Botanical artists are visual artists who draw or paint intricately detailed pictures of plants, flowers, fruits, and herbs. They produce lifelike works that are correct right down to the smallest detail. When they paint flowers, for instance, they must depict the correct number of petals, the exact type of stem, and the precise colors that the flowers have in nature.
Some botanical artists work primarily as scientific illustrators or painters, producing works meant to be used in scientific or botanical textbooks or journals. These works are often extremely detailed and may focus on only a part of a plant, such as an interior or cross-sectional view of a stem.
Botanical artists may also be fine artists who produce paintings or drawings that are chiefly meant to be enjoyed for their aesthetic, or artistic, value. Although detail is important in these works, factors like composition are also key. Some botanical artists produce work for both artistic and scientific purposes.
Botanical artists often work as self-employed freelance illustrators or painters. As a botanical artist, your drawings or paintings of plants and flowers might appear in horticultural magazines or scientific journals, in books for consumers or scientists, and on Web sites for weekend gardeners or professional botanists. Your art might be used for marketing, to sell seeds or flowers in catalogs, or to illustrate packages and labels used to sell herbs, seeds, natural foods, and other plant-based products. Or you might simply produce works to sell to private collectors who love nature and appreciate beautiful art.
Botanical artists may specialize in a particular subject. They might draw or paint only flowers or plants or vegetables or herbs. There are even some botanical artists who paint only certain types of flowers or plants, such as orchids or roses. Others draw or paint a variety of plants and flowers, as well as insects, like caterpillars and ladybugs, that live in and around growing plants.
Spending a lot of time indoors, botanical artists work at their drawing tables or easels. But they frequently make field trips into the great outdoors to observe plants and flowers in their natural environment and to collect specimens. Some botanical illustrators cultivate their own gardens to insure they have just the right specimens on hand. Most botanical artists are familiar with techniques used to dry and preserve flowers and plants so they can save them for future study and use.
In addition to having a solid background in basic art techniques and a knowledge of plant structure, botanical artists have to communicate well with other people. They must be able to describe their work so they can get jobs, or commissions, and they must be able to listen closely to their clients to understand exactly what they want.
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