Mindful Observation and the Beauty of Botanical Art

Phragmipedium Denis Laperrière
Credit: Meagan Hanna, supervisor of living collections in the greenhouses at the Jardin botanique
Phragmipedium Denis Laperrière
  • Phragmipedium Denis Laperrière
  • Strelitzia reginae
  • Monarque et Dianthus
  • Phalaenopsis
  • Napenthes rafflesiana
  • Penstemons et campanules
  • Lithops leslei
  • Bégonia
Mindful Observation and the Beauty of Botanical Art

The Art of Taking it Slow

This winter, how about something new? While communities continue to fight the spread of COVID-19, we’ve had to adapt our pastimes to a new context, limiting our outings and social contacts. Welcoming a slower pace of life and appreciating nature in the moment can be beneficial, not only for the environment around us, but for our mental health as well. One way to appreciate nature on a different level is to sit with it and start drawing! Or why not give painting a try?

Botanical art is a creative way to observe and celebrate plant life, anywhere!

Getting to know a plant, at the drawing board!

For botanists, drawing a plant is an important way to better understand it. From a flower’s distinguishing features to a plant’s growth habit, botanical illustration can help taxonomists properly classify different plant species, according to their characteristics.

For the horticultural enthusiast, drawing a plant can be a satisfying way to use nature to beautify one’s life, beyond the landscape. For example, an artistic composition can spruce up one’s home décor or serve as a thoughtful gift for a friend.

Choosing a subject can be a rewarding process, leading us to learn more about a specific plant, where it grows and how it develops. The act of sitting with nature, observing it in a detailed way and producing an interpretation on a canvas connects us to it on a deeper level.

Botanical art is flexible. It can focus on one or many plants or even a single structure. Although drawing a subject on site is an option, we can also work from samples such as branches, seed pods, cones and cut flowers or we can even be inspired from photographs. This gives us the opportunity to explore practicing at home.

Getting to know ourselves too!

Taking up an artistic hobby provides numerous benefits for our wellbeing. Creating art involves an attention to light, form, tones, colours and composition. Being mindful of these elements, can increase our awareness and problem solving skills. Art can also be therapeutic, focusing our consciousness on the moment at hand and reducing stress.

The Freedom to Create and Discover

Like other visual art, botanical art can be approached in different ways. The artist can choose how to represent their subject. For example, they can decide to focus on tones and colours, emphasizing the influence of light on plants. Or they may choose concentrate on lines and specific details of a plant simply by using a pencil. Whether it’s an abstract composition, whimsical landscape, unusual sculpture or true to life scientific illustration, botanical art can take on the preferences and style of any creator.

With art supplies, the possibilities are limitless, allowing the artist to choose between different types of media such as charcoal, ink, coloured pencils, paint or even digital media. A mixed media composition uses more than one of these options to produce a unique interpretation of the subject. We can choose specialized supplies or household items can also contribute to the creative process. In some cases, plants can also be used to produce dyes and pigments for our artwork.

Many members of the team here at the Jardin botanique de Montréal create artwork of their own, inspired by our living collections!

Les Amis du Jardin botanique de Montréal offer French-language courses on the subject. Feel free to sign up for their newsletter and follow their program for more information.

Local libraries, including the Jardin botanique de Montréal’s collection, have an array of books on botanical art and are worth checking out. 

Delve into the world of botanical art! Perhaps a home activity with the kids could be fun. Give it a try, you may be pleasantly surprised.

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Kevin Gilbert

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