. 

    If you have any thoughts about workshops you would like to see offered, or any other questions at all, please just let me know!


    • Landscape Sketching: Friday, July 20
    • Sketching Trees: Friday, August 10
    • Capturing Textures with Pencil: Thursday, August 23
    • Botanical Sketching: Thursday, September 6
    • Sketching with Colored Pencils: Thursday, September 20

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.

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.

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