Live art demos planned at Philadelphia Flower Show March 1-9

February 18, 2014
"Crown Imperial" frittilaria by Joan Frain.

At the Philadelphia Flower Show, artists of the Philadelphia Society of Botanical Illustrators will give live demonstrations of botanical art from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., March 1-9, in the Grand Hall. The overall theme for this year’s show, Articulture, is synonymous with botanical art since it combines the beauty of fine art with the reality of horticulture.

There also will be an exhibit of nearly 50 of the group’s botanical paintings. The subjects range from delicate hellebores to monster sugar pine cones. They are all lovingly depicted, usually in watercolor but sometimes in colored pencil or even oils. They have been selected by three judges: a biologist, an artist and a horticulturist.

Botanical artists believe that the only way to really know a plant is to paint it. To paint it correctly, one must appreciate how it unfolds as it grows, how it lures in the insects that pollinate its flowers, how it bears fruit and dies. The process requires botanical knowledge combined with painting skill. It needs patience and fortitude: one painting can take months to complete… sometimes with a one-hair brush used under a magnifying glass. But the result is art that lasts through the ages.

Botanical art has a long history dating from the Egyptians. The early concern was to identify plants useful as herbs and to avoid poisoning the patient. A shift came with the early explorers who took botanical artists with them to record the flora of new lands. Another shift came in the 18th century when the artist Redoute showed the beauty of the roses in the Empress Josephine’s garden. Today, the botanical artist is not only recording plants and flowers, but celebrating the wonder and beauty of nature.

PSBI is the local organization of more than 75 botanical artists in the Philadelphia area. Many of them teach other aspiring artists, including a joint art program with Arcadia University for teenagers in the Philadelphia public school system. Providing such a program has been an outreach of the PSBI for more than 10 years, starting at the Fleisher Art Memorial.

PSBI pays the instructors, and purchases and gives basic art materials to these young people who come from areas of the city where there is limited, if any, art instruction. The intent is to encourage students to learn the fundamentals of scientific and botanical illustration for possible careers and for their own enjoyment.

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The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society'sPhiladelphia Flower Show takes place at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 12th and Arch streets, Philadelphia, Pa. Go to for more information.