Botanical Illustration

botanical illustration 1

Illustration by Vicki Thomas.


The principles of drawing and watercolour painting of plants will be the main focus of this workshop.  Simple practical exercises will take the participants through each stage in order to build up to a final, fairly accurate botanical painting. These steps will include pencil drawing of a fruit or flower using shading to create form; colour mixing and matching and various ways of applying watercolour paints; composition; the dissection of a flower and some basic botany; all in preparation for a final botanical drawing. In addition there will be a short illustrated talk on the history of botanical art with the emphasis on Southern African plants.  No previous experience in botanical painting is required and students will be given individual attention.

roberto millan

Illustration by Roberto Millan - a previous student of Vicki Thomas.


Vicki Thomas is an experienced botanical art teacher, who regularly teaches a module on scientific illustration to the M.Phil (Illustration) students at Stellenbosch University. Her own botanical artworks are represented in many prestigious collections locally and abroad, including HRH Prince Charles’s Highgrove Florilegium, a collection of paintings of plants from his garden. Many of Vicki’s paintings have been exhibited in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery in Kew, London, and in exhibitions in Japan, the USA, Holland and South Africa. She has been involved with the scientific illustration of plants for botanical journals for many years and has illustrated a book on Plectranthus. Vicki is a founder member and past Chairperson of the Botanical Artists’ Assoc. of S.A. and is a judge on the Kirstenbosch Biennale exhibition. She has been a gold and silver medallist on previous exhibitions.


PAINTS Winsor & Newton Artist Colours in a tube

Cadmium Yellow

Cadmium Lemon


French Ultramarine

Winsor Blue green shade (or Cerulean)

Cadmium Red

Permanent Rose

Permanent White Gouache (optional)

PAPER A large sheet of Arches Hot Pressed 300g watercolour paper

A sketch book or several sheets of sketching paper

A pad of tracing paper (A3 or A4 size)

A flip file for notes and artwork

PENCILS One HB clutch pencil and a 2B sketching pencil

BRUSHES One No. 2 and/or No.4 size Rotmarder-Kolinsky 3338.04-0590 or

Raphael Series 8404 or W&N Series 3A kolinsky sable with a fine point.

A board to lean on

A palette preferably with six or more wells (new ones need to be scrubbed with Vim to make them less slippery) or a white plate

A soft eraser

A pair of dividers for measurement,

Magic tape

A jar for water

A soft, fine cotton cloth – an old hanky or pillowslip (not polyester)



A plastic container (ice-cream tub) and floral oasis so you can arrange your plant.

OPTIONAL A cardboard screen made from two pieces of card taped together

A small angle-poise desk light with a neon tube style light bulb – this remains cool and gives a reasonably accurate colour representation.

And a plastic tool box to carry everything (Available from Plastics for Africa, PicknPay).


Photographs from the 2015 Botanical Illustration workshop:

b a

b a 2

b a by magriet treurnicht

botanical art by students-2

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