Mt Cuba Center
Mt Cuba Center
Back to News Updates – October 28, 2020


Dig Deeper into Nature with Botanical Art

Getting up close and personal with the details of a plant isn’t just for horticulturists. Artists, also learn about their subjects in a deep and profound way by exploring the many details of a plant.

Imagine getting to learn how to paint or draw the natural world in the “virtual” company of friends. It’s possible in an upcoming class, Botanical Art: Guided Studio time, with artist Margaret Saylor. This five-week class begins Thursday, November 12 from 10 am to noon, and explores a variety of techniques and mediums with individualized direction. Interested in registering or want to learn more? Keep reading to hear what instructor, Margaret Saylor, tells us about this creative class.


Mt. Cuba Center: You were awarded a Certificate in Botanical Art & Illustration from The New York Botanical Garden. What initially attracted you to the program and to botanical art in general?

Margaret Saylor: I happened upon a New York Botanic Garden catalog and a few class titles jumped out at me; Painting Greens in Leaves, Orchid Morphology, Drawing Wild Mushrooms. I couldn’t believe there were classes like this! Something clicked and I made the decision to enroll in the program to see where it would lead me. Botanical art combines many of the things I love; drawing, observation, color, painting, and deep appreciation for the natural world. I’ve always drawn and painted, but this felt more purposeful for some reason. We paint what we love.

Mt. Cuba Center: Do you have a favorite thing to paint in the natural world?

Margaret Saylor: Mushrooms and fungi, with side forays into moss! Who knows why? Sometimes a subject just resonates. The artist becomes better at portraying it accurately and artistically and with greater confidence. Then you can expand your horizons and branch out. Perhaps taking your work to a higher level or in a different direction entirely. I try not to remain stagnant and am always looking for new and interesting ways to capture the spirit of a plant or fungi and present it to the viewer so they can learn about it, too.

Mt. Cuba Center: This class allows students to explore various art materials. What’s your preferred medium?

Margaret Saylor: I suppose my favorite would be watercolor on vellum. I love to draw and applying watercolor to vellum using the dry brush technique is very much like drawing with a brush. Choosing a unique piece of vellum, the building of colors and form, and then adding in the tiniest of details are all very satisfying. Recently, I’ve started working with egg tempera as a botanical art medium. I really love the idea of making my own paint and having a long-term painting on the table. This is not art for the impatient, I’m afraid!

Mt. Cuba Center: What’s your favorite thing about teaching art to others?

Margaret Saylor:  It is very satisfying when a student can find that perfect pairing of media and substrate for them and then they make beautiful botanical art. Many students come to botanical art later in life; they’ve retired or perhaps are finding time for themselves after raising a family. They are eager to learn and try things they may have thought beyond their ability. I love presenting them with techniques and showing them how to see the plant and draw it, and then seeing what they can do. The most rewarding moment is when someone says, I’ve never noticed all these details in a plant before…and I can’t stop looking at it!

Mt. Cuba Center: What would you say to a beginner in the botanical art world that may be hesitant about joining the class due to their experience? 

Margaret Saylor: My classes are for all levels. Everyone starts somewhere. I’ve taught students who are abstract painters but aren’t quite sure about the scientific drawing aspect of botanical art. I’ve had students who want to improve their already strong botanical art skills or try a new way of painting. And there are class members who love the camaraderie and social aspect, even online, that a class offers. It’s fun to be part of a group of like-minded artist friends. Because no one understands why we paint what we do like another botanical artist.

Botanical Art: Guided Studio Time (Online) with instructor Margaret Saylor takes place Thursday, November 12, 19, December 3, 10 & 17 from 10 am – noon. Register today!