Botanic art and classes
Botanic art or the art of botanical illustration is a highly specialised art form, in which plant portraits combine finely observed detail with artistic expression.
Interest in this art form has greatly increased over the years and currently the Friends hold a number of classes conducted by their experienced botanic art teachers - Dianne Emery, Mali Moir and Helen Burrows. See below for more information on our classes and teachers.
Corylus avellana - Hazelnuts by Dianne Emery (original image has been cropped)
Botanic art classes at the RBG Melbourne
2013 Botanic Art Classes commence in the week beginning Friday 1 February. We strongly recommend that students who are new to botanical illustration complete a beginners’ workshop prior to entering term classes. Please see below for details on Beginners' Workshops.
For bookings for all Botanical Illustration Classes and Workshops please complete and return the Botanic art classes application form (MS Word file - 900 kb), (PDF file - 561 kb) or telephone our office on (03) 9650 6398.
Botanic art classes (8 week terms) are held on
- Monday: 10 am -12.30 pm (Intermediate - Mali Moir)
- Monday: 1 pm - 3.30 pm (Mixed - Mali Moir)
- Tuesday: 6.15 pm - 8.45 pm (Mixed - Dianne Emery)
- Wednesday: 10 am - 12.30 pm (Advanced - Dianne Emery)
- Wednesday: 1 pm - 3.30 pm (Intermediate/Advanced - Dianne Emery)
- Wednesday: 6.15 pm - 8.45 pm (Mixed - Helen Burrows)
- Thursday: 1 pm - 3.30 pm (Mixed - Helen Burrows)
- Friday: 10.30 am - 1.30 pm (Intermediate/Advanced - Dianne Emery)
- Saturday: 10 am - 12.30 pm (Intermediate - Mali Moir)
- Saturday: 1 pm - 3.30 pm (Mixed - Mali Moir)
- Sunday: 1 pm - 3.30 pm (Mixed - Helen Burrows)
Classes are held in the Whirling Room Studio in the GMT Building located in the Observatory Gate Site at the RBG Melbourne. Please view the location map (JPG - 91 kb) showing the location of the Whirling Room Studio.
2.5 hr classes - Friends $240 Non-members $295 (incl. GST)
3 hr classes - Friends $285 Non-members $340 (incl. GST)
To take advantage of the Friends' members rates please Join the Friends.
Botanic Art Beginner Workshops
4 day Beginners Botanical Illustration Workshops
10am to 4pm
Cost: $349 Friends $295
Where: Whirling Room Studio, GMT Building, Observatory Gate, RBG Melbourne
Bookings: via Events page or phone (03) 9650 6398
These intensive four-day courses are an introduction to botanical art via pencil and watercolour. Students will begin to develop skills in outline drawing, foreshortening, tonal work and rendering of surfaces, basic colour work and paint application.
The cost of the course includes equipment to be used during the workshop - drawing materials, paint, watercolour paper and brushes; and morning and afternoon teas.
Workshop with Helen Burrows
Saturday 29 June, Sunday 30 June,
Saturday 6 July and Sunday 7 July 2013
Workshop with Mali Moir
Monday 1, Wednesday 3, Thursday 4 & Friday 5 July 2013
Workshop with Helen Burrows
Saturday 21 September, Sunday 22 September,
Saturday28 September and Sunday 29 September 2013
Workshop with Dianne Emery
Monday 30 September, Wednesday 2, Thursday 3 & Friday 4 October 2013
For enquiries for all Botanical Illustration Classes and Workshops please complete and return the Botanic art classes application form (MS Word file - 900 kb), (PDF file - 561 kb) or telephone our office on (03) 9650 6398.
Specialist Botanic Art Workshops
The Friends' hold a wide variety of Botanical Illustration Workshops in the breaks between term classes. These are held by the Friends' Botanic Art teachers or guest and specialist teachers. See below for information the upcoming workshops.
Monet’s Favourite Flowers
with John Pastoriza-Piñol
When: Monday 8 – Thursday 11 July 2013 from 10am to 4pm
Where: Domain House, Dallas Brooks Drive, Melbourne
Cost: $395 Members of Friends/NGV
Places limited to Friends of RBG and NGV Members.
To book for this workshop please phone the Friends' office on (03) 9650 6398
Paint the flowers that Monet loved during this four-day workshop held to coincide with the Monet’s Garden Winter Masterpieces exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria.
Popular botanical artist and teacher John Pastoriza-Piñol will inspire his students to achieve an enhanced sense of realism and vitality in their work through a deeper appreciation for picture composition and the illustration of three dimensional form and colour. Using watercolour and masking fluid applied with specialist tools including the NEEF ¼ Comb, John’s approach includes class discussion, step-by-step instruction with plenty of practical demonstrations and time set aside for individual guidance.
