It is always a great thing, to have the chance to talk with artists about their work. Esmee was very kind to take her time, at the beginning of the new year, to tell a bit about her art, for RSBA.

Is there a better way to capture the essence of a living plant or animal then by drawing or painting?According to Esmée only with an illustration is it possible for example to make a reconstruction of a damaged plant or dried herbarium material, despite the great techniques of modern photography.

Award-wining botanical illustrator Esmée Winkel works at Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands, the Dutch research institute and Natural history museum in Leiden. There she draws everything for the scientific publications of researchers, from schematic illustrations of cells to fully detailed drawings of recently discovered species. In her spare time you will also find her browsing through and painting fascinating and unique plants at the Hortus Botanicus Leiden. Recently she painted Ophrys species, European terrestrial orchids, from their collection. These paintings received a gold medal from the Royal Horticultural Society in 2018. It is an inspiring experience and she hopes more artists will submit work and participate at the RHS botanical art shows.

In her work Esmée tries to capture the essence of a plant, all the characters of the species but also the plants magnificence and splendor. However, a scientific illustration reflects the findings of research clearly at a single glance including all the important details and will then be published in a scientific journal or flora. She believes botanical art is focused more on the plant or on a single plant part often without all the details important to the scientist. Flower still lifes can contain various other objects as well which are not found in botanical art and illustration, such as flowers in vases, drinking glasses, standing on books, tables, with coins, pipes, etc. or with various backgrounds.

Various techniques are used in botanical art & illustration such as pen and ink, digital drawing programs, watercolour, pencil and more. For each illustration it is best to consider the goal of the illustration before choosing the right technique. For newcomers to botanical art it is often useful to start sketching with graphite pencil first and then continue with other techniques such as ink or watercolour. Choose a plant that you really appreciate and work in a technique that is easier to use. In the beginning don’t worry too much about the end result and more on the journey of drawing. For botanical artists considering an RHS show it is most helpful to first visit a show, see how everything is organized, ask other artists about how they went about working towards the show and try to plan everything from start to finish. It is an exciting and inspiring experience!

For more about Esmée and her artwork visit her website at