I have been offered numerous commissions for drawing botanical illustrations. Each year I seem to get more and more inquires to do these commissions. I am not sure the reason why more work comes my way. It may be because more people know my work, my visibility via the internet. I think there is also a growing interest in using botanical illustrations and images of the natural world for commercial purposes.
My rules for taking a commission are as follows:
Most importantly, a client should want to hire me because they love my style in my art. If I am asked to copy someone else’s drawing style, that is a huge red flag. I know from experience this never goes well. I love to choose projects that I believe in; ones that further the education and knowledge of the plant world. Commercial commissions that use botanical illustrations on a product or for advertising usually pay the most. If an illustration is used in a publication, the more prestigious it is, the smaller the fees. I appreciate projects that offer an opportunity for me to learn more about plants, such as working alongside botanists. Often illustration projects for scientific purposes have small budgets. If you plan to draw botanical illustrations for commission, consider the visibility a project might give you and whether or not it will come with a credit line.
It is important to communicate well and often with the client and to develop an understanding of the design process. I like to show them sketches at every stage of development. I get approval along the way before adding in color and details to make sure we are on the same page.
Here is an example of a project where I shared preliminary sketches with the client and we worked through the design stages together to arrive at the finished product:
Over the years I have worked for The New York Times, The Observer (published in London), and many magazines.(View more of this work here.) I have done labels for wineries, food products, herbalists, Restoration Hardware, Juliska, and Rockflowerpaper (see more of my commissioned work here). One of my most unusual requests was to paint a mural at a villa near Florence. This request came after the client saw the walls in a restaurant I had painted called Cesca in New York City. I painted the restaurant walls to look like old frescos actually inspired by one of the earliest botanical frescos created. I had never painted walls before, but the chef of the restaurant saw my botanical paintings and asked me to paint the restaurant walls. It was challenging but really fun to do.
My earliest botanical project was a calendar I created for Riverside Park in NYC. I created botanicals for each month of the year based on the plants blooming in the park that was turned into a calendar, scarves, men’s ties, and notecards for them to use for donors. I presented them with the idea and launched my career as a botanical illustrator at the same time.
I have also done commissions that print my drawings on dinnerware, decorative trays, and linens (see them here). For me, that is coming full circle– I first became interested in drawing botanical illustration when I was a textile designer, and I used old botanical prints as reference. Now I create the botanical illustrations that are used today!