Photography vs. botanical illustration

In this day and age of high tech imagery, it may seem odd to some that there are people such as I (and many, many others) who dedicate so much of their time and treasure to learning the fine art of botanical illustration. Why not just photograph everything and be done with it all? Instead of trying to put it into words myself, I am sharing with you a quote from, Roger Tory Peterson I found while researching some aspects of botanical illustration I am exploring.

Many taxa show variability and it is often difficult to capture the constant features using a small number of photographs. Illustrations by artists or post processing of photographs help in emphasizing specific features needed to for reliable identification. Peterson introduced the idea of lines to point to these key features. He also noted the advantages of illustrations over photographs:

A drawing can do much more than a photograph to emphasize the field marks. A photograph is a record of a fleeting instant; a drawing is a composite of the artist’s experience. The artist can edit out, show field marks to best advantage, and delete unnecessary clutter. He can choose position and stress basic color and pattern unmodified by transitory light and shade. … The artist has more options and far more control …. Whereas a photograph can have a living immediacy a good drawing is really more instructive. (This passage was written not by Roger Tory Peterson, but by his wife, Virginia Marie Peterson, in the preface to one of Peterson’s field guides.[6] This passage was also quoted by Law and Lynch (1988).[7])

Free Botanical Art Prints - Apples - The Graphics Fairy
A very old botanical illustration (courtesy of The Graphics Fairy) Original in watercolor.
Fruits & Vegetables — Botanical Artist & Illustrator ...
Modern botanical illustration. Wendy Hollander artist- colored pencil

Don’t let our culture’s current fascination with technology and ‘S.T.E.M.’ education keep you away from learning how to draw, or from appreciating non-digital art. Humanity still has so much beauty to offer. Not everything needs to be replaced with blinking lights and digital elements.

When people go to museums, zoos, botanical gardens, etc. and journal/draw what they see instead of photograph it, they remember more of what they saw/experienced.

Listen to the first few minutes of this video where, John Muir Laws talks about the nature journal trip he took to Tanzania with other nature journal travelers.

So, are you ready to get hands on with your creativity?

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