Botanical art helps professor find fulfillment both inside and outside of the classroom

Judy Thomas, Ph.D.

Judy Thomas, Ph.D.

Judy Thomas, Ph.D., a faculty member in the School of Social Work, splits her time between two passions: teaching the next generation of social workers at Virginia Commonwealth University and creating beautiful botanical illustrations.

Thomas, an assistant professor in teaching, is an accomplished botanical artist and instructor who teaches classes at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, where her artwork is currently on display.

“In addition to my job at VCU, I teach colored pencil for botanical artists in Richmond,” she said. “I am a member of several art guilds: Central Virginia Botanical Artists, the Botanical Art Society of the Capitol (DC) Region and the American Society of Botanical Artists. Oh, and I started the Chickahominy Color Pencil Group and teach drawing as a volunteer at a local library.”

epenthes alata

epenthes alata

Thomas, who was an art minor in college and painted abstracts for years, became interested in botanical illustration and art in 2006 when she took an introductory course on botanical illustration at Lewis Ginter.

Botanical illustration, she said, is a scientific discipline, requiring the artist to measure and draw the botanical specimen with accuracy.

“In botanical illustration, we have many rules, [such as] to draw on a white or off-white background, to depict all parts of the plant, in all stages of development, and to dissect the flower and draw the parts,” she said. “We also try to draw the specimen in all seasons and stages of growth and understand, and depict, the mathematics of repeating botanical structures. The goal is to aid in plant identification and produce a thing of beauty.”

Read more.