Botanical illustrators work together with scientists to create images that inform, inspire and share a more nuanced understanding of the natural world unattainable through photography. The artist can clarify complex images and processes, and produce educational materials for all ages.
Kathleen Garness invites us to watch pencil studies evolve into finished paintings and illustrations that explore the role of light and space while conveying details about our native and non-native flora. Much of her artwork reflects not only her life-long fascination with orchids, but her field experiences through rare plant monitoring program at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Her work is published by the Field Museum, Conservation Research Institute, and the Indiana Academy of Science, and she has taught classes at Notre Dame University, the Morton Arboretum, and many other venues. She was the first artist-in-residence for the Oak Park Conservatory and for the Forest Preserves of Cook County and in 2021 was awarded the Juilet Kirby Grant to bring botanical art and awareness of native orchid conservation to new audiences.
Kathleen worked as a commercial artist for over a decade before taking up the banner of natural history art. Classes in Morton Arboretum’s certificate program of botanical and scientific illustration allowed her to study with some of the best teachers in the Midwest. She has worked with the Field Museum and The Nature Conservancy to produce educational materials for the growing community of natural areas restoration volunteers. Two grantsfrom the American Society of Botanical Artists allowed her to introduce botanical illustration to a new and more diverse audience. Participation in the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Plants of Concern program offers Kathy a unique window into the artistic connections between ecology and the lure of the beautiful as well as the tensions between wildlife under pressure and the demands of human need.