Nov 15th, 2014

Masters Class: Pen & Ink with Alice Tangerini

Text & photos by Judy Thomas, Garden Volunteer, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Alice Tangerini teaching.

Alice Tangerini teaching.

There are many delights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden: the stunning flowers, landscape plants, trees; the jewel-like tropical plants in the Conservatory and; the many educational programs the garden offers. The most profound delight for me in the years I have visited the garden as a Member has been the ‘Art in the Garden’ and ‘Botanical Illustration’ classes I have taken.
I hold a certificate in Botanical Illustration from the Garden, starting from my first class in 2006. I have found the teachers to be inspirational and motivating. The Garden, from time to time, offers master classes, taught by an acknowledged, national expert. This past weekend, I was honored to take a Pen and Ink Workshop masters class with Alice Tangerini. Alice is a staff illustrator at the Department of Botany at the Smithsonian Institution (and a VCU graduate!).

Student's work

Botanical Illustrations of the Burr oak.

Despite having taken a scientific illustration course before, I was feeling a little intimidated by the class. However, Alice put us at ease. She is an excellent teacher and worked with us through the process of creating a pen and ink “plate” (used in publication) of our specimen, the bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa). This oak has unusual stems and the acorn caps are sort of, well, hairy.

 student working

A student working in class.

Alice often works from pressed plants, called herbarium specimens, which are  flattened and dried, so our first step was to photocopy the leaves and branch. Then Alice worked with us as we traced the various parts of the plant (some tracings done under a microscope were provided for us), cutting and taping them on Bristol board as we created a pleasing composition that included all the required parts. Alice helped us to draw the plant with accuracy, and showed us the conventions and methods used in scientific illustration. She gave many demonstrations so we could all see how the work was done.

The three-day class was challenging, but we were all able to make good progress toward finishing our compositions! There was no need to feel intimidated after all.


class photo cropped

Students in Alice Tangerini’s class in front of the Conservatory.

Jonah Holland is Digital Content Manager at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, where she has worked for 14 years overseeing social media, the blog, and the website. She is also a mom, yogi, open water swimmer, gardener, and seeker. She's been known to go for a walk in the Garden and come back with hundreds of plant photos, completely inspired to write her next blog post.

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