Before you start with your botanical painting, there is a lot of observation work to be done. For this it is very practial to take the plant with you (if this is not a protected species). We want to keep it for study and checking all the details. This is one of my favorite parts in the beginning of a painting.
But a plant can not keep forever in your studio. It will start to wilt. Especially when you have not so much time and finish all observation work. So how to do?
I am sure you already know what a herbarium is. Maybe your already have one – it is a special treasure.
It is not only used for the pure training of plant identification, it is also a wonderful reminder of the collection of natural treasures. A herbarium can be created in a variety of ways.
Let´s do it old school
We all know it from school. Many of us got this as a homework over the holidays to collect plants and press them, later we glue and documented them in a booklet. We wrote about species, collecting area and main topics about the plant.
These dried and pressed plants are called herbarium specimens and they still exist in science. They are a valuable treasure of scientific botany and even now they serve science with their DNA. Unfortunately, this type of botanical documentation is very susceptible to mold, insects and the ravages of time.
Some of them are very old and they are protected in rooms with a constant temerpature and stable humility.
But we don´t take is so strict – we want to have fun with it. Collecting and pressing plants is so much joy. You can keep a nice memory of your hiking tours or your plein air sessions, when you take some plants with you for pressing. But the main reason is: we want to paint them.
It is very helpful for the oberservation process to take a closer look. Pressed plants are flat, but the structure, texture and veins are much more better to understand, when they are dried and pressed.
If you want to set up a traditional-classic herbarium, then go for it.
You don´t need to invest into a professional flower press. You can take the cheap one for kids (I still have my old one) or you can just use some heavy books (but please, put some paper between the pages, otherwise your damage your book).
… or do it digital
You can also take pictures with a digital camera and set up digital documentation.
This is also very exciting and for amateur photographers and with a beautiful macro lens you can create magical pictures.
Your can sort it digitally and name it. After a while you have a nice collection of cool pictures.
Especially when you find a protected species, you should keep them in nature. We don´t want to pick them and take them home. Taking nice pictures of the protected plant is the perfect alternative.
Setting up your plants for your painting
As a botanical painter I am using my herbarium specism for my observation work.
I am doing this more practically, so I use graph paper to stick my subject on it. I measure it and do a very rough outline sketch. Using light Washi tape to stick my subject on the paper is a very good possibilty. So I can pick it up every time and the subject is not in danger to get a damage.
My personal tip:
- Especially when you have only one piece of a very rare subject dried and pressed: use a very light Washi tape.
- Invest into good identification books, mark the important pages and take notes on your herbarium specism page
Botanical art is fascinating. It’s a challenge and a wonderful kind of artistic work.
We are explorers and artists at the same time. It is not all about painting skills, it is the basic understanding and interest in nature.