A Peek Into The Creation of Botanical Illustration


The Campus Arboretum, in partnership with the Sonoran Desert Florilegium Program, has established a Florilegium of the Joseph Wood Krutch Garden, the University of Arizona's most important historic garden, and an inspiring model of a sustainable urban landscape. 


What is a "florilegium" (floor-eh-LEE-gee-um), you ask?

It's a collection of botanical art that documents the scientific and aesthetic value of a special garden. In this case, the Joseph Wood Krutch Garden.


Sounds old fashioned?

Well, despite advances in technology used to capture botanical detail through photography and microscopy, scientific illustration retains great value as an effective educational resource simply because it encapsulates all important views and detail magnification in one small panel. Furthermore, botanical illustrations are masterfully created and exquisitely beautiful! As such, florilegia serve as important historical records, inspiring artistic expressions, and scientific tool to record local and regional species diversity in perpetuity. 


Here's what we're doing...

The Sonoran Desert Florilegium Program has recruited artists to participate in the florilegium’s creation. Each artist works with us to choose a species, and obtain guidance to ensure that each piece of artwork conforms to detailed specifications that ensure the uniformity, quality, scientific and aesthetic value of the collection. Artists each have a unique process, but all spend hundreds of hours studying herbarium and living specimens in the field and under the microscope, sketching. reading relevant botanical treatments, confering with botanists, and laying out the botanical features on the plate. Along the way, artists consult with each other, botanical experts, and the director of the Campus Arboretum to obtain feedback, and make revisions before submitting to the  jury for review. The jury meets twice a year, and those works accepted are accessioned into the University Library Special Collection, and shared publically through exhibit.


Here's how we're doing it...

Thanks to the generosity of Keith and Brenda Taylor, the Campus Arboretum is able to compensate artists for their commissioned work. The whole process from start to finish involves curiosity, study, scientific evaluation, artistic expression, and so many wonderful, dedicated, and generous people. The end result reflects all of this. Here's a glimpse of into the fascinating process of creating a scientific illustration.


Here's a sneak peak of work in various stages of completion:




















A photo of creosote, like this, may inspire the study.


Hours of study lead to more hours of sketching to get each feature just right!




















Sketches are laid out on the page to display botanical aspects in a logical and balanced way.



















Color is a critical diagnostic aspect of species identity and must be added and built up carefully to achieve accurate representation.