Modern Tools for a Traditional Art
Winnifred B. Hebb
When composing a botanical illustration, we have a multitude of resources that we can use besides a living plant, our paint brushes, and paints. At exhibits this past spring at the New England Wild Flower Society and also at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University on the Flora Novae Angliae (Flora of New England) I noted that both botanical artists, Elizabeth Farnsworth and Gordon Morrison, used all the tools of our modern society just as artists of the past did.
The live plant, herbarium specimens, hand lens, microscope, and the camera. The camera? Absolutely! There are many times when we are very limited with our living specimen. It is short lived or it may be on the endangered species list, such as orchids in the wild. With today's digital cameras it is fairly easy to get a good photo. However, the better camera, lens and photographer can make a difference in what we see in the resulting photograph. To compensate for what our camera will not pick up, meticulous notes should be taken, as well as accurate sketches. Color, hairs, textures and other small, miscellaneous structures need to be noted via sketches and notes. Use and hand lens or good magnifying glass for this. The more accurate your work is the better the identification of your specimen will be.