Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Botanical Illustration: Science and Visual Communication

You can find Alice Tangerini's drawings in a museum but it wouldn't be an art museum.

It's not the kind of drawing you would show in a New York art gallery or art museum so it might be more accurate to refer to Alice Tangerini's work as scientific illustration. In her case, more specifically, botanical illustration (right). She is one of the best in the world at what she does. She says she sometimes has to hold her breath while drawing because the detail is so delicate.

Scientific illustration is a perfect field for those who like to draw and paint and also love science. Scientific illustrators have to know a lot about science and have highly developed skills of observation and representation.

Alice Tangerini (left) has served as staff illustrator in the Department of Botany at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, since 1972. Her duties at the Smithsonian, aside from illustrating, include managing and curating the collection of botanical art in the Botany Department.

She is a member of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators and organized its first annual meeting in 1979 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has participated in numerous GNSI exhibits and given many lectures and workshops in botanical illustration, specializing in black-and-white techniques. She has taught at Montgomery College, in Maryland; Virginia Commonwealth University, Corcoran School of Art, in Washington, D.C.; the Desert Botanical Garden, in Phoenix, Arizona; and the Smithsonian Resident Associates Program.

Click on the heading above to listen to an NPR interview with Alice Tangerini.

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