Exploring the World of Botanical Art at the UC Botanical Garden in Berkeley

Catherine Dellor’s ‘Purple Onion’ in watercolor is on display in the garden until Feb. 6.
A side of the room with wooden walls (of Julia Morgan Hall) has framed botanical illustrations. Each one has a card with information about the subject of nature.
An expansive view of botanical illustrations in Berkeley. The view of the garden through beckons a stroll along the pathways of the garden.

I made the trip to the Botanical Garden at UC Berkeley to meet a long-time friend’s sister, Catherine Dellor, whose work was being displayed at their “Plants Illustrated Exhibition”. A mutual friend of ours suggested I might appreciate what the artists produce- how lifelike they are, and she was right! Who are these artists? They’re members of the Northern California Society of Botanical Artists & their theme is plants & people for this special exhibition and tenth anniversary. It’s running through Feb. 6. For twenty dollars I got admission and two hours of parking.


https://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu/green-stuff
This is a good site to bookmark if you want to discover something new or learn more about a garden-related interest. It’s an ideal place to wander around and to shop for a plant or other garden-themed items. This is the view approaching the Julia Morgan Hall on the right. Areas are well-marked and the grounds are well-groomed.

TOP- Approaching the exhibit at Julia Morgan Hall (on the right) & BOTTOM- A colorful & serence walk over a bridge on the way to the meeting room.

I talked to two volunteers working at the exhibit (one took over for the other). Catherine, who I intended to introduce myself to, was in a board meeting on the grounds. Board members have the job of promoting the field of botanical illustration locally. This well-planned exhibit was titled Ethnobotany. It featured drawings of various plants & trees that we use or were used by California’s Native Americans for diets, spices, and for the general enjoyment of flowers and nature. These are highly-detailed drawings that capture all aspects of the segment of the living botanical specimans they represent. Each has a write-up about it that includes the scientific name of the plant.

I asked Walter what someone could hope to gain from the upcoming class, “An introduction to Botanical Arts.” After thirty years of being a scientific illustrator, he used drawing for his work at the UC Lab for fifteen years. He’s taken the course two or three times. He told me he found it enhanced his
drawing skills. He considered the course to have practical and straight forward teaching- even novices made progress. He recommended it for all levels of students. He added, “Catherine is a wonderful teacher. She has a calm demeanor, and the class is meditative.”

The teacher he was referring to is Catherine Watters, the artist of this watercolor titled Sugarcane. A number of illustrations weren’t for sale; artists make cards, and the like, using them.

Catherine Watters ‘Sugarcane’ in watercolor. She teaches classes at the garden.


Mary Ellen volunteers at the garden and for a non-profit in Sonoma.

Mary Ellen filled me in on the world of botanical illustrators. She’s retired from her career in film production & marketing. She spoke of the web of the field that includes: circles, chapters & schools. The UC Berkeley chapter has at least two-hundred members. These off-shoots of the American Society of Botanical Artists attract people from around the world. This year they’ll meet in Pittsburg, PA. https://www.asba-art.org/ 

I asked her what she considered the benefits of the drawing used by the artists and learned in the courses. Mary Ellen answered,

“It challenges you to draw what you really see. It’s another way to appreciate nature & to draw others into it. My main interest is as a natural-ist rather than as an artist.”

Mary Ellen has taken classes as well. She studied with Sarah Simblet of Oxford one summer. Simblet is a well-know illustrator of plants and anatomy. Mary Ellen talked about the continuum of botanical illustrations- from scientific to more artistic pieces. Artists use wash, traditional watercolors & colored pencils. She added that many get involved in botanical illustration to get in touch with nature; it allows you to discover nature’s complexity.

Catherine Dellor told me about her struggle with a hole in her art paper creating her watercolor of the purple onion. Her struggle was frustrating yet all the more rewarding to learn it was cover-page marketing material. Catherine’s website is linked for your viewing. Her purple onion was for sale at the time of my exhibit visit. http://www.floradellor.com/

Gloria of HashtagFOMO with artist Catherine Dellor at the UC Botanical Garden in Berkeley, CA.

 

 

 

 

 

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