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Botanical Illustration 2: Working with watercolor

About the course:  

This 6-week course (with a one-week introduction to the software interface used to deliver the course) is designed to encourage your discovery of plants as the subject of art and to express your interest in the plant world by introducing color to your botanical illustration repertoire. 

Many people want to advance their understanding of the use of color in botanical illustration, yet find it challenging to take the time to learn. Despite our greatest intentions, the demands of the day often get in the way.

Our approach will be to keep it straightforward and simple to ensure that you progress.  This approach is for the beginner at watercolor, and it does assume a comfort level with drawing.  We will focus on primarily simple subjects, such as a single stem of a flower, a fruit, or a vegetable.

Our two-step process will introduce you to exercises, while you simultaneously write and reflect on the process. The instructor will take an active role in this creative endeavor by providing feedback on your illustrations and journal entries. You will also have the opportunity to learn from one another through an open forum in which you can share your ideas with others.

We strongly encourage that you take Botanical Illustration I – Basic Drawing Techniques before taking this course.  But if you feel that you already have basic drawing skills, contact me for permission to register for this course:

You do not receive Cornell University credit for taking the course.  Rather, you will receive a certificate of participation from our Office of Continuing Education. If you are enrolled in a university undergraduate or graduate program and want to get credit for the course, please ask your faculty advisor to work with you to agree on a number of credits, and the certificate will be evidence of your completion.  Typically, students interested in this approach consider it as individual study.  Others take it for life enrichment. 


To build on your previous experience with botanical drawing techniques by introducing color into your work, and to engage in self-expression through this process.

Course Objectives:

  • Observe nature through both a scientific (structural) and an artistic (aesthetic) lens.
  • Articulate a personal aesthetic -- what appeals to you, and what you enjoy.
  • Gain some proficiency in watercolor.


  • Brush Care, Preparing Paper, Getting to Know Color
  • Applying a Wash
  • Other Helpful Watercolor Techniques: continuing to become confident with brush, paint and water
  • One week break
  • Painting in Watercolor: Keep it Simple to Begin With
  • Progressing Toward More Complexity
  • Pulling it All Together  

View full syllabus [.pdf]