Education Forum

Starting An Instructional Program in Botanical Art - Part I

By Margaret Saul 

Originally appeared in The Botanical Artist – Volume 12, Issue 4


The next 3 articles are based on my own experience since first invited to teach botanical art classes in 1987 in Australia, at the Brisbane Botanic Garden – Mt Coot-tha. I currently direct a certificate program with progressive assessment at the Brookside Gardens School of Botanical Art & Illustration for which I have developed policy and curriculum. My teaching approach is tailored to a class limit of 12; when greater than this while running my Australian school I employed an assistant. 

Part I: For the novice 

Requests to teach often come out of the blue, from those responsible for a continuing education program at a botanical garden or nature center, or for promotional activities at e.g. a plant nursery or an art store. If you are an experienced botanical artist and are keen to share your ideas and techniques but are new to teaching, this and the next article provide pointers to get you started. 

Experience in the art of illustration varies among botanical art teachers, from those with a formal art education, with experience as teachers, staff illustrators or freelance illustrators, to those who have no formal art training. However, many teachers have designed their own classes based upon the knowledge and practical experience gained by participating in botanical art courses offered through continuing education programs, and there are now a number of books available on various approaches to botanical art. 

What is needed: 

A suitable institution willing to offer classes (or offer classes of your own if you have a head for business). 

Confidence that you have achieved reasonable proficiency in botanical drawing and painting. 

Enjoyment in sharing your knowledge and practical skills, and delight in seeing your students’ progress. 

An ability to apply creative teaching ideas in a methodical and logical manner 

Awareness that while teaching ultimately facilitates the development of your own creative process, more time than first imagined will be required for developing and maintaining a successful program. 

How to start: 

Write a proposal: This helps establish your teaching goals that subsequently influence class content, class limit, teaching approach, class duration as well as your hourly teaching rate, the class fee and how you publicize classes. (Further information will be published in Part II) 

Plan publicity: Publicity is necessary prior to starting classes so plan this well ahead and be creative – 

Locate ASBA members in the region by referring to your membership directory, as well as Guild of Natural Science Illustrators members, and alert them of your plan. This may also result in other offers to teach, and may help in development of a local botanical art group to promote the genre in the region, ultimately increasing interest in classes. 

Offer demonstration sessions, an activity that develops further confidence prior to teaching, as well as advertising your classes. Prepare a brochure to distribute at these evens, explaining your classes. Demonstrate at the venue where classes will be held, or at a botanical art exhibit you have installed at your community library, botanical garden, plant nursery etc. Any facility that has a focus on plants works well for demonstrations, as they attract plant lovers who may want to learn to draw. You can reassure them that they do not require any art experience to enjoy the classes. Other places to exhibit your art and have brochures available may be at local coffee shops and bookstores. 

Present a short talk. Approach various community groups such as gardening clubs, art groups and native plant societies. The ASBA has a slide/talk program on botanical art available to members. 

Offer a free workshop at the venue where the program will be conducted – one that introduces the art form and provides some related fun activity. 

To be continued, Part II – Designing a short introductory course, and Part III – Designing a comprehensive program 

  • Students working on a class exercise for “Dimensional Study” at the BG-SBAI