Where science and art meet: Botanic Gardens’ illustration classes help students find beauty in details

One of the award-winning illustrations from instructors Denver Botanic Gardens' School of Botanical Art and Illustration. This is the Aquilegia caerulea (Rocky Mountain Columbine) in egg tempera by artist Laurence Pierson.

A collection of exquisite illustrations of Colorado plants, from foothills to alpine tundra, drew accolades at London’s Royal Horticultural Society Botanical Art Show in February.

The artists — 10 teachers from the Denver Botanic Gardens’ School of Botanical Art and Illustration — won the rarely awarded group gold medal at the show. The first entry from DBG’s botanical illustration program was titled “Rocky Mountain Plants and Fungi With Altitude.” The works included Colorado’s state flower, the blue columbine, as well as yucca, lupines, mushrooms and other plants.

Image courtesy of Denver Botanic GardensOne of the award-winning illustrations from instructors Denver Botanic Gardens’ School of Botanical Art and Illustration. This is the Aquilegia caerulea (Rocky Mountain Columbine) in egg tempera by artist Laurence Pierson.

The gold medal was only the third bestowed upon a group in the event’s 100-year history; the most recent group gold was awarded 14 years ago.

The recognition was a sign of the quality and depth of DBG’s program, which teaches students how to create illustrations that are both scientifically accurate and aesthetically pleasing.

“It’s pretty much the highest award in the field,” said Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski, manager of the DBG School of Botanical Art and Illustration. “It was an extremely positive shock. Really, seeing that gold medal there, it made me cry. It shows not only the quality of our teachers but our unity.”

Denver’s botanical illustration school, the nation’s oldest, was founded in 1980 by Angela Overy. The DBG certification program was among the first in the world. The program now trains about 400 active students taking at least two classes per year. Ten to 15 students graduate annually.

The botanical illustration school draws both hobbyists and individuals seeking certification. Certification can be completed at one’s own pace, requiring a minimum of one year, a maximum of five. Graduates of the school can join the Rocky Mountain Society of Botanical Artists or the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators.

RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostRandy Raak has sketch books of his drawing out for his students to look at during a class at Denver Botanic Gardens’ School of Botanical Art and Illustration, where participants learn how to create scientific renderings of plants, on April 4, 2017 in Denver.

Certified botanical illustrators find many applications of their skill set in the workplace. Some collaborate on landscape architectural plans or parks’ signage. Others illustrate books. Some create fine art while others illustrate design textiles.

Meredith Feniak, who graduated in 2014, has designed seed packages for Botanical Interests, gilded and embossed flowers for a private library and painted a mural for The Kitchen restaurant in Chicago.

“It is an excellent program which far exceeded my expectations and changed my life’s trajectory,” Feniak said. “It’s not just a skill set, it’s a life-changer.” You get swept up in it, she added, and it becomes an all-consuming passion.

RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostRandy Raak teaches a class at the Denver Botanic Gardens’ School of Botanical Art and Illustration.

The tidy botanical illustration classroom at Denver Botanic Gardens accommodates only a dozen students per class

Source:: The Denver Post – Lifestyle

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