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The Art of Botanicals and My Contribution

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40+ years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

Commissioned Goldfinch and Grapes

Commissioned Goldfinch and Grapes

What Is Botanical Art?

Botanical art is basically nature paintings with a twist. Usually, they were made to identify and classify plants and herbs. The botanicals contained the many parts of the plant, including the leaves, stems, flowers, fruit/seed, and even the roots. This means they weren’t realistic, as you never see the blossoms and the fruit on the same branch at the same time. But they were accurate to identify the plant using its many parts during the year. What a great way to combine art and science.

You might not make it to the top, but if you are doing what you love, there is much more happiness there than being rich or famous.

— Tony Hawk

Tufted Titmouse and Nectarines sold watercolor

Tufted Titmouse and Nectarines sold watercolor

Nothing New

People have been painting herbals and medicinal paintings of plants going back thousands of years. The earliest known surviving botanical work is the Codex vindobonensis made in the year 512, a copy of an earlier work, made for the daughter of the former Western Roman Emperor Olybrius. These early works were mainly for identifying plant species to be harvested and used for medicinal purposes, but because the quality was low, problems developed with so many toxic look-alike species of plants.

Famous Artists Painting Botanicals

Leonardo da Vinci painted many botanicals in his thousands of sketches and scientific notes. They were never meant to be framed and hung but he had at one time intended to complete an encyclopedia of art and science. He never finished that project.

Most young people find botany a dull study. So it is, as taught from the text-books in the schools; but study it yourself in the fields and woods, and you will find it a source of perennial delight.

— John Burroughs

My favorite artist for versatility and skill is the German Renaissance artist, Albrecht Dürer. He is most famous for his etchings and wood cuts for the Bible illustrations. One famous one is The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. But he also painted in oils and watercolor. His watercolor paintings of plant and animal life are so photographic that people wondered what kind of brush he must have used. When he pulled out a regular large watercolor brush to answer them, they were all amazed. He brought home a shovel full of swamp plants to paint and the results are phenomenal.

Long flowered Heath

Long flowered Heath

One of the artists who bring me great joy is Mary Delany. She didn’t begin her collage art until she was 71 but had a love of plants and gardens all her life. She was an English lady who was widowed at the age of 19. She had no home of her own and had to depend on the generosity of relatives until she married again to Dr Delany. When he passed away she began creating botanical art by cutting and pasting paper onto black or white cards. These were so accurate and beautiful that she captured the attention of King George III and Queen Charlotte who gave her a cottage to live in and a pension of 300 pounds a year to live on. Her art lives on in these flowers and plants.

Without the name, any flower is still more or less a stranger to you. The name betrays its family, its relationship to other flowers, and gives the mind something tangible to grasp. It is very difficult for persons who have had no special training to learn the names of the flowers from the botany.

— John Burroughs

Changes in Printing

By the eighteenth century, many advances in printing processes made illustrations more accurate in color and detail. There was also an increase in amateur botanists, gardeners, and natural historians, so having color illustrations for the botanical work increased the appeal to the general reader.

Cedar Waxwing and Apples in watercolor

Cedar Waxwing and Apples in watercolor

Framed Art

It isn’t really known when people began using pages from botanical works to decorate walls but it makes sense. They were often beautiful as well as educational. The renaissance of popularity occurring in botanical art has seen many organizations devoted to furthering their appeal. In the US is the American Society of Botanical Artists, in the UK the Society of Botanical Artists, in Australia, the Botanical Art Society of Australia, and in South Africa, The Botanical Artists Association of South Africa, among many others.

My Botanicals

I have only recently joined the ranks of the many artists dabbling in botanical art. I started because of a request by a customer to paint birds of her local area with fruit. I gathered photo references and “Frankensteined” them together for my client to approve and she was so overjoyed at the possibilities, she decided on 4 botanicals instead of just two.

My photo reference "Frankensteined" together from 4 different photos

My photo reference "Frankensteined" together from 4 different photos

It’s Addictive

After painting these four botanicals and really having fun doing it, I decided to paint a few more to put for sale on my Etsy shop, DancingPaintbrushCo. I have since painted a Goldfinch with Cherries, a House Finch with Apricots, a Blue Jay with Nectarines, a Cedar Waxwing with Apples, and a Chickadee with Grapes. Adding birds with the fruit has made these botanicals unique and colorful. I added the blossoms of each fruit to the composition, the way you would never see in nature, but it adds to the botanical effect.

What Are Your Thoughts on Botanicals?

Do you like botanicals? Have you ever framed a print or two of botanicals for your walls? My mom had several on the walls when I was growing up. She loved gardening and all things that grow and bloom. It makes sense that she would love botanicals as well. I’d love to hear about your thoughts in the comments below.

Resources

Famous Botanical Artists

History of Botanical Art

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

Chrish Canosa from Manila Philippines on April 05, 2021:

Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us Ms Denice. I tried watr color on my avian painting but I think its not my thing, it didn't go well. Your masterpiece is so beautiful Ms Denice! Blessings. I learned a lot from you in one article. Thank you so much.

