Rose Marie James

Rose Marie James holds a Masters Degree in Art Education from the State University of New York, and a Certificate in Botanical Illustration from the New York Botanical Garden. She has been an art teacher, a graphic designer, a creative director and now an instructor in Botanical Illustration at the New York Botanical Garden. Her work has been shown in national juried shows at the Chautauqua Institute, at the Albright Knox Art Gallery, in ASBA International Shows at the Horticultural Society of New York and The Bartram Arboretum, and at Filoli National Trust. Her work is held in both public and private collections.

I have always had the desire to paint but it wasn’t until I found botanical illustration that I am no longer without subject matter that compells me. Love of this art form provides me with a never-ending number of subjects. My studio is filled with plants, pods, branches, and dried leaves. Live specimens constantly share space in my refrigerator, and I always have a watchful eye out for something different. Foraging in my garden, along roadsides, in botanical gardens and through woodlands is my reference library.

I choose my subjects often on inspiration, by what the subject has to say to me. By capturing the personality of the subject, I hope to draw the viewer in and have them experience all the qualities a plant has to offer ...the shape of its leaves, how the flower petals form, the nature of its color.

I see the process as “slow art” since there is so much to consider. For botanical art planning is key. I start by studying my specimen from various perspectives to understand how it grows. Is the subject upright and regal, or fluid and dance-like? I take reference photographs (especially if a subject has a very short life), to have a record of the lighting needed during rendering. I start with a pencil line drawing on tracing paper working from the live specimen, possibly drawing it from several angles. I might disassemble the specimen to understand its structure, or take a plant out of its dirt to see what its root system looks like. Using a magnifying glass reveals all the intricate details I want to include. I usually end up with several layers of tracing paper drawings that I use to work out a composition. Once an arrangement is established, the final tracing is transferred to good paper. The next step involves making a series of color studies to determine a match to the live specimen. Finally the rendering process begins bringing the illustration to life. I work in watercolor on Fabriano Artistico paper or on calfskin vellum.

In addition, as an instructor in botanical ilustration for the NYBG, I have the opportunity of sharing my enthusiasm with many students.

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Two Daffodils
Two Daffodils, Narcissus pseudonarcissus L.
7" x 10.5" Watercolor
© Rose Marie James, 2011
Three Peppers

Three Peppers, Capsicum annuum sp.
10.75" x 3.25" Watercolor on calf skin vellum
© Rose Marie James, 2012

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