Ten Years of Botanical Illustration

Pruning Hydrangea – my first botanical illustration
for the “Digging In” gardening  column in the Washington Post.

Looking back on ten years of illustration –botanical, entomological and more!

As I complete ten years of botanical illustration for the “Digging In” gardening column of the Washington Post I am more prone to remembering. Looking back on that collection of 500 plus illustrations, mostly botanical but sometimes entomological and more (after all you never quite know what you might find in your garden!) I am reminded of all the changes I myself have gone through in that time. After only a few weeks of illustrating the column from my studio in Washington D.C, my husband and I upped everything and moved to the Pacific North West. Then, within a year I became a parent for the first time giving birth to a beautiful, energetic and feisty baby girl. It has been quite a journey and all that time I never once missed a week in the gardening column.

Weekly practice of producing a botanical illustration.

Creating the botanical illustration became a welcome weekly practice for me, a ritual almost. I enjoyed the discipline of it all, most especially the quiet time I needed in order to create such detailed illustrations. For some folks it may seem like madness to use the technique of millions of tiny black dots to painstakingly record in minute botanical detail every flower stamen, leaf vein and tiny bud, but for me it was a kind of meditation.

Botanical illustration as meditation?

During that time every week I stopped, became very quiet, and immersed myself totally in the process. Sitting there bent over the drawing board I lost all sense of time. Often I would have to jump up with a start when I realized that I had to pick up my daughter from school with only five minutes to spare. Luckily we live a short walking distance from her school. I am surprised how much I miss my weekly ‘meditation’ already.

Finding an illustration style that suited black and white drawing for botanical illustration.

My illustration style changed over the years also. I started out using a simple cross hatching, seen above in my first illustration for the “Digging In” gardening columnPruning Hydrangeas. That style began to change before the first year had ended, evolving into the more detailed and time consuming illustration style of stippling.  This change was necessitated by the traditional newspaper medium itself. I discovered that the stippling worked well for botanical illustration and reproduced well in black and white print. With the stippling I was able to show more detail. This was done to help readers recognize the plant more easily.

A greeting card business and a new decade.

Usually I don’t allow myself time to stop and reflect in this way.  As soon as one botanical illustration is finished I am on to the next one, hardly stopping to draw breath.  By choosing to write this illustration blog I am forced, and happily so, to stop regularly and go inside, to remember and reflect. I realize that this is not only the start of a great new adventure for me- launching a greeting card business and illustration blog- it is also the start of a new decade for us all. Who knows where the next ten years will bring us?

Aislinn Adams

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