When you combine a love of plants and flowers with a passion for drawing, a botanical illustrator is born. This technical artist spends her workday sketching and painting flora in minute detail -- from the tiniest vein to the most colorful blossom. To work as a successful illustrator in this industry, you need detailed knowledge of plant anatomy as well as keen artistic talent. It's not an easy job, but if you nail it, you might land a job working for a textbook publisher, catalog company or museum.
Imagine landing a job as a scientific illustrator at a national museum or as a principal illustrator at a famous botanical garden. This is what an advanced degree in botany, art or both might yield. To achieve this milestone, you must typically pay your dues and work your way up through the ranks. You might begin working as a simple scientific illustrator for a government agency such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture or Fish and Game Department, and from there advance to university or national museum level.
Community colleges, universities and local museums hire botanical illustrators to conduct classes and workshops that clarify the genre. If this sounds like a job you'd enjoy, check with the colleges and universities in your area. To teach even at some community colleges, you'll need a master's degree at minimum. To teach the art of botanical illustration, a degree in botany or art is recommended. Botanical illustrators who teach and lecture might do so in a classroom setting or on-site at a botanical garden -- leading a workshop for interested members of the community.
Commercial illustrators design greeting cards, gift wrap, catalogs, logos, textbooks, postage stamps, brochures, magazines, websites, gardening journals and more. They work for ad agencies, newspaper and periodical publishers, seed companies, stationery houses and government agencies. If you choose this career route, you could spend your days illustrating product samples in an office setting.
Freelancing is another viable option if you're trying to earn a full-time income as a botanical artist. Invest in a website or set up a vendor booth at a local craft, antique or flea market that offers your original paintings and prints. Solicit local shop owners to carry your art in the forms of post and greeting cards. Network at local banquets, community events and museum functions. Donate a piece of original artwork to a charity raffle with the requirement that your name be featured in the brochure and in the advertising.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Craft and Fine Artists
- Bloomberg Business Week: Breaking Into the Greeting Card Business
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: Catalog of Botanical Illustrations
- California Community College Registry: Minimum Qualifications for California Community Colleges
- National Tropical Botanical Garden: Lectures and Workshops
- Incredible Art Department: Illustration
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images