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BUDDING ARTISTS ILLUSTRATORS CAN BLOOM AT ARBORETUM.

Byline: Pam Waterman Correspondent

From a distance, botanical illustrations look almost like photographs. But as you approach, you see they are artistic representations of flowering plants.

The ancient art form dates back to Greek and Roman days. Combining scientific precision and detail with fine art, botanical illustrators bring a realistic beauty to their studies of plants, flowers and vegetables.

Just as other art forms wax and wane in popularity, so has the art of botanical illustration, now a popular subject of study all over Southern California. Classes are full of new converts who hope to learn how to create lovely pictures of flowers, plants and vegetables. Students gather weekly in classes at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Garden in Arcadia.

Beginning botanical illustrators need to be careful observers of nature. Only after the flower has been studied should artists begin drawing.

To bring life to the illustrations, watercolors are added. The key to creating a beautiful three-dimensional form is in the painstaking representation of light and shadow.

The logical place to begin studying botanical illustration is in a drawing class. Arboretum instructor Olga Eysymontt teaches beginning students how to use their materials, usually pencils, and how to learn the all-important skill of close observation. A second six-week class emphasizes plant structure. Then students move to classes using color pencil or watercolor.

Eysymontt's work has been exhibited in New York, Denver, St. Louis and Los Angeles. Her students travel the freeways all the way from Riverside, Newport Beach and Chatsworth to attend her classes.

A workshop for more experienced illustrators is offered on Mondays at the Arboretum. The workshop is self-directed, with no official instructor. It offers an encouraging and supportive environment for self-starters who have learned the basics and continue to learn from each other.

Gilly Shaeffer, a Los Angeles botanical artist who began her career in Eysymontt's classes, is the president of the Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California.

``I love flowers and beautiful gardens,'' Shaeffer said. ``The intricate beauty of flowers close up inspired me more than any other subject I could paint.''

In 1994, Shaeffer began the serious study of botanical illustration, using her art background as a springboard. She has had her work exhibited in Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania and the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., as well as in private collections across the United States.

Would-be purchasers of botanical art might suffer sticker shock when they see the prices. At the recent Botanical Art Exhibit in Arcadia, the cost for an original drawing began at $250 and rose to $2,500. But like a beautiful handmade rug, a botanical drawing takes many hours of labor. Some artists devote a month or more to a single drawing. A single painting might take as many as 200 hours to complete.

If prices for original drawings are too high for your budget, start with reproductions. Many artists offer prints of their favorite work. Small prints sell for about $25, and larger prints start at $75. They are usually available at the botanical art exhibitions that are held regularly in such venues as the Arboretum and the Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley.

Or better yet, join a drawing class and take the first steps toward becoming a botanical artist. New classes are now forming at the Arboretum for both beginners and students who have an art background.

Sharpen your pencil

Several classes and workshops are scheduled throughout the year at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, 301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia.

To register, call Jill Perry at (626) 821-4624

Upcoming classes:

--Refining Your Botanical Painting, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 10-14. $560.

--Botanical Illustration II: Drawing Plants, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Nov. 12-Dec. 17. $140.

--Botanical Illustration: Composition, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 6. $75.

--Wildlife Painting, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Jan. 7-9. $336.

--Botanical Drawing on Toned Paper, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Jan. 10-11. $224.

Olga Eysymontt also teaches botanical drawing on weekends at the Arboretum through the Otis College of Art and Design Evening College. (310) 665-6850 or (800) 527-6847.

CAPTION(S):

2 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- 2) Instructor Olga Eysymontt's Magnolia grandiflora, above. Gilly Shaeffer, below, works on an illustration at the Arboretum.

Olga Eysymontt

Pam Waterman

Box:

Sharpen your pencil (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 1, 2003
Words:736
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