Botanical Drawing

Kathleen McKeehen is a science illustrator and botanical artist whose training includes the post-grad natural science illustration program at UC Santa Cruz, followed by an internship at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, UK. She has freelanced for a variety of clients and projects, including magazines, guide books, museum displays, text books, and children’s educational products and books. Her work has appeared in botanical art shows in the U.S. and Canada. She currently teaches botanical drawing and painting at Gage Academy of Art, at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture, and at workshops around the state.
9:30 A.M.-12:30 P.M.
All Levels
For first class:

  • Pencils: HB at least
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Kneaded gray eraser
  • Flexible-armed or gooseneck table-top lamp (cheap student light is fine)
  • Paper—can be inexpensive sketch pad or just copy paper

For subsequent classes (will be discussed in further detail in first class):

  • Pencils in range of leads—2H, H, F, HB, 2B (“H” is Hard, and the higher the number the harder–and thus lighter. “B” is soft, and the higher the number, the softer and darker. You don’t need all the numbers available). Try out different brands—they do differ. If you were to buy just 4 pencils, get an HB, an H, a 2H, and a 2B. Some lighter subjects can call for 4H or so. OR “Lead holder” with same range of hardness/softness AND Lead pointer (sharpener) desk or handheld version
  • Paper: Arches 140 lb hot press watercolor paper is good for final drawings OR sketchbook of good quality paper (non-acid archival is best). Strathmore has them in “smooth”, “vellum”, and “plate” (very smooth) 500 is top, 400 good
  • White “click pen” eraser (I like Papermate Tuff Stuff Clik pens & Tombow Mono Zero)
  • Drafting or masking tape
  • Soft brush or large feather to remove eraser detritus
  • Burnisher – Bone folders or smooth-edged teaspoons work too, as the plastic burnishers are now hard to come by
  • Tracing paper—25 lb. 11 x 14 is a good size


  • Dividers (U. Book Store, D. Smith, drafting supply stores). Not required but make measuring much easier
  • Drawing board—if you’re using sheets of paper rather than sketchbook, the hard foam boards (“gatorboard”) – at Daniel Smith, U. Book Store are good for watercolor, too; for drawing, any sturdy smooth board will do (18 x 24 is good size; 3/16” or 1/2” ok)
  • Other good drawing papers, such as 500 Series Strathmore Bristol board plate finish or vellum finish, in sheet or tablet; Stonehenge white is also good
  • Mounting putty (Quake-hold or Poster Putty—gray or white not blue) or florist’s frog, florist’s foam, or specimen clamp
  • Magnifying lens of some sort — (8x to 10x if you buy a loupe; any decent magnifying instrument will do)
Beginning with measurement techniques, observational skills, and the unique requirements of botanical art, you will learn to use line to accurately depict plant subjects and then move on to understanding the effect of light on form and how to use shading for three-dimensionality. While focusing on plants, botanical drawing teaches skills that apply to any realistic drawing effort. Class is an excellent preparation for botanical watercolor.