Suitable for students at an intermediate to advanced level.
A materials list is available from the Friends’ office.
THE ART OF CAMELLIAS
Guided Walk of RBG Camellia Collection followed by
Botanical Drawing Workshop with Helen Burrows
When: Thursday 18 July from 10.30am to 3.30pm
Where: Meet at Visitor Centre, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne at 10.30am SHARP
Cost: Members of the Friends $90 Non members $100
Bookings: To book for The Art of Camellias, please contact RBG Melbourne on 9252 2429
Enjoy a guided walk through the beautiful Camellia collection of the RBG Melbourne with one of the Gardens’ knowledgeable team of voluntary guides, then spend the afternoon with Helen Burrows learning to draw these fascinating plants.
Helen specialises in drawing and painting Australian Camellia cultivars and has completed three volumes of Camellias in limited edition. Among her other commitments, she teaches botanical illustration classes and workshops throughout the year for the Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens.
This 2 ½ hour workshop is suitable for students at every level, including beginners.
Morning and afternoon tea and art materials provided.
Participants will need to bring or buy their own lunch.
Botanical Illustrators Group
Who are The Botanical Illustrators?
A group of members of the Friends who meet regularly to paint, take classes and workshops, and put on exhibitions of their work.
The Whirlybirds group of botanical illustrators meet every Tuesday or Thursday, in the Whirling Room Studio, to paint and exchange ideas.
Members of this friendly group range from beginners to professionals, and there is no instructor. Rather, members encourage each other in their artistic endeavors, discuss works-in-progress, offer advice, and occasionally, work on a group project.
Following the success of the Eucalypt and Natural History exhibition held in October 2011, Friends of the RBG intend
to hold a similar exhibition in October 2013. If you are a member of the Friends you are invited to exhibit your work in From Forest to Seashore - Natural History: Ferns, fungi and allies.
Please email your expressions of interest to email@example.com or phone 9598 9532 to ensure all information is forwarded to you.
The Whirlybirds have just successfully completed being involved with the Art of Botanical Illustration 2012 exhibition. All members of the group and many other artist members exhibited their work.
Any member of the Friends is welcome to join the Whirlybirds, for a small weekly fee. The group reconvenes on 29 and 31 January 2013. If you would like to join the Whirlybirds please contact Sandra Sanger on (03) 9598 9532.
Variations on a Theme Essay
Written by Helene Wild
From a series of short essays in which text is accompanied by a few examples of superb art works produced by our talented Botanical Illustrators.
Even though many artists will paint the same (or a related) species, and take great care to record it precisely and accurately, individual interpretations can be vastly dissimilar.
No. 20: SEEDS & SEED PODS.
In a previous essay (No. 18), I talked about the subtle colours and textures found in the bark of trees. This time, my focus has turned to seed pods and the amazing little packages of life and energy contained within.
Seed pods come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Pods can be large, thick and woody (e.g. lotus and some of our native Eucalyptus trees), light and fluffy (e.g. dandelion), fleshy (e.g. rose hips), or paper thin and near transparent (e.g. honesty) and as fine as dust (e.g. orchids). Then there are seeds that are an important part of our daily diet (e.g. wheat, rice, lentils, nuts, peas and beans). We are also familiar with some seeds in their ground form (e.g. flour, coffee, pepper, etc.). Farmers and gardeners have traditionally collected a few seeds from one crop, stored them over winter, and planted them in early spring .... and so the annual cycle has continued for countless generations.
When I was in grade 3 at primary school, my class sowed wheat seeds onto damp cottonwool and we watched them germinate and grow into a grassy mat. At home, I was allocated a small plot in our back garden where my parents encouraged me to plant a few vegetables. I learned how to care for the emerging plants and, when the time came, to harvest and prepare them for our evening meal.
There have been a few depictions of seeds and seed pods in The Art of Botanical Illustration exhibitions; most of them small but exquisite works.
When looking for illustrations to this essay, I couldn’t go past Abrus pectarius (Crab’s Eye), a delightful watercolour by Jean Dennis from the 2004 Exhibition. Jean painted a cluster of dried seed pods that have split open to reveal glossy, pillar box red and black seeds. The seeds are toxic so, instead of being eaten, they are used as beads in their native Indonesia.
In the 2010 Exhibition, one of John Pastoriza-Pinol’s watercolours was of three hard, woody seed pods of Jacaranda mimosifolia. One pod had opened to present a seed surrounded by a thin papery membrane. A superb study in browns and creams.