Lora Hollings on April 02, 2021:

Your paintings with all of their intricate details are just beautiful, Denise. I really enjoyed learning about botanicals and what the term means. I learned something new by reading your article as well as enjoyed your lovely artwork. Albrecht Durer is also one of my favorite painters as well. Keep up the great work!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 30, 2021:

Devika Primić,

What a kind thing to say. I'm so pleased you like my paintings. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 30, 2021:

Denise this is a perfect hub! Your work is creative and informative.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 29, 2021:

Mary Norton,

I think everyone should create till the day they assume room-temperature. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 29, 2021:

Rosina S Khan,

It does. Thanks for getting back with me about that.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 29, 2021:

Heidi Thorne,

Good for you. I think that's great about the coloring books. Keep it up breaking barriers and stretching youself. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 29, 2021:

Linda Lum,

That's exactly what I hoped when I published the art tutorials. I wanted people to feel they were getting a one-on-one lesson with me. Not everyone needs that and some people tell me they just like to see the image develop like magic. I'm glad you like those. That blesses my socks off.

Blessings,

Denise

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 29, 2021:

You continue to inspire me, especially the story of Mary Delaney in this article. There's hope for me at 70.

Rosina S Khan on March 29, 2021:

The artist in the neighborhood was a woman who painted botanicals from view cards, which included both local and foreign. I hope this answers your question. Thank you for asking, Denise.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 28, 2021:

Bill Holland,

I'm so sorry to hear your wife is ill. Thanks for the fly by comment.

Blessings,

Denise

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on March 28, 2021:

Agreed, plant life is a fave subject of many artists. While I'm not good at the drawing and painting of them, I can take a decent plant photo. I've created a coloring book based on my daylily garden, using an app to convert my photos into line art. But I'll have to consider some of these botanical type plants as subjects in the future. Your paintings are amazing! Thanks for sharing your talents with us, as always!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 28, 2021:

Rosina S Khan,

That is very interesting. Were they of local plants in your area? Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 28, 2021:

Mubarak,

The grapes took the most time because I had to paint each individual grape as a separate intity. That took a while. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 28, 2021:

Linda Crampton,

It's a bit self-serving as I wanted to share my art and my passion with friends. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 28, 2021:

Peggy Woods,

Gosh, thanks. I'm so glad you like them. My mom had botanical prints on the walls too. She was quite the gardener, both vegetables and flowers. I admired that. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 28, 2021:

Pamela Oglesby,

Thanks, I know this is terribly self-serving but I love sharing what I'm currently working on. It makes me feel like more people are enjoying it than just me. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 28, 2021:

Jason Nicolosi,

You are so sweet to follow me on YouTube. Your comments make my day. I always feel validated as an artist after you have commented. Thanks so much.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 28, 2021:

Ann Carr,

That's awesome. Thanks for another name of an artist I hadn't heard of, Gilbert White. I love how dedicated each artist is to something that just charged him or her and yet we are all unique and different. What would the world be like without art? Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 28, 2021:

Liz Westwood,

I'm happy you found it interesting and informative. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on March 28, 2021:

Denise, I enjoyed this so very much. I have a bound book of Audubon prints and the detail is amazing. But even the sketches of Beatrix Potter, though not as realistic, are delightful as well.

Your painting is inspirational. I've recently purchased a set of watercolors for myself. I've never had an art lesson (not even in school), but as a quilter and banner designer, I love the interplay of color, hue, intensity, pattern. Thank you for sharing your YouTube. It's like having an instructor at your side.

A wonderful article my friend.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 28, 2021:

I have a sick wife, so I'm just doing a fly-by. Beautiful art, my friend. Have a blessed Sunday.

Rosina S Khan on March 27, 2021:

Denise, my parents hung many botanicals painted by one of our skilled neighbors during my childhood. We shifted homes but took the bontanicals with us and hung on the walls until they were no more appropriate to be hung. I loved going through your article, full of botanical paintings. Thank you for sharing.

Mubarak from INDIA on March 27, 2021:

Your painting is beautiful I liked your grapes painting too. Wonderful

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 27, 2021:

I love your nature art, Denise. The examples that you’ve shared are beautiful. The other art that you’ve shared is lovely, too. You’ve created a very enjoyable article.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 27, 2021:

My parents had several framed botanical prints on the wall when I was growing up. Your paintings are gorgeous, Denise! I loved all of them, but the ones with grapes are my favorites.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 27, 2021:

I do like botanicals. I can understand why you enjoy this type of painting. I love natures, so trees, flowers, birds, etc. would all make for a wonderful picture to hang on the wall. Thank you for sharing this wonderful type of painting, Denise.

Jason Nicolosi from AZ on March 27, 2021:

Tremendous! Excellent article. I love the images. The colors and content are beautiful. Your youtube channel is great and definitely worth checking out.

Ann Carr from SW England on March 27, 2021:

These are beautiful and this is absolutely fascinating, Denise! You are so clever to be able to do these so realistically. Each detail is infinite. You should be very proud of your talent.

There is a well-known Englishman - Gilbert White - who lived in Hampshire and spent hours in his garden, observing and drawing birds and nature - he produced a book of such things which is renowned as he brought it all to the layman, because the illustrations were real and not diagrams.

Such precision drawing and painting is vital to anyone who wants the information and the correct hues and dimensions.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I'm smiling. Brilliant!

Ann

Liz Westwood from UK on March 27, 2021:

This is a fascinating and very well-illustrated article. I have learnt a lot from reading it.

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