Exhausted but proud

Pencil drawing of a branch of Sorbus americana by Wren M. Allen. Botanical illustration of American mountain ash,.

The leafy branch exercise. The parking lot at a local supermarket has a lot of these trees with bright orange berries. It’s probably Sorbus americana, or American mountain ash.

Yesterday I uploaded the last files for the Drawing Fundamentals module of the RBGE Distance Diploma course, 3 hours ahead of the deadline. Each of the exercises in the module provided a progressive challenge to skills and creative approaches. Even though the instructor is sure to point out many details and techniques for improvement, I’m quite pleased with how well many of the pieces have turned out.

Completing the 15 drawings to spec was a real challenge–and not just technically. An important skill for this course is time management, and I’m not afraid to admit I seriously have some growth to do in that area!

The first 9 pieces took 6 weeks. The last 6 took two. Talk about a time crunch!

I never want to work under those stressful conditions again. Surviving, thriving and succeeding on this course requires a sustainability mindset similar to training for a marathon.

Training for the 2002 Houston Marathon taught me 2 lessons:

  • Consistent, less intense training sessions add up over time.
  • You can skip 1 or 2 weekly long runs over the 16-week training period, but more than that will cost you the chance to finish the race.

So what is sustainability training for a botanical artist? The painting module starts at the end of the month. That gives me time to practice some new work habits while progressing on my native tree and botany modules. Oh yeah, and get caught up on housework!

My big news: Studying botanical illustration with the RBGE

Botanical art pencil drawing of a dying tulip, by Wren M Allen

This detail of a pencil drawing was part of my application portfolio to the RBGE program


In April, I received notice from the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh that I was accepted into their long-distance diploma program in botanical illustration!

The program began on June 22, and there are about 15 of us botanical ladies enrolled. Most are British, but there are students from Thailand, Japan, Turkey, the Netherlands, Canada, and 3 of us Yankees. So quite a good representation of the world’s botanical illustration community!

The course will take 3 years to complete. It consists of 10 modules, including drawing and painting techniques, botany and art history units, and 2 long-term portfolio projects–a 2-year study of an individual native tree, and the year-long final graduation portfolio project. Acceptance to the final year is based on passing the earlier modules with a high enough score and having one’s project proposal accepted by the tutors.

So far, I’ve been researching my native tree, and working on the introductory drawing module. As someone who is a colorist rather than a line-artist, this has been quite a challenge!

What’s it like to take a long-distance course in botanical illustration? How did I select the Royal Botanical Garden of Edinburgh’s program? Why would a botanical artist want to take an online distance diploma?

Please join me in the months ahead as I’ll be sending back “reports from the field” to answer these questions and share my progress! 🙂


Some big changes afoot in my life

Just a quick update to let you know that there are some exciting events occuring over here in my little corner of the Land of Enchantment!

I’ll be making an official announcement this week or next, once some details are finalized.

In the meantime, it’s back to physical rehab and stuccoing walls and roofs.

Até prossimo! xo


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