Another work from the 2010 Exhibition is David Reynolds’ Castanea sativa. David’s watercolour, of a single seed pod and its contents, has demonstrated to perfection how the seeds fit together inside their prickly casing. Chestnuts are favourite subjects for botanic artists; although the bristly cases do make them difficult to handle . All those bristles standing proud in all directions do make them a challenge to paint. Artists also love the polished shiny-ness of the large seeds then, after our paintings are finished, we can eat our models!
Jean Dennis – Abrus pecatorius (Crab’s Eye). Watercolour. 2004 Exhibition. Cat.36.
John Pastoriza-Pinol – Jacaranda mimosifolia. Watercolour. 2010 Exhibition. Cat. 105.
David Reynolds – Castanea sativa (Chestnut). Watercolour. 2010 Exhibition. Cat. 117.
Winter Quarterly Meeting
Professor Tim Entwistle, Director and CE of the RBG Melbourne
Tuesday 2 July
10 for 10.30 am
Whirling Room Studio
Cost: $5.50 Pay on the day
Tim Entwisle will speak to the Illustrators about his time at Kew Gardens.
Autumn Quarterly Meeting Report
The Naming of Plants
At the recent Autumn meeting of the Botanical Illustrators, Chief Botanist and Director of Plant Sciences and Biodiversity, Professor David Cantrill, gave us a fascinating talk about plant classification. Correctly naming plants is not only fundamentally important to botany, but also to agriculture, conservation and the plant industry. Few botanical illustrators are specialists in taxonomy, and mistakes in naming are all too common.
However, the correct name of a plant can be elusive. The Australian Plant Name Index has 75,000 names for vascular plants, but there are only 21,000 species. The Global Plant Initiative includes about 1,800,000 names, while only about 300,000 species exist. The relationships of species to each other, and their names, are constantly being reviewed.
An example of this type of review is the Acacias. African species were described earlier than the more numerous Australian ones, but molecular and morphological studies concur that there are major differences between groups that justify distinct genera. The decision about which group should retain the name Acacia was fraught, with the number of changes to be made (over 900 in the case of the Australian species) having to be balanced against the principle of precedence.
The rapid proliferation of molecular data in recent years has rendered ‘paper flora’ (indices in book form) obsolescent. While DNA studies are a convincing basis for defining plant similarities and differences, it can be perplexing when morphologically similar species are found to be genetically different. The final test for the boundaries of a species is the capacity to interbreed, but few such studies are done.
Full genomic sequencing of some genera, including Eucalyptus, has been carried out. This is a time-consuming and expensive activity whose worth has not yet been universally accepted. ‘Barcoding‘ of specific regions of DNA has, however, become an essential tool for identification of plants. The practicalities of using genetic data in the field remain considerable.
Professor Cantrill presented some cladograms showing the relations among species within a genus. Patterns of relationships that suggest rapid evolution could be discerned, while many species that appear similar may be distant in evolutionary terms.
Many of those present were keen to share their stories of frustration when trying to find the correct name for their particular specimen. A lively informal discussion continued over morning tea.
Friends' Botanic Art teachers
Born in the United Kingdom, Dianne studied art at the National Gallery School in Melbourne followed by a diploma of Education. She worked as an artist and a teacher for many years, teaching at secondary, TAFE and tertiary levels.
Always interested in plants and horticulture, Dianne enrolled part-time at Burnley Horticultural College where later she began teaching short courses in Botanical Illustration.
This was followed by courses taught at Swinburne University, Melbourne CAE, Royal Botanic Gardens and workshops in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and regional Victoria.
She currently works at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, where she has been running workshops and classes since 1996. Dianne has exhibited widely both here and interstate, including, since 1994, The Art of Botanical Illustration at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne.
Recent exhibitions include:
- The Art of Botanical Illustration 2010
- Botanicasia 2009,
- Botanica 2008, ‘Nature + Art’,
- Natural History at Woodbine Gallery, Malmsbury,
- ‘The Forgotten Flora’ travelling show from the National Herbarium Melbourne,
- Botanica 2006 ‘The Masters Exhibition,’
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney: 2005, Red Box Gallery, The Herbarium, Sydney;
- a solo show at Woodbine Art Gallery, Malmsbury, Victoria.
Dianne has won the Celia Rosser medal twice, in both 2002 and 2004. Her works are held in the Victorian State collection, Geelong Regional Gallery, Esso Collection and in private collections in Australia and overseas.
Mali Moir began her career as botanical artist in 1993 at the National Herbarium of Victoria. Combining botanical and horticultural knowledge with artistic skills Mali has contributed pen and ink drawings for Flora of Victoria, Flora of Australia, Mulleria and other scientific publications.
