An Online Program

Are you an art student or naturalist looking to develop your skills in drawing or painting plants? In our Botanical Art Fundamentals Program, you’ll explore the relationship between nature and art through beginning and intermediate art classes and introductory botany courses with a focus on plants native to the southeastern United States.

After completing this program, you will:

  • Have a foundational knowledge of art and drawing from life
  • Be familiar with various art media
  • Feel confident in creating a visual nature journal based on your observations of the natural world
  • Have an understanding of the botany of the native plants of the southeastern U.S. as a foundation for accurate botanical representation

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Program Background
Standards for Credit
Program Registration
Track Your Progress
Continuing Your Studies

Program Background

The goal of the Botanical Art Fundamentals Program is to provide lovers of nature and art with a beginning experience exploring a field where science and art intersect, botanical art focusing on native plants.

The constant interplay between art and science appeals to many students in the NCBG botanical art programs. Renderings of plants are grouped into three main genres: botanical illustration, botanical art, and floral art. The first two can be said to exist along a continuum rather than in separate camps, because both botanical illustrators and botanical artists are challenged with trying to integrate the utilitarian, scientific function of an image (identification, education, information) with aesthetic and visual considerations.

For the Botanical Art Fundamentals Program and the Garden’s Certificate in Botanical Art & Illustration program, botanical art and illustration have been teased apart to help clarify the differences between the two. Most works created by botanical artists and illustrators include some aspects of each.

In brief, scientific botanical illustrations are usually created to accompany descriptive texts such as journal articles, textbooks, field guides, and popular magazines, where the image functions primarily to provide information and educate the viewer. Accuracy of form, color, and size is imperative, because both professionals and novices need to be able to identify the plant or plant parts from the illustration. The plant is traditionally drawn to scale so that all the parts correctly relate to one another in size.

In botanical art, more emphasis may be placed on aesthetic considerations, and the artist has more freedom to make personal visual choices, to draw the viewer in and evoke an emotional response. Although the plant parts in the image may be arranged more pleasingly for compositional reasons, the draftsmanship and final artistic representation must remain true to the character and growth habit of the plant. In botanical art the plant traditionally is still drawn to scale, and a botanical professional examining the image should be able to identify the species and find no anatomical inaccuracies.

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Classes are taught by North Carolina art professionals and botany professionals. The program can be completed entirely online, but you may opt to take classes in-person as well. To complete the program, you must receive a rating of “Credit” in each of six core courses and three elective courses. The program is designed to be completed in a 1.5 to 2 year period.

Our instructors bring to each course a style, technique, and theory that differs from classes taken elsewhere. Due to the unique scientific illustration approach of this program, we do not offer credit for related courses taken at another institution or university. Every NCBG course you complete is a valuable learning experience.

You’ll find course descriptions, instructor bios, a list of art suppliers, and more in the Certificate in Botanical Art & Illustration Handbook.

Core Courses (Six)

Beginning Drawing
Composition: The Bones of the Painting
Botany for the Artist
Botanical Sketchbook
Flowering Plant Families

Electives (Choose Three)

Beginning Colored Pencil
Beginning Watercolor
Intermediate Drawing
Intermediate Colored Pencil
Intermediate Watercolor (Traditional or Expressive)

Up to one (1) elective course only can be selected from the media exploration topics below
Botanicals in Watercolor, Colored Pencil, and Pen and Ink
Pen and Ink

Sample Course Sequence

Year 1 Year 1
Beginning Drawing (Core)
Beginning Watercolor (Elective)
Botany (Core)
Composition (Core)
Flowering Plant Families (Core)
Botany for the Artist (Core)
Year 2
Botanical Sketchbook (Core)
Intermediate Expressive Watercolor (Elective)
Pen and Ink (Elective)

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Standards for Credit

All art class assignments and homework will be graded on these three criteria:

  • Accuracy—the accurate identification and depiction of botanical structures and plant habits.
  • Draftsmanship—the depiction of fine detail and the illusion of three-dimensionality created through accurate and effective use of line, color, value (in both black-and-white and color work), competent media application, as well as aerial and linear perspective.
  • Artistic Sensitivity—the development and implementation of basic visual arts concepts as applied to botanical illustration. You will be evaluated on the development of your own personal creative style and ability to convey the character and personality of a plant artistically through sensitive compositional choices, textural rendering, and color temperature.

You may not miss more than one class per course. For each course completed, you will receive a rating of Credit, Incomplete, or No Credit from the instructor. If you receive an Incomplete, you will not be assigned a rating in your Program transcript and cannot progress until you complete therequired assignments. If you receive a No Credit, you cannot progress to a higher-level course (and may wish to retake the course) until you have achieved a satisfactory level of proficiency. Final grades are issued within 30 days of the last day of class.

Attendance Policy

To obtain credit for a course, you may be absent for no more than one class session and must complete the homework assignments for the missed class. If extenuating circumstances require additional absences, allowances can be made at the discretion of the director of education in consultation with the course instructor.

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Program Registration

To join the Botanical Art Fundamentals Program, there is a non-refundable enrollment fee of $50 that supports administrative costs for a three-year period. After three years in the program, an additional $25 annual administrative fee will be charged in October to continue enrollment in the Fundamentals program through September of the following year. (This fee does not apply after program completion or upon withdrawal from the program.)

Students must be at least 18 years of age to register for the program.

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Registering for Classes

Once you’re registered for the Botanical art Fundamentals Program, you’ll receive advanced access to class registration, sent by email. Class registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. We recommend you register at least three weeks before the start of a course.

Maximum enrollment for most courses is 12. Minimum enrollment is five for core courses and seven for elective courses. If a course is full, additional registrants will be placed on a waitlist. Prior to the start of each course, you will be notified of any supportive materials you’ll need to purchase.

Quick Links

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Track your Progress

You can track your progress through the Botanical Art Fundamentals Program through your transcript in the Learning Stream registration system.

To view your transcript, log in to Learning Stream here and click the tab for “Continuing Education”:

For questions regarding your transcript, please contact:

NCBG Program & Engagement Coordinator
David Michaud

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Continuing Your Studies in Botanical Art or Native Plants

Based on your experience in this program, you might find you have a strong interest for a deeper exploration/study of botanical art/illustration and/or native plants. The North Carolina Botanical Garden offers in-depth Certificate programs on both topics as follows:

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Title illustration: Trout Lilies by Miriam Sagasti.