Botanical Illustration: A Bounty of Inspiration

April 1, 2022 Nick Elias

As senior graphic designer and illustrator at Denver Botanic Gardens, I have the unique and rewarding job of combining the science and art of the Gardens and presenting it to the world. If you have ever seen any of our brochures, ads, billboards or onsite displays, or received a postcard, member magazine or invitation from the Gardens, you have likely seen my work. Today, I wanted to give you a glimpse into the School of Botanical Art & Illustration (SBAI) so that you, too, can pair art with science and plants with paint. 

I have been drawing what I see and what I dream up all my life: pets and people, fantastical creatures and funny faces, still lifes and landscapes. My art is typically a playful impression of the world around us and our place within it. As such, when I first joined the Gardens in 2013, I was utterly unaware of the fascinating and detailed world of botanical illustration. It wasn’t until I met the manager of the SBAI program and resident botanist/artist/dandelion-tamer at the time, Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski, that I was encouraged to attend my first class. I have been hooked ever since.
I love learning in an entirely new art environment alongside the program’s talented instructors, my fellow illustrators, beginners and experts alike. Studying plants and specimens – whether a shallot from my garden or the Gardens’ ever-elusive corpse flower – has become a favorite pastime of mine. I have learned to appreciate the journey and the process of depicting life as much as, if not more than, the final product we typically promote within my field. 

Moreover, I have found the comradery and enthusiasm within the SBAI program to be delightfully contagious and welcoming to participants of every skill level. The past several years have afforded me the rare luxury of spending quality time with peers, plants, pens and paper—some of my very best friends!
If you have been considering taking an art class, or if you are only now discovering the world of botanical illustration, I strongly encourage you to join us at the School of Botanical Art & Illustration, where the right and left sides of your brain can truly flourish!


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