This month’s featured alumna is Nina Antze, who holds an NYBG Certificate in Botanical Art & Illustration. While she is currently teaching colored pencil in California, Nina was initially a quilt maker with a degree in Fine Art from San Francisco State University before coming to the NYBG’s Certificate Program. She now teaches botanical art students of her own, including those at the Botanical Illustration Certificate Program at Filoli Gardens outside of San Francisco. We asked her to guide us along the path that brought her to the NYBG and a new career.
What made you pursue a Botanical Art & Illustration Certificate with NYBG? Were you looking for a new career, or just a hobby?
NYBG introduced me to the world of Botanical Illustration. I started taking colored pencil classes when we moved from California to New York, and it was basically to meet people. My new friend Jane found NYBG instructor Carol Ann Morley’s Colored Pencil class; after that we took Laura Vogel’s drawing class and we really wanted to continue. I was not thinking of a new career, but I fell in love with drawing all over again and I loved having all the plants in the world for possible subjects.
Botanical illustrator and NYBG Adult Education program ’07 alum, Betsy Rogers-Knox is well-known for her compelling ”Plantcycles,” a series of artworks in which she portrays the various stages of a plant in a circle of life. Her watercolors burst with life and combine the artistry and scientific precision that is the hallmark of botanical illustration. We asked Rogers-Knox what inspires these dizzying representations.
“After receiving a Certificate in Botanical Illustration from NYBG, I began teaching workshops at the Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden in Bethlehem, Connecticut. I spent many hours in the gardens observing and drawing trees and plants in all seasons and became enthralled by the plant’s transition; from bud, to flower, to pod, to seed; which inspired a series of life cycle watercolor paintings. This concept led me to become more creative with my compositions, to include a lot of information and be botanically accurate in a more artistic format. This was quite a challenge, which I loved!”
Today, I discuss the importance of botanical line drawings in illustrating the diagnostic characteristics of plants. The value lies in the fact that they either represent species new to science, or the illustration makes it easier for users of scientific and popular publications to determine the names of plants they have an interest in. Fortunately, soon after my return from a two-year stay in Bahia, Brazil in 1980, I was introduced to Bobbi Angell; after seeing samples of her drawings, I asked her to illustrate species of the Brazil nut family (Lecythidaceae) for a monograph that Ghillean T. Prance–then Vice President for Science at the NYBG–was preparing with me.
The Biodiversity Heritage Library is a consortium of twelve natural history and botanical libraries that cooperate to digitize and make accessible the legacy literature of biodiversity held in their collections and to make that literature available for open access and responsible use as a part of a global “biodiversity commons.”
Denise Chan is a Designer in the Garden’s Creative Services department.
Green Currency: Plants in the Economy–an exhibition of botanical art at The New York Botanical Garden which opens to the public today–offers the rare chance to look through a wide array of beautifully hand-drawn or hand-painted illustrations of plants. Each plant has been chosen for its economic value and importance in our everyday lives.
Forty-three works were selected out of a field of 258 entries and are presented in the Arthur and Janet Ross Gallery in this first ever juried exhibition of international botanical art at the Garden. Common fruits, vegetables, herbs, trees, and flowers that serve not only as sources of sustenance, but are also where many modern medicines, furnishings, textiles, and biofuels come from are masterfully rendered with scientific precision using various media such as graphite, watercolor, colored pencil, oil, and acrylic. The exhibition is being presented in conjunction with the American Society of Botanical Artists.
In this era when, with the click of a button you can effortlessly capture an image for prosperity with your camera, or even with your phone—for better or for worse, the act of capturing this landscape of immediacy can be gratifying: What you see is what you get, right here; right now. The opportunity to see beyond the moment, though, is often missed in this instant–or worse yet ignored. To be able to truly see something and engage in the art of observation offers the chance to look into the beauty that is often found in the details. The works in Green Currency: Plants in the Economy are imbued with an inescapable tangibility: Fruit appears to be ripe for the picking; vegetables ready to be chopped, sliced, and sautéd. The works speak to the viewer through the glass in a way that invites–or rather compels–you to look closer.
Take the time to truly see each of these 43 selections, and allow yourself to get lost in the details as each of these artists already has. It will be time well spent.
Twice a year The New York Botanical Garden hosts a free Open House where people can sample some of the Continuing Education course offerings in an informal but informative setting. The upcoming event on September 12 will also feature Career Information Sessions, at which you can hear how former students changed their lives and pursued their passions in new careers.
I have been attending these Open Houses for three years now as a program coordinator and instructor. Last spring, in addition to offering a demonstration by a botanical instructor, we offered for the first time a mini class in botanical illustration. I taught a lesson in colored pencil in which participants were given my favorite watercolor paper and pencils with which to try and render a simple fruit in color. This year we will again offer a similar mini class.
Some who had been hesitant about their ability to draw were in for a pleasant surprise when exposed to a very simple step-by-step procedure to drawing. Many of those who attended that mini class liked it so much that they signed up for full classes and are now enthusiastic students in the program.
For those who have never drawn, as well as for those who are professional artists in other fields, the Botanical Art and Illustration program at NYBG offers an opportunity to learn drawing and to study plants up close.
In these difficult economic times I have seen an increase in students from other professions with time on their hands. What a wonderful opportunity to study botanical illustration, leading to a new passion and the possibility of enhancing an existing profession.
I have also noticed an increase in botanical illustration in the world at large as evidenced by three recent magazine articles on the topic in Victoria (April 2009), Fine Art Connoisseur (July/August 2009), and The Artist’s Magazine (September), in which I am profiled.
And if botanical illustration isn’t your thing, you are sure to find other areas of interest at the Open House: Floral Design, Landscape Design, Gardening, and more.
Come to NYBG for a day of exploration of the Continuing Education program. I hope to see you there!