I recently spent a day with David Lewry at one of his workshops. We had an interesting discussion regarding the difference between a botanical illustration and one done for decorative purposes.
Botanical illustration is all about scientific accuracy. The plant or flower must be painted accurately and with a high degree of detail so it can be recognized and distinguished from other species.
Many great artists, such as Monet and Renoir painted flowers; but the goal was not to paint a scientific rendition of the plant but rather they were painted for the aesthetic, compositional or purely for their colours and shapes. A talented botanical artist, however, can illustrate a plant or flower in such a way that it goes beyond the scientific requirements.
You may ask why not just photograph the plant? Although photography is an excellent way of recording the way a plant or flower looks, a photograph is actually unable to ‘see’ elements which an artist is able to bring out. An artist can illustrate the internal make-up and structure of a plant using a sectional or cut-away composition of the image and features can be displayed together which may not easily be shown by photography.
Go to the Watercolour section on the Gallery page to see my painting of a Lily. I painted this this in just 6 hours. A botanical illustrator can take something like up to 60 or even 70 hours to create a finished image!