Fig-Ficus carica

The Art & Practice of Botanical Drawing

by Donna Calcavecchio

I first met Wendy Hollender in 2010 in her studio at Hollengold Farm in Accord NY. Roll Magazine was doing an article on her and I accompanied our photographer on the photo shoot. Now —six years later — looking back to the moment I walked into Wendy’s studio, I realize that for me, this was the beginning of a journey I was eager to embark upon and the study of an art form I had always wanted to master.

Soon after my first visit to Hollengold Farm I received an announcement from Ulster County Community College saying that botanical artist Wendy Hollender would be Artist in Residence for the year and that there would be several free workshops in botanical drawing. [I studied illustration in college and even then I was intrigued by the skill and discipline required to beautifully illustrate a botanical specimen with scientific accuracy. Unfortunately, this was not a discipline that was encouraged by many of my instructors. It was the ‘80s and conceptual, editorial illustration was the style du jour.] So, I eagerly signed up.

Wendy is a consummate botanical artist. It’s a practice she engages in every day. Depending on the season and time of day, you will find her in her studio or in the organic garden she created with the help of her adult children. She travels throughout the country giving weekend, week-​​long or longer workshopsas in the case of her yearly workshops at the National Tropical Botanical Garden on the Hawiian Island of Kuia’i.

Wendy Hollender in her studio

Wendy Hollender in her studio

Botanicals, plants, nature have infused her life in a comprehensive way. Her farm is a testament to her convictions and her decision to live a life nourished, both philosophically and practically by nature. Many of the specimens Wendy uses in her work are taken directly from her extensive flower, fruit and vegetable gardens. She is always on the lookout for interesting specimens—  flora, nuts and seed pods on her daily walks or in one of the exotic public gardens she frequents.

Bounty from Wendy's garden

Tomatoes, [several varieties], garlic, onions and apples from Wendy’s garden.

tomatillos from the garden

Tomatillos from the garden

A collection of various seed pods

Wendy’s collection of various seed pods with her drawings.

Her studio reflects the aesthetic underlying the projects Wendy undertakes. There are specimens of leaves, sticks, vines, fruit, and flowers as the season allows. Here too we see many examples of her work; framed pieces as well as giclees of drawings from one or two of the several books she has written and illustrated.

A collection of gathered sticks and vines.

A collection of gathered sticks and vines for future drawings.

Wendy's work table

Giclee prints from "Foraging & Feasting; A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook" written by Dina Falconi and illustrated by Wendy Hollender

Giclee prints from “Foraging & Feasting; A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook” written by Dina Falconi and illustrated by Wendy.

Fall leaves for an illustration assignment.

Fall leaves for an illustration assignment.


Pear-Pyrus 2

Wendy has broken down the various elements that go into creating a successful drawing and she is an excellent, and to my mind, a very generous teacher. Demonstrations are a key element in teaching botanical drawing and here Wendy is a master. Her direction is clear and concise while her sample drawings —executed on the spot— are illustrative and exquisitely beautiful.



Wendy’s style is classical both in her composition and attention to detail— the essence of the subject must be evoked. Her use of grisaille [employed by many 15th-​​century Flemish painters], is a painting technique by which an image is executed entirely in shades of gray and carefully modeled to create the illusion of 3 dimensionality. Grisaille has also come to mean any painting technique in which translucent oil colors are laid over a monotone underpainting. She works in colored pencil and watercolor, but other than the difference in medium, her technique reflects the style of classical renaissance painting.

The first workshop I took lead to more. I signed up for a series of workshops Wendy was offering at her studio that summer. Since then, I’ve attended three more weekend workshops at the farm. With each workshop I’m able to understand in a more complete way, how this practice has become an essential part of my life. It has instilled a mindfulness, a sense of being present, and an authenticity that deepens my life experience. It has helped me to focus and along the way, helped me [enormously], to become a better artist.


The inherent benefits of drawing are well documented. The meditative quality of repetitive movement, the act of focusing on an object long enough and deeply enough to render it recognizable, manifests a singularly restorative experience. To practice drawing [every day if at all possible] —can be highly beneficial. Practicing botanical drawing makes me happy, and that’s really the point. Just as yoga, qi gong, tai chi and mindfulness meditation can enhance your experience, so can the practice of drawing.

Wendy is now offering an online course, A Year of Botanical Drawing. For more information go to her website.

She will also be conducting a four day workshop at The New York Botanical Garden from 1/​19/​16– 1/​22/​16. as well as workshops in Hawaii in March of this year and there will be more workshops at Hollengold Farm.


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