Meet Botanical Artists - the series

Posted by Michael Best on August 08, 2014 0 Comments

Meet Botanical Artists - a series of posts about and for people enjoying botanical art.

This series will feature people of diverse locations, backgrounds, ages and occupations that have one thing in common – traditional botanical art. The underlying message is that the joy of botanical art is available to absolutely anyone of any skill level. It can be as intense or as relaxed as you wish to make it. Here is another of those stories . . .


Suzanne Sanders, Calgary, Canada.

One of Suzanne’s earliest childhood memories is that of her dad taking her across the fields on their farm in Wisconsin to see a patch of wild flowers when she was around the age of three or four. When they got to the spot, she remembers being lifted up onto a log from where she could see a carpet of flowers. She believes that the huge impression that field of flowers had on her was the beginning of her life-long passion for plants. Later in elementary school she would spend hours in the wooded area near the house looking for flowers. At that early stage she already knew the different types of flowers and where and when they came up.

It was also in elementary school that she developed her interest in art as a means of giving expression to her interest in plants and flowers. Suzanne went on to earn a BA with a comprehensive art major and a teaching certificate for kindergarten through grade 12. She taught briefly in the US before moving to Canada. In the years that followed she was not an active artist but did maintain her interest in art as an avid gallery visitor and reader.

Suzanne has volunteered in the horticultural department of the Calgary Zoo for 25 years and it was there, in 2010, that her interest in painting was revived when she became aware of botanical art. She says that at that stage she was picking up a pencil every three years or so to draw a flower that she liked but was not being very successful at it. Then she saw a notice about a botanical art drawing class to take place in the Calgary Zoo’s new conservatory's state-of-the-art classroom.

The story of how she became involved in botanical art should be encouraging to others thinking about doing the same. After reading and re-reading the class description many times and at first thinking that she would not be good enough for the class, she and a friend decided that they had nothing to lose, and signed up. During the class given by Margaret Best she was pleased to find that she could draw a tulip that actually looked like a tulip. That was just the beginning. She has become a dedicated botanical artist and was instrumental in the launch of the Botanical Art Guild of Southern Alberta (‘BAGSA’) for which she still serves as convener in addition to organizing the BAGSA exhibition at the annual Waterton Wild Flower Festival.

A piece of advice from Suzanne for anyone thinking of becoming involved is to research the topic so as to understand its tradition and history of scientific accuracy, and to not confuse it with flower painting. She also recommends getting some good instruction and committing to constant practice. When not stretched by the busy summer gardening season in Calgary, she commits to a draw-a-leaf-a-day program. She says that the benefit of that is an improvement in drawing and interpretive skills because the more one draws, the more one develops an eye for proportions and sizes and the less that one has to actually measure the subject.

Suzanne says that botanical art has enhanced her enjoyment of gardening because through botanical art classes one learns to see and notice so much more of a plant. She is also through botanical art able to give expression to her passion for plants, their different parts, how they emerge in the spring and how they develop.


Here is an example of Suzanne's work - Anemone coronaria in coloured pencil . . . 



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