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How Do I Become a Botanical Illustrator?

L.K. Blackburn
L.K. Blackburn

A botanical illustrator creates images, graphics, and drawings of plants for scientific journals, museums, nature publications, and for some universities. Botanical illustrators can be employed by a specific organization or they can choose to work on a contract basis for many different types of employers. You can become a botanical illustrator by receiving formal technical art training and specializing in drawing nature and plant life.

The artwork produced by a botanical illustrator is used to graphically demonstrate scientific concepts and to catalog different types of plant life. When employed by a museum or nature center, illustrators draw plants for exhibits, displays, and public outreach material. Textbooks, journals, and science news articles all have a need for detailed botanical drawings and illustrations. Botanical illustration usually requires detailed technical art skills combined with knowledge of plant life body structures and physical appearance.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

You can gain the art skills needed to become a botanical illustrator by beginning your art career while still in high school or college. While in high school, it may be helpful to focus on developing basic traditional art skills and putting together a portfolio that showcases your abilities. A portfolio may be needed to apply some types of art school programs. Once you are ready to enter college, you can choose to major in art or technical illustration at a four-year university, community college, or vocational school.

As many different types of art programs can prepare you to become a botanical illustrator, it may also be important to attend a school that will allow you access to biology classes. Classes in natural science will expose you to basic knowledge about animal and plant life that can be helpful in your career. You may want to become familiar with using a microscope to examine plants and cells through working as a student assistant in a biology research lab, as it may be necessary for you to use scientific tools to complete some types of complex botanical illustrations. Working with biology professors and research scientists can also allow you to network with the type of people who may have connections to textbook publishers and research journals who need botanical illustrations.

After you have gained a background in technical illustration through your education you can begin looking for work as a freelance botanical illustrator. One way to become a botanical illustrator is to first volunteer your art skills to a museum or nature center. This can allow you to expand your portfolio, and it may provide you with valuable experience that can allow you to earn a a full-time job working as a botanical illustrator.

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