We have seen rapid changes in technology, economics, environment and culture. Internet and digital technologies are re-shaping and will continue to re-shape many aspects of our lives, some apparent and some behind scenes, enabling new possibilities and amplifying all manner of potentials. Science, printing and publishing industries and communications have all embraced computerisation and emerging technologies. In Botany, research uses and benefits from a wide array of increasingly sophisticated connectivities and digital technologies, and is written up in digital documents, often illustrated with digitally-created photographs, scans and graphs, and is increasingly disseminated digitally, published online in botanical journals which are compiled, edited and produced digitally. New botanical websites, blogs and apps continue to appear, while mobile devices increasingly enable feedback, citizen science and social media interaction. And, notably, since 2012, it is now even acceptable for new taxa to be scientifically validly named by online publication.
And for botanical artists? I am talking here of beyond the now ubiquitous use of the internet, email and mobile phones for planning and arrangements, discussion of ideas, digital diaries, online banking and payments and communication of images, etc. On the learning side, there are online opportunities with institutions or private tutors, the use of Skype and webcams for online tutorial sessions, and YouTube “how-to” videos are emerging. New for 2015, botanical artist Elaine Searle offers two new online courses which can be taken using your tablet or mobile phone, as well as desktop or laptop. On the doing, rather than the learning, side of things, mention can be increasingly found, on botanical artists’ websites or blogs, of the use of digital cameras or mobile phone cameras to take reference photos and of iPads and tablets in support roles as aids to creation and observation as well as for photographic reference. There is mention too of digital microscopes to record detail, of computers for researching particular plants or their habitats and to research the historical development of botanical art. Many artists have their own websites and blogs, and it is apparent that many are now happy to state openly that they welcome the use digital photography as an aid to their work. Scanners are used to copy paintings for the purposes of uploading to websites to share, to submit work for exhibitions, and for printing scanned paintings and drawings on home inkjet printers. Archive quality giclée prints on fine art paper can be ordered from professional digital printers, while some artists mention using desk-top publishing software to fine-tune their digital copies of their images to be as near to the painted original as possible. Over in the US, the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators embraced digital illustration with workshops on “Digital Illustration – Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator” back in 2009 and 2010.
So why is digital botanical illustration still so unacceptable to so many? Beats me.