Well, botanical painting is really a thing in itself. I definitely hadn’t chosen the simplest topic. If you look around the web, you are overwhelmed by works of art that look like photographs. So perfect, so detailed and then I look into my sketchbook and just think: well, at least you can see that it’s a flower.
So, just take a deep breath and start all over again. So much flood of images overflows your own perfectionism until you have the feeling that it is best not to touch a brush at all, otherwise bad things could happen.
I can give you the following tips for getting started in botanical painting:
Tip 1: Take a course
I had no time to go to an art school in the evening, so I booked an online course. You can find recommendation links in my link list. It was very helpful for me to follow the instructions first and then continue on my own. In the end, you grow through constant practice.
Since I am always on the go, an online course was the right thing for me. I can determine when I go into the next chapter and schedule my time. In doing so, I grow in my tasks that I set myself and lose the fear of the blank sheet and the project.
I connected with online communities to get a picture of other people’s work and also to get advice from people, who have already experience. So it was possible for me to develop my own style step by step and slowly but steadily improve myself.
Tip 2: Develop a healthy perfectionism
Especially at the beginning, you want to do everything right and then somehow nothing works. The own perfectionism sabotages the project. That is why it is important that you treat yourself patiently and lovingly. The best way to learn is through mistakes and to create a lot of ugly artwork you can learn from.
In botanical painting, it is the precision that is so important to represent a plant in all it´s details. But that shouldn’t bother you in the beginning. You don’t have to write a botanical doctoral thesis.
I had to cast out my perfection mind first so that I could start. Free heart, mind and spirit bring the best results. My perfectionism doesn’t go away. But I have a better grip on it. It should not go away completely, otherwise I lack the essential idea of my task to grow. It is very important, that you enjoy what you are doing.
Tip 3: Work with sketchbooks
I have a lot of sketchbooks, most of them I find the content terribly ugly, but somehow I can’t throw them away. However, through the lectures I took and in exchange with other painters, I learned that sketchbooks are necessary for your growing process.
You won’t be able to create a piece of art from the start, but you can use sketchbooks to document your progress and try everything that comes into your mind. A sketchbook may contain mistakes. We’re not at an art academy that gives us a bad grade for ugly sketchbooks.
You can use different materials, such as fine liners, felt pens, colored pencils, watercolor or pastel colors. Or just a graphite pencil. Why not? Nothing is stopping you.
Tip 4: Botanical painting means dialogue with the plant
Before your paint a plant, you should know, what kind of plant it is. This is the first lecture in botanical painting. If you’re a herbalist, that’s not a problem. But if you are a starter in this field, you probably should know where to look it up. That´s why a botanical artist have so much classification books at home.
Classification is one part, but observation the other. When you want to paint a plant your are starting an observational dialog with it. Loving, respectful treatment is the key and also the responsibility not to pick all plants straight away and to take it home. It could be a protected species. Then you’d better take a picture if you’re not sure.
Tip 5: Don’t think, just do it & practice it every day
Learning to draw and paint is not a secret science, even if it sometimes seems that way. You just need practice and patience. Sounds easy, but sometimes it’s a real stress test. But for that you can use your sketchbook, mistakes are welcome, they will take you further. You can just turn one page and start over again. Very simple and stressless.
Create a nice atmosphere for yourself to paint, perhaps with a quiet background music and a fine tea.
Switch perfectionism to low power and just start. That is the best medicine. Don’t think, just do it … and you will train your eyes and you will always get better. Practicing small drawing and paintings every day is giving you a big boost for your experience.
Painting plants gives you a different view to nature
Every artist´s eye have a different view on the subject. That is the big difference compared with a photography. Botanical painting is more than science study and documentation.
An excellent botanical painter can make you see the plant in an emotional way. This emotion will transfer right into your heart. This is real botanical masterclass.
Just give it a try. Enjoy the moment of nature communication. Take the adventure with brush and color!
Need some good literature for your start? Here we go: