Botanical art and illustration

Botanical art and illustration classes

The beauty, movement, and form of a plant can be preserved and interpreted by an artist's inspiration and skill. Would you enjoy being that artist?  

While we do still offer classes in this certificate, as of June 2014, we are not accepting new enrollments in the Botanical Art and Illustration Certificate or Master's Studio Certificate.  If there are specific subjects you are interested in, please check out our current classes to see if we have a program that meets your needs.

View current class listings  

Botanical art and illustration certificate

Develop the knowledge and skills needed to portray plants accurately for artistic and scientific objectives. Expand your creativity and develop your ability to observe and capture the natural world in pencil, ink, watercolor, and a variety of other media. Through creative participation, you will:

  • Develop your potential as an artist
  • Master a wide range of techniques and a variety of mediums
  • Gain knowledge of illustration as a scientific tool
  • Share experiences with people of similar interests
  • Meet local, regional, national, and international art professionals


The Botanical Art & Illustration Certificate has six core courses in botanical art and three core courses in botanical science, plus three electives and a juried portfolio review. Novices will master new skills and experienced artists will acquire refined expertise.


Botanical Art & Illustration: Pencil
Learn to draw the shapes and details of plants using graphite pencil techniques. You will develop observational skills, eye-hand coordination, and an understanding of perspective.
A110. 15 hours. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall

Botanical Art & Illustration: Pen & Ink
Using pen and ink, you will learn to balance and manipulate black and white elements to create the illusion of value, depth, and texture in your botanical illustration.
Prerequisite: Botanical Art & Illustration: Pencil.
A120. 15 hours. Winter, Spring

Botanical Art & Illustration: Color Theory, Colored Pencil
Explore the nature of color, how colors impact each other and impact the viewer. Develop the vocabulary to discuss color and practice its application in the medium of colored pencil.
Prerequisite: Botanical Art & Illustration: Pencil
A215. 15 hours. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall

Botanical Scientific Illustration I
A scientific illustration instructs, informs, and documents the structure, form, and identity of a plant. In this class integrate your understanding of botany and art to produce an accurate botanical illustration suitable for publication.
Prerequisites: Botanical Art & Illustration: Pen & Ink and Introduction to Botany
A310. 18 hours. Spring

Plants in Watercolor I
Watercolor is one of the most popular mediums used to render classical botanical illustrations. Gain an understanding of the intricacies of applying watercolor, selection and care of materials, and color theory as it relates to watercolor painting.
A316. 21 hours. Fall

Portfolio Seminar
Your portfolio is the record of your growth and accomplishments in the Botanical Art Certificate. In preparation for the juried portfolio review, learn to organize and attractively display your work.
A401. 2.5 hours. Spring, Fall

Introduction to Botany
Explore the world of plants by learning how leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds, and roots relate to water, light, nutrients, and reproduction. Classes begin with presentations followed by lab sessions to observe plant structures and functions.
N234. 18 hours. Fall, Winter

Tree Identification and Ecology
Deepen your understanding of the trees you see every day. You will examine 70 - 80 trees, studying leaves, fruit, bark, and tree silhouettes to learn the skills to identify them while developing an understanding of their habitats and ecology.
N242. 16 hours. Summer, Fall

Local Flora: Spring, Summer, or Fall.
Learn to identify plants in the Arboretum's meadow prairie, savanna, and wetlands.
N315, N316, N317. 15 hours. Spring, Summer, Fall


Elective courses change from season to season, expanding the certificate with new information and responding to student evaluations and requests. Forty-five hours of enrichment courses are needed to complete the certificate.


Apply for a portfolio evaluation once you’ve completed all your coursework. The portfolio requirements (subject to modification) include:

1.   One illustration, developed during the required art classes, in each of the following:

  • Simple line drawing in pencil
  • Continuous tone drawing
  • Pen and Ink illustration
  • Colored pencil drawing
  • Watercolor painting

2.   A classical plate from A310; Botanical Illustration showing the following:

  • Plant identifiable to genus and species
  • Full branch showing habit of growth
  • Flower and/or fruit
  • Cross section of fruit and/or flower
  • Scale of all parts to be noted
  • Habitat is encouraged, but not essential.

3.   Three illustrations from three enrichment courses of your choice

4.   One sketchbook (+/- 100 pages) to have been kept from the start of the program

This is the minimum number of pieces you are expected to have in your portfolio. More is better! By including most of your work the jury will have a better idea of how your style has evolved over the courses. A student with an unsatisfactory evaluation may revise the portfolio and request a second review.


Please contact the Registrars' Office at Registrar-ed@mortonarb.org or 630-719-2468 to enroll in the Botanical Art & Illustration Certificate Program. 


Master's Studio Certificate 

Polish your botanical art & Illustration technique in the Master’s Studio Certificate. Grow as an individual and refine your personal artistic style. This certificate is designed for advanced students who have completed the core classes in pencil, colored pencil, watercolor I, and pen & ink from the Botanical Art & Illustration Certificate. It has 120 hours of coursework. Students must submit a portfolio of recent work for review.


Classes will be offered in a wide variety of mediums and techniques, moving beyond traditional scientific illustration. Two Visiting Artist workshops may be applied to the certificate. A portfolio review and art exhibit will complete your certificate. Master’s Studio classes may count as electives towards the Botanical Art Certificate or the Master's Studio Certificate but not both.


Please contact the Registrars' Office at Registrar-ed@mortonarb.org or 630-719-2468 to enroll in the Master's Studio Certificate Program. 


Nature Artists' Guide (NAG)

The Nature Artists' Guild of The Morton Arboretum (NAG) is a special interest group of the Arboretum. The Guild is a not-for-profit organization, developed to gather together people of like interests to explore and share more deeply the field of natural history art.

There are six formal meetings annually: the first Thursday of February, April, June, August, October, and December, from 7-9 p.m., at The Morton Arboretum.

Guild membership entitles members to receive publications such as the Nature Artist Quarterly, which includes educational and informative articles as well as photos of members' art work; the Nature Artists' Guild Bulletin, a newsletter which comes out every two or three months and is an update of activities members can participate in including current news of exhibits of interest; and the Yearbook, which contains the year's calendar and directory.

A spring and fall exhibit are held at The Morton Arboretum each year. Viewing the exhibit is free; however, non-members of The Morton Arboretum will pay a Gatehouse Fee for admittance to the grounds.

Membership is open to all who are interested in natural history art. It is separate from an Arboretum membership. To join, send your check for $45.00 annual dues, payable to the Nature Artists' Guild, to:

Attn: Nature Artists' Guild
The Morton Arboretum
4100 Illinois Route 53
Lisle, Illinois 60532

Any other inquiries about the Guild may be sent to the same address.

For the latest information and events, please visit the Nature Artists' Guild website at natureartistsguild.com.