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Botanical Art and Illustration Certificate Program Overview

In the Botanical Art and Illustration Certificate program, you will learn how to draw botanical subjects with scientific accuracy, artistry and mastery of technical methods. Develop a basic knowledge of plant morphology and build the skills you need to document plants in intricate detail, including the root system, upper and lower leaf surface, flowers, fruits, and seed heads. This program is designed for students who are interested in pursuing art for pleasure and self-satisfaction, and you can choose between two concentrations: watercolor or colored pencil. Both beginners and seasoned artists are welcome. You may work towards the certificate or enroll in individual courses. There is no formal enrollment in the program.

Phipps maintains student records, but does not actively monitor student progress. Please track your own progress through the program and contact Phipps’ adult education department for transcript confirmation when you have completed the required coursework. There is no time limit for completing the program. Certificate completion typically takes three to four years, or longer.

Receiving Class Credit: For both core and elective classes, students must attend all class sessions and complete and submit all the work required to earn class credit. Class credit is important if a student is pursuing the Basic or Advanced Botanical Art and Illustration certificate. Even if a student is not sure about pursuing the certificate, it is recommended that they earn credit for each class because this is difficult to do retroactively. If a student has to miss class (e.g. health reasons or a death in the family), they must contact the instructor at their earliest convenience to see if it’s possible to still earn class credit.

A note on recordings: The class recordings posted on Google Classroom are meant to aid students in completing their work between classes but are not a substitute for attending class.  Students are required to attend all classes and are not allowed to miss class and watch the recordings for credit.

For a printable PDF of this overview information click here

For a list of current classes, click the button below.

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Illustration © Lisa Rasmussen (Butyriboletus frostii)

Basic Certificate in Botanical Art and Illustration

To receive a basic certificate in Botanical Art and Illustration, you must satisfactorily complete 10 core courses, totaling 164 credit hours, and an additional 56 hours of electives for a total of 220 hours, as well as meet the requirements of a portfolio review. After you complete the course requirements, you must present a portfolio of your work for review. The portfolio must include between five and 15 pieces of independent artwork that demonstrate proficiency in graphite, pen and ink, and either watercolor or colored pencil. Contact the adult education department for additional certificate and portfolio review details, to confirm your transcript, to initiate the portfolio review process, and with any program questions:

Advanced Certificate in Botanical Art and Illustration

If you have completed the Basic Certificate in Botanical Art and Illustration including the portfolio review, you are eligible to work towards an Advanced Certificate. The Advanced Certificate requires a one – three year commitment from you, in which you must complete an additional 50 hours of elective courses and present a final project with newly created works that demonstrate the botanical art process while focusing on an approved plant-related theme.

For more program information, contact our staff at or 412/441-4442, ext. 3925.

Basic Certificate Course Requirements:

Core classes are offered at least once every 18 months. Elective offerings vary in subject matter and frequency offered. For course descriptions, instructor bios and the most up-to-date program information, visit

Illustration © Brenda Nemeth (Taraxacum officinale)

Core Courses (164 class hours):

Botanical Drawing l: Foundations (18 hrs)
Botanical Drawing ll: Volume, Texture, Details (18 hrs)
Botanical Drawing lll: Applications (18 hrs)
Composition for Botanical Artists (18 hrs)
Floral Morphology (12 hrs)
History of Botanical Art (8 hrs)
Pen and Ink l (18 hrs)
Pen and Ink ll (18 hrs)

Choose either watercolor or colored pencil concentration

Colored Pencil I: Techniques and Color Theory (18 hrs)
Colored Pencil II: Applications (18 hrs)


Watercolor I: Techniques and Color Theory (18 hrs)
Watercolor II: Applications (18 hrs)

Portfolio Review (completed once all credit requirements are met)

Example Electives (56 total hours required)
Classes listed below are just examples of the types of elective classes you might encounter in the program. Options change from semester to semester. 

Developing Botanical Perspective to Create Depth 
Understanding Shadow
Pollinators I and II
Flora Project 
Drawing Birds
Botanical Drawing IV 
Pen and Ink III, IV and V 
Colored Pencil III 
Watercolor III 
Mastering Color Courses, various
Visiting Botanical Art and Illustration Instructors, various

Overall certificate requirement: 220 class hours

Illustration © Christi Ptacek (Opuntia species) 

For More detailed information on the basic and advanced certificates, download the sheets below:

Basic Botanical Art and Illustration Certificate Details
Advanced Botanical Art and Illustration Certificate Details

Examples of Student Work: 

Botanical Drawing ll 
Pen and Ink l
Colored Pencil l
Watercolor l
Drawing Bird Nests and Eggs

Recent Exhibits:

Pittsburgh Botanic Garden's Native Plants 
Southwestern PA Native Plants with a Spotlight on Caterpillars
Magnified Portraits of Southwestern PA Native Plants
An Alphabet of Native Plants of Southwestern Pennsylvania: A Botanical Art Exhibit
The Art of Trudy Rehbock (In Memoriam)

Instructor Bios:

Melissa Fabian | Melissa Fabian has been an instructor with the Botanical Art and Illustration certificate program at Phipps Conservatory since 2015. She also holds her own Botanical Art and Illustration certificate from Phipps. Melissa earned her BA in Art Education from Edinboro and her MA in Education from Duquesne. Having been an art teacher for 35 years has given her a broad skill level with various mediums. Melissa has combined her art skills with her love of nature both in her teaching at Phipps and her own artwork shown in local exhibitions and Art Markets. She is presently Co-President of the AHBAS, the local chapter of the American Society of Botanical Artists.

Christine Hutson | Christine Hutson has been working as a calligrapher and nature illustrator for over 30 years, and has been teaching at the Phipps since 2011. One of her specialties is medieval and renaissance art techniques, and she travels to museums to study manuscript books and the work of old masters such as Joris Hoefnagel and Pierre Joseph Redoute.  Her modern focus is contemporary illustration of insects and plants, though she still likes to use traditional materials such as handmade watercolor paints and calfskin vellum.

Brenda G. Jordan | Brenda G. Jordan has a B.A. in Studio Art and a PhD in Japanese Art History. She specializes in watercolor, both Botanical Art and landscapes. She currently directs the University of Pittsburgh project for the National Consortium for Teaching About Asia, located within the Asian Studies Center at Pitt.

Amy Lewandowski | Amy Lewandowski is a North East Ohio watercolor artist. She received her Botanical Art and Illustration Basic and Advanced Certificates from Phipps Conservatory. She graduated with honors from Carnegie-Mellon University with a BFA in Illustration.  She has been teaching watercolor and drawing at workshops and privately since 2013. She is also a signature member of the Ohio Watercolor Society and has exhibited her paintings in the U.S. and the U.K.

Amy Lindenberger | Amy Lindenberger has been teaching colored pencil techniques in Phipps’ Botanical Art program since 2005. She holds a BFA in Drawing from the University of Akron and has been working with the colored pencil medium for more than 40 years. Amy is a charter, Signature and 10-year Merit Award winner with the Colored Pencil Society of America, and is the author of six colored pencil books, including her most recent: COLORS: A Workbook, based on the Mastering Color classes she teaches at Phipps.

Robin Menard | Robin Menard combines her love of nature and art by capturing native plants and pollinators in graphite, ink, watercolor and colored pencil. A lifelong artist, Robin is a graphic designer, and marketing communications professional. She is a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists, Allegheny Highlands Botanical Art Society, and Colored Pencil Society of America.

Header photo © Kitoko Chargois; illustration © Lisa Rasmussen, Brenda Nemeth and Christi Ptacek