What is botanical art?

What is botanical art?


The scientific discipline of naming
plants is over 250 years old and artists have been involved since the very start. Botanical illustrations aren’t just art – they communicate precisely what’s
needed for the taxonomic science. People can compare species very easily when the botanical artist draws
attention to what’s important. A lot of the specimens that we work from
are collected in the field by botanists and dried and pressed in a herbarium press. We need to bring those specimens back
to life using our drawing skills. We do two main types of work; pen and ink
illustrations and watercolour illustrations. They’re mainly for botanists, so we describe
new species of plants for the scientists and we do colour work for Curtis’s botanical magazine. Every time we draw a plant, we’re making
judgements about what we’re depicting. We have quite a lot of botanical
knowledge so we’re able to highlight the most important features of a plant,
get rid of any detail that’s not important, and of course, reconstruct the specimen. You have quite a responsibility when
you’re working on specimens, because you need to show the absolute truth. Accuracy of scale is very important. Everything is measured and we make sure that
the colour is 100% correct and true to life. I love being a botanical artist because I
get to work with nature every day. Whether it’s working from a herbarium specimen
or being out in the Gardens at Kew and being part of that scientific discovery process. Photography and filming and modern imaging
are great, but they can never replace the scientific work and information
prioritisation that an artist does. Lucy sees everything and she records it meticulously. Seeing Lucy’s drawing is suddenly like seeing
my plant in a whole new light.

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