Create a collection of botanical postcards as you explore the San Francisco Botanical Garden—or any other special garden!
Watch The Beauty of Plants, One Postcard at a Time
In the painting A Dandelion with a Tiger Moth, a Snail, A Beetle, and a Butterfly (ca. 1730), the artist Barbara Dietzsch carefully isolates the dandelion during various stages of its life cycle, accompanied by all the insects that rely on the plant. Notice the variety of textures and colors of the plants and insects. The artist must have closely observed her subjects, as the arrangement painted is incredibly lifelike. The background is stark black, focusing our attention on the tiny details of the ecosystem.
- 4- x 6-in. pieces of watercolor paper (or other heavy paper)
- A clipboard or any hard surface
- Drawing pens
- Watercolor set (travel size, if you have it)
- Brushes (standard or water brush)
Questions to Consider
Start your exploration in the Children’s Garden at the San Francisco Botanical Garden! A fee may be required.
- What plants are you drawn to because of their fragrance? How would you describe the smell? How does the smell make you feel? Draw a collection of plants with your favorite fragrances!
- Color, color everywhere! Choose a flower with a color of your choice. Draw a collection of flowers that share the same color.
- Spend some time exploring leaves! Draw a collection of leaves with as many different shapes or textures as you can find.
- If you leave the Children’s Garden to create more postcards, collect plants from all over the world by visiting different areas of the Botanical Gardens! Think about where you would like to start and where you would travel next. As you explore, search for the illustrated labels of the plants. Once you have identified the plant, write down the names of the plants in tiny handwriting on the postcard!
1. Find a comfortable place to sit or stand with your supplies.
2. Start with a light drawing. Carefully observe the plant and find the longest line, trace it with your finger, and then lightly draw it. Lightly sketch the shapes you see that make up the parts of the plant.
3. Before you paint, spend some time studying the colors you see. Take out your watercolor paint, brushes, and water. Experiment with mixing the variety of greens and other colors you see in the plants you’ve drawn.
4. Remember, water is your friend! Start with mostly water and just a little paint. Use the tip of your brush to paint details.
5. After the watercolor paint dries, feel free to add more detail, like texture and shadow, with pencil or pen to accentuate specific features of your plant.
6. Write a short note on the postcard’s back to a loved one, sharing what attracted you to the plant you chose to observe and draw. Place a stamp on your postcard and drop it in a mailbox!
After creating your postcards, consider the following questions:
- What discoveries did you make about the plants you observed?
- As you closely studied and painted your postcards, did you notice a change in how you were feeling?
- What tips would you give to another artist who wants to try this project?
We would love to see what you create! Email pictures of your artwork to firstname.lastname@example.org or tag us on any social platform with #deyoungsters.
- Barbara Regina Dietzsch, Dandelions, with a Tiger Moth, a Butterfly, a Snail, and a Beetle (ca. 1730). Opaque watercolor on parchment, 11 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. (285 x 210 mm). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum purchase, Gift of the Museum Society Auxiliary, 1984.2.8. Photograph © Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
- Process photographs by Jennie Smith