Working closely with botanists in this area Mali understands the importance of scientific accuracy, the fundamentals of precise measurement and thorough depiction of detail. She teaches botanical illustration in association with the Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, at private art groups and conducts workshops in Victoria, interstate and overseas.
Mali was awarded a Gold Medal by The Royal Horticultural Society London and an invited exhibitor to the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation USA. She is recipient of an inaugural Celia Rosser Medal and twice finalist in the Waterhouse Art Prize. Mali was the first Australian to receive the Focus On Nature Purchase Award by New York State Museum USA. In 2009 Mali received a Highly Commended Award, ‘Margaret Flockton Art Prize’, RBG Sydney.
She exhibits widely in Australia and internationally and has produced many works for private, public and corporate collections.
Mali has great interest in working in the area of conservation and was proud to donate a painting for the charity auction ‘Name a New Species of Shrimp’ held by Australian Marine Conservation Society in association with Museum Victoria, Mali also contributes to ‘Art for Sharks’ with AMCS, evidence to her sincere belief, inspired by a comment by John Wolseley, that “artists make science visible”
Mali has a keen interest in the artistic interpretation of natural history themes. She approaches her work with traditional techniques whilst developing a fresh contemporary look. Mali executes works on paper with the consummate skill of a dedicated artist as she combines her fascination for science and nature with an active desire to render works of art with beauty, character and scientific merit.
Helen’s botanical watercolour illustrations are represented in:
- The Victorian National Herbarium collection,
- The Government House Florilegium Project,
- The Illustrated Garden Collection,
- The National Library of Australia,
- The Huntington Library (California),
- The Hunt Institute of the Carnegie Mellon University (Pennsylvania),
- The Lindley Library Royal Horticultural Society (London),
- galleries and private collections throughout Australia and overseas.
- the Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum of Berlin-Dahlem
- the Missouri Botanical Garden Library
- Herbarium Library of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Helen's illustrative work has been used in various publications including the 'Jenny Phillip's Australian Botanical Artists National Trust Desk Diary', the 'Illustrated Garden Collection' (Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne) and 'Botanic News'.
Helen currently teaches Botanical Illustration at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne and the Geelong Botanic Gardens, Victoria. A professional graphic designer, Helen has also worked in both secondary and tertiary education sectors teaching art and lecturing in Design and Graphic Communication.
Her recent work includes specialisation in Australian camellia cultivars and she has completed three volumes of camellias in limited edition. Her passionate interest in gardening and horticulture has found expression in her commitment to botanical illustration.
Cranbourne Botanic Illustrators group
The Cranbourne Illustrators meet on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month from 10 am to 3 pm in the Maud Gibson Room (which is near the RBG Cranbourne Office). It is a small, friendly group and anyone interested is welcome to call in and visit us during that time or contact Margaret Holloway on (03) 5998 5382 for further information.
Botanic Art classes at Cranbourne
Botanic Art classes are held in the Maud Gibson Room with two classes running fortnightly on Fridays from 10 am to 3 pm. As the class size is small, maximum of 10 students, it will be suitable for beginners or those with some experience. Margaret Holloway is the tutor. Margaret has had considerable experience teaching art at secondary, tertiary and community levels. She has won several awards with her botanical work and is represented in several collections, including the State Botanical Collection.
Visitors can park in the Australian Garden carpark and follow the directional signs to the Maud Gibson Room. For further information contact Margaret Holloway on (03) 5998 5382.
Eucalypt by Sandra Sanger
Water Lily by John Pastoriza Pinol
The Friends' 2013 Botanic Art Calendar
Abrus pecatorius (Crab’s Eye) by Jean Dennis
Jacaranda mimosifolia by John Pastoriza-Pinol
Castanea sativa (Chestnut) by David Reynolds
Tim Entwistle - Director and CE of the RBG Melbourne
Prof David Cantrill, Chief Botanist, National Herbarium of Victoria
Beautiful Eucalypt illustration by Jenny Phillips
Jenny Phillips at the quarterly meeting
Beverley Lewis, co-winner of the Celia Rosser Medal 2012
Merle McIntyre, co-winner of the Celia Rosser Medal 2012
Arisaema sikokianum by Dianne Emery
Tulipa x hybrida Happy Generation by Mali Moir
Rosa Pierre de Ronsard by Helen Burrows
Araucaria bidwillii by Dorote Nygh, purchased for the State Botanical Collection from the TABI Exhibition with funds from the Friends.
Telopea speciossima by Fiona McKinnon, purchased for the State Botanical Collection from the TABI Exhibition with funds from the Friends.
Eucalyptus robusta by Margaret Holloway
Last updated 15 May 2013