Simplified Plant Illustration


Anna Barber, Simplified Plant Illustration

Ben Calhoun, Simplified Plant Illustration

Meredith Guinn, Simplified Plant Illustration

Nolie Ray, Simplified Plant Illustration

Duration: 3 weeks
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Project Brief

Simplified Plant Illustration: Starting from a research database of local flora, choose a plant, develop sketches from reference photos, then use one of those sketches to create an original digital illustration in a vector drawing program (Adobe Illustrator), limited to two CMYK colors plus black.

Learning Objectives

Introduce an authoritative visual resource as opposed to casual online keyword search, experience sketching as a visual communications process, learn working from a sketch as a template for drawing refinement, introduce freeform vector drawing with the pen tool, introduce working with a limited color palette, introduce CMYK color system, appreciation of visual communication design in translating from photo to drawn representation


URL, sketches, .AI file, .PDF file, high-res print


10 image mini-lecture showing examples of plant representation in art and design from 1476 to 2017, from sources such as Meggs' History of Graphic Design, Houghton Library at Harvard University, Gardner's Art Through the Ages, How to See by George Nelson, Teaching To See -- Inge Druckrey, Flora Japonica by Masumi Yamanaka and Martyn Rix, and Designing Brand Identity by Alina Wheeler; a series of videos from Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew


Students reacted positively to looking through the botanical database instead of Google searching for images of "plants" or "flowers"; worked through the need for simplification; were comfortable selecting or defining two colors as swatches, and gained appreciation of visual composition. Learning vector drawing with the pen tool following their own pencil sketches was an uphill climb for most students, regardless of prior drawing experience. However, mastering a basic understanding of layers; editing points, handles, and closing paths; and working with strokes and fills; were all newly aquired digital skills for the students.

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