Hi. I’m Wendy Hollender.
I’ve always loved botanical illustrations. I would stare at exquisite plant “portraits” and wonder, How did the artist do that?! How does that flower or fruit look so real, so vibrant, so three-dimensional, so colorful, and detailed? The tradition of botanical illustration continues to this day, and I am thrilled that I am able to make it my life’s work.
I have been a botanical illustrator since 2001, and my medium of choice is drawing with colored pencils and watercolors combined. Everyone who has seen my work thinks I always knew how to draw. Drawing is something I love to do, but it wasn’t always that way. In high school I loved crafts, color, and doodling, but I was never one of those people that could draw realistically. I loved art and did go to college at a top art school, but I didn’t know how to draw. Life drawing class was required as a college student, and I was overwhelmed. I did not understand perspective, how to create light and shadows, and how to render three dimensional form on a two dimensional piece of paper. I was surrounded by talented artists, most of whom knew how to draw their whole lives. The instructors taught at their level, and I was embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what they were talking about. I was frustrated and figured I just didn’t have the talent for realistic drawing. It was only when I started to study the techniques of botanical illustration many years later, that I finally found a way to unlock the secrets of drawing with colored pencils.
Are you one of those people that has the desire to draw with colored pencils and loves botanical art, but you don’t think you have the talent to learn these techniques? I know from my own experience and years now of teaching others, that if you want to learn and are willing to put in the time, I can show you how.
I finally learned botanical drawing after college when I became a textile designer and studied botanical illustrations closely, for reference in creating realistic floral designs. I could copy an old document or even a photograph of a flower, but whenever I tried to use a live flower as a model, I was frustrated with the results. I loved nature and wanted to capture some of its beauty in my work. I wanted to work from live plants.
I got out my watercolors and started to paint flowers. I kept a journal of the watercolor sketches of wildflowers I drew on walks in the country. I have these journals to this day, but try as I did, they were not “botanical” enough. I had captured pretty colors, and clearly rendered identifiable flowers, but they lacked the depth, detail, and realism that I noticed in historic botanical illustrations. They all had similar characteristics, regardless of the artist. There seemed to be a tradition, a series of techniques, that they all seemed to follow. They all must have gone to the same school, I thought, and if so, I wanted to go there, too! I was fortunate to find a program for studying botanical illustration practically in my own backyard—in New York City at the New York Botanical Garden. I studied there for many years and traveled across the United States and Europe to learn these techniques as well.
I consider the introduction to the techniques of botanical drawing with colored pencils a gift in my life, and it is my passion to share it with you. I have three published books and many of my illustrations appear in established publications. I have taught workshops to thousands of students from all over the world.
I launched an online program, The Practice of Botanical Drawing, in January 2015 that allows students to continue to draw during their busy lives on a regular basis. The student response and their botanical illustrations exceeded my wildest dreams. The progress and work is exquisite and it has been a life-changing experience for many of the students.
As a follow up to that program, I have designed a Botanical Basics course. It is designed for the student that has little free time but still wants to learn about drawing botanical illustrations with colored pencils. This “slow drawing” course allows you to draw in small manageable chunks of time, about 30 minutes per session. Step by step, I will reveal the secrets of drawing plants, at a relaxed pace that will give you the opportunity to absorb the skills and develop the confidence to draw.
Observing nature’s quiet beauty, structure, and color is a wonderful way to learn to draw and to experience nature at the same time. Plants can be used to learn drawing in a systematic way, which avoids the confusion I had experienced in life drawing class.
The discipline of drawing botanical illustrations with colored pencils encompassed a series of techniques that should be practiced over and over again. I think they are easier to learn by practicing drawing techniques and using colored pencil rather than working in watercolor in the beginning. The materials I recommend are portable and simple; making this a stress-free way to work.
The community aspect of this program is a great motivator.
We encourage you to post your work, view other student’s work and get involved in the discussion around the lessons. Eventually you can have your own gallery page.
We host a monthly webinar meeting for everyone to attend. It is a virtual classroom critique of the month’s work, and everyone loves participating and getting real time feedback.
If you choose to join me and participate in these online courses, you will be rewarded with an experience unlike any other—for if you slow down and practice these techniques, not only will you learn to draw, but you will experience a close and personal relationship with the cycle of life, exploring plants and flowers on a micro level, almost the way an insect does.
Through drawing botanical illustrations with colored pencils, you will experience the relaxing and meditative quality of drawing from nature. I am here to help you make drawing a practice that becomes habit!
I encourage you to give it a try!
WENDY HOLLENDER is a botanical artist, illustrator, author, and instructor. Hollender’s illustrations have been published in The New York Times, “O,” The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, Sunset Magazine, The Observer (UK) and in a large advertising campaign for the National Peanut Board. Her work was included in the 13th International Exhibition at Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, and in exhibitions at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and the Smithsonian National Museum for Natural History. The US Botanic Garden exhibited a group of Wendy’s art on roots called Illustrating Hidden Treasures in the fall of 2015. She is the author of BOTANICAL DRAWING IN COLOR: A Basic Guide To Mastering Realistic Form And Naturalistic Color and BOTANICAL DRAWING, A BEGINNER’S GUIDE. Her newest book is written by Dina Falconi and illustrated by Wendy called Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook which has won two gold medals to date.
Wendy is an instructor of Botanical Art and Illustration at the New York Botanical Garden and leads workshops in exotic locations such as Hawaii, many nature preserves, botanical gardens, arts centers and colleges around the country. She recently started a highly successful online botanical drawing program: DrawBotanical.com. She is a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Florilegium Society and the National Tropical Botanical Garden Florilegium Project.
In 1976 Wendy graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and became a home furnishing textile designer. She began a career in botanical illustration after completing a certificate at the New York Botanical Garden in 1998. In 2009 she moved from Manhattan to a farm in the Hudson Valley so she could live among the plants she documents in her work.
To see Wendy’s Botanical Art and Illustrations go here: www.drawingincolor.com