Illustration has been a vital component of communicating botanical information for hundreds of years. It is also a beautifully accessible way of illuminating and recording the natural world around us whilst exploring and better understanding plant life and biodiversity. Indeed, it is widely appreciated as an art form in its own right.
Today it is practised the world over by artists. Along with many who paint purely for pleasure, others work as freelance illustrators for popular books and private commissions and some, like those who work with RBGE, collaborate closely with scientists. For this last group, botanical illustration has a very close focus on taxonomic and scientific aspects as well as aesthetic and illustrative ones. Here art and science blend together.
Education at RBGE is core to the mission statement; to explore conserve and explain the world of plants for a better future. Our education initiatives welcome people from all walks of life from many different countries, and across many different disciplines. As part of our broad range of educational opportunities, Botanical Illustration is formally taught with courses suited to those from the inexperienced up to a semi-professional level, building on the botanical illustration which has been practiced and developed at RGBE for a century. It aims to teach the skills of close observation, accurate representation and fine rendering necessary for recognition and identification while at the same time developing in each artist a joy and appreciation of the innate beauty of plants – the colours, the textures and details as well as the sheer diversity of this amazing Kingdom of life.
The Diploma is our two -year flagship botanical illustration course and has been running since 2007, and the three – year Online Diploma since 2012. It is aimed at elevating those already with experience and ability to a high level of competence and skill, and we look forward to seeing how their future botanical painting develops.
This exhibition comprises five pieces of work from each Diploma artist from their final year. Each collection is themed around a topic selected by and personally significant to them. Our students are from all around the world, and this year’s graduating students are from Austria, Czech Republic, China, Finland, Germany, Japan, Scotland and England.
The themes, and the artworks, are a fascinating record of their educational journeys, a window into a wonderfully diverse global flora, and a testament to the success of the RBGE mission to explore, conserve and explain the fascinating world of plants.
The James and Eve Bennett trust award 2020 prize for the student showing great promise was very difficult to judge, as you will see from the remarkable quality of the works in the video. This year we are happy to announce it is awarded to Isabel Mischka for her collection of Cucurbitaceae family, which capture the details and characters of these plants beautifully.
We hope you enjoy the exhibition.
Jacqui Pestell MBE
Head of Botanical Illustration
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh