THESE ARE THE ARTICULATED BONES of a kiwi and a house – martin drawn in a museum using a steel pen, India ink, and water. Beginning with very pale tones, I darkened lines as each drawing progressed. With speed, I sought to capture the form, balance, and sharp, dry, weightlessness of the kiwi. I made repeated studies of the house martin to discover its mechanism of flight.
W E SHARE THIS PLANET with the more ancient, robust, infinitely vivid, and diverse kingdom of plants, on which our lives depend. We collect, nurture, and hybridize them for our sustenance and pleasure. We draw them to celebrate their beauty and range, to catalog our knowledge, and to ornament our lives.
Plants are the principal inspiration of the decorative arts—from Roman Corinthian columns crowned with carved leaves of the acanthus, to the proliferation of floral designs with which we have dressed ourselves and furnished our homes for centuries.
Botanical illustration is a precisely defined and scientific art. From its history there is one overriding lesson to be learned: the importance of looking and seeing with our own eyes. Early European illustrators were trapped within dogma that was determined by ancient scholarship. Medieval knowledge was not gained by the first-hand observation of life but by reading.
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The revolution came in the 1530s, when botanists founded new work upon the direct study of plants. Fledgling years of scientific research bore manifold explosions of knowledge in a fever of discovery. Natural scientists accompanied explorers to document unknown finds. Plants poured off ships returning from the
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