From the Studio: Botanical Illustration

Joanne's studio set-up for illustrating the Black-Eyed Susan for the Justice Card

An initial study in colored pencil of the Black-Eyed Susan illustration, bound for the Justice Card

Each card in The Garden Journey features an original painting of the flower or plant that represents the card in the Major Arcana with which it is linked.

The practice of botanical illustration dates back centuries - with early collections of plant drawings dating to 1450 BC being discovered in Egyptian temples at Karnak. More than simple ornament, botanical illustration serves to beautifully enrich people's understanding of the structure and character of plants.

Botanical illustration served to enrich the books known as herbals, in which scholars laid out the medicinal qualities of wild and cultivated plants around them. Images of plants also served as decoration in works like the Mira calligraphiae monumenta, a book created to illustrate technical virtuosity in calligraphy.

Elizabeth Blackwell's rendition of an iris

Elizabeth Blackwell, "Iris", 1751

A page from a manuscript showing calligraphy and botanical illustration

Joris Hoefnagel, "Love-in-a-Mist, Sweet Cherry, and Spanish Chestnut", 1591-1596

Mary Delany's exquisite cut-paper collages were created when the artist was 72 years old and gained such renown that friends and botanists began to send specimens from around the world for her to depict. French artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté gained the sobriquet “the Raphael of flowers” for his compendiums of flower paintings, including roses and lilies, which thrilled the French nobility.

Cut flower artwork of Mary Delany representing a rhododendron

Mary Delany, "Rhododendron Maximum", 1778

Two facing pages of Redouté's paintings of lilies

Pierre-Joseph Redouté, "African Lily" and "Jacobean Lily", 1802-1816

For The Garden Journey, Joanne painted 22 of these botanical illustrations in watercolor, choosing each flower as a subject for each card based on the language of flowers. Botanical illustration is often experienced as a decorative artform framed on walls or in tomes too big to hold in your hands. In The Garden Journey, however, the precise detail and expressive color of each flower and plant provides an experience as transportive to the cardholder as a solitary stroll through a garden.

Botanical illustration relies on close and careful observation of the subject - whether a flower or a lichen. Traditionally executed in watercolor, the precise matching of colors, textures, forms, and growing habits are critical for capturing the character of the subject.

One of Joanne's color charts showing the mixes of various watercolor paints

Mixing watercolor pigments to obtain the specific hues needed to depict a botanical specimen - greens are especially important!

A study of a fall gourd

A study of a fall gourd's shape and texture

For a painting like the Black-Eyed Susan which is featured on the Justice card, Joanne acquired a plant specimen so she could observe and draw from life, then carefully rendered and painted the four flowers and their leaves.

The Black-Eyed Susan within a small bud vase

The subject of the Justice card: Black-Eyed Susan

A preliminary sketch of the Black-Eyed Susan

One flower, work in progress

The final painting of the Black-Eyed Susan

The final Black-Eyed Susan painting

Along with marbling, the botanical illustrations of The Garden Journey represent the practice of centuries-old traditions for a modern audience seeking moments of delight, inspiration and clarity.