Level 4 Certificate in Botanical Drawing and Painting
Quality endorsed by awarding body, Open College Network West Midlands

About Event

Ruth Wharrier’s adventurous course will do more than help build the art of botanical illustration. It will encourage intimate attention to plants, which is the key to understanding and respecting them.
Richard Mabey, June 2021

Level 4 Certificate in Botanical Drawing and Painting

A unique opportunity to study botanical illustration within Carlton Marshes nature reserve with experienced botanical artist and illustrator, Ruth Wharrier. This level 4 certificate in Botanical Drawing and Painting provides learners with the knowledge and skills required to develop a wide range of skills in botanical painting and illustration.

Course participants will receive tuition in botanical drawing and painting techniques, composition, botany, historical context and field skills. Environmental and ecological awareness and natural history are integral aspects of the course.

Based in the new visitors centre at Carlton Marshes, participants will have a unique opportunity to study and explore the rich natural resources of the nature reserve through field work. In addition, opportunities will be given to access research facilities and explore a contrasting cultivated environment within formal gardens for the study of cultivated plant subjects.


Course director and tutor – Ruth Wharrier PGCE, BA (Hons), EGS

Ruth is a graduate of the prestigious Diploma in Botanical Illustration from the English Gardening School at the Chelsea Physic Garden, London. Since qualifying in 2011, Ruth has worked as a botanical and wildlife illustrator and tutor for Suffolk Wildlife Trust.


Progression routes:

This qualification will enable learners to go on to further study in botanical fine art or illustration.

Entry requirements:

Although there is no formal level of qualification necessary for entry to this course, there is a need to demonstrate a high level of motivation and personal commitment to botanical illustration. People who join the course will embark on a steep learning curve.

Students will need to demonstrate a pre-existing level of skill in drawing and painting, particularly in observational drawing. Places are extremely limited (10 students) and so initial selection will be through assessment of artwork by submission of 6 pieces (by email or by post). Students should also demonstrate interest and enthusiasm for the subject.

Course duration:

1 day per week (5 hours) guided learning over 3 terms. 36 weeks (term time)
In addition, students should allocate additional time during the week to complete coursework.

Mondays 10am – 3pm. Carlton Marshes Nature Reserve

Followed by 6 months to complete the final assignment. Students will receive tutorials at intervals to assist and direct progress.

Drawing techniques

Drawing techniques using graphite pencil and paper.
Basic principles of perspective: to include drawing flowers and leaves in perspective.
Form: using light to render the third dimension.
Coloured pencil techniques.
Pen and Ink techniques.

Watercolour painting techniques

Control of materials: water, paint and paper.
Traditional watercolour painting skills used by botanical artists: laying washes, superimposed washes and graduated washes.
Form and finishing: through layering of washes and dry brush to create form and detail.
Effective use of colour: colour theory and the basics of mixing and/or layering colour.


Course members will learn about basic botany, plant families and dissection with the course tutor and a Suffolk Wildlife Trust member of staff.
Observation: learning basic flower and plant structure through observing and recording.
Drawing: understanding what is relevant to record and the associated conventions.
Botany assignment
Fieldwork sketchbook assignment.

Historical Context

All course members will learn about the historical context of botanical drawing and painting through the study of artists, explorers and scientists who made contributions to the world of botanical painting and illustration. Access to archives, tutorials and personal research will enable them to create an assignment on a chosen artist.

Working in the field

Throughout the year, course members will keep a sketchbook and be shown methods and techniques for field sketching. The sketchbook will become an ongoing journal for sketching the seasons and will be submitted at the end of the course to be considered alongside assignment credits.

Talks on Botanical conservation and guided walk of Carlton Marshes reserve.

Field work will be carried out on site at Carlton Marshes Nature Reserve.

In contrast, opportunities will be given to explore a contrasting cultivated environment. Students will be able to talk to the gardeners and horticulturalist about cultivar plants.

Composition and aesthetics

Composition: balance of line, form and colour and associated conventions.
Pushing the boundaries in contemporary composition.

Advanced watercolour skills

Fine brush work for detail and 3-dimentional effect.
Advanced wash and dry brush techniques.
Painting on vellum.
Understanding and working with colour including the application of surface textures such as velvet and bloom.

Classwork and Assignments

All work practiced in class will be kept in a portfolio along with assignments. In addition, the course member’s sketchbook and historical essay will be considered in the final assessment of their coursework assignments.

Ten assignments will be judged on a modular basis: this means that each assignment will carry marks which will count towards the total marks at the end of the course.

Assessment and Quality Assurance

Assignments will be marked and assessed by the course director/tutor, Ruth Wharrier and the course botanist. Formative and summative internal and external quality assurance will be carried out to ensure accurate judgements are reached. Module and assignment criteria will be shared with students throughout the course.


Successful course members will receive their Level 4 certificate at an award ceremony.


Event Details


Monday 9 January 2023 – Monday 11 December 2023


10am – 3pm


Burnt Hill Lane, Carlton Colville, Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR33 8HU

OS Map Reference: TM508920


Course booking is through the course page on the Suffolk Wildlife Trust website.  Click the button opposite to book.