Academy of Botanical Art℠

Classical Renaissance Instruction

for Programs in

Botanical Art and Illustration

Courses in Drawing, Watercolor, Pen & Ink, 

Colored Pencil, Scientific Illustration, and

The Business of Art

At the Academy, the Study of Nature is a Field 


Science | Botany | Ornithology | Entomology | Research | Filmography | Horticulture | Entrepreneurship | Landscape Design | Graphic Design | Art History | Education | Photography | Curator | Creative Writing


“Join us today and let your inspiration be tomorrow’s masterpiece!”

“Join us today and let your inspiration be tomorrow’s masterpiece!”

“Join us today and let your inspiration be tomorrow’s masterpiece!”

Students around the world take advantage of Ms. Braida’s techniques and teachings through her local, distance learning, home art study based on her clearly written and illustrated text books! 

“Ten Steps – A Course in Botanical Art & Illustration.”

Each course is designed in a class-by-class format that is easy to follow.

 The Academy of Botanical Art offers training through a directed course of study based on Ms. Braida’s “Ten Steps” series of books. Students acquire accurate rendering skills unique to the scientific nature of the botanical subject. A variety of elective courses held in various places in the United States and abroad is available through the Academy and other resources that will broaden the student’s range of education and development. Above all, prospective students need to know that prior art experience is NOT required. 

Course in Botanical Art & Illustration

“Join us today and let your inspiration be tomorrow’s masterpiece!”

“Join us today and let your inspiration be tomorrow’s masterpiece!”

The following information outlines a study sequence for the Academy’s Course in Botanical Art & Illustration especially designed by O.M. Braida? for local and distance learning. The sequence shown below can be altered to accommodate the student’s schedule.

The program is represented by eleven (11) required courses, and various electives. Students who complete the full program successfully receive a Diploma from The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and The Academy of Botanical Art.

Each core course is represented by one volume and its accompanying course pak from the textbook series entitled “Ten Steps – A Course in Botanical Art & Illustration” by O.M. Braida. In addition, there are supplementary textbooks and course paks that act as elective study. These books and course paks are the basis for the entire course. 

Click here to find out about how to order the “Ten Steps” series of books on Botanical Art and Illustration.



  Recommendations for the elective courses are: Colored Pencil, Bromeliads, Palms, Endangered Plants Species, Photoshop, Black and White Photography, Color Photography, Framing Techniques, Printmaking, Art History, and others. Inquire to be sure you are selecting electives that will help meet your goals. The following four elective courses are offered by the Academy: 

Recommendation for College Art Portfolio Presentations

If the student intends to apply to art schools, then we strongly recommend the student FIRST CHECKS WITH REVIEWING COLLEGES for their portfolio requirements. If the student is applying to schools other than art schools, please keep in mind that an “art” portfolio presentation will create quite an impact on the reviewer’s decision to accept the student into their school. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. As for a Diploma from the Academy of Botanical Art℠

A. Students can study as much as they want or complete the program. Students can study on their own, with a tutor, or in class and submit their work for grading. AFTER students complete the full program and all course work is graded, students are eligible to submit their portfolio of completed program study so their Diploma can be granted.

Q. What benefit is a Diploma?

A. Education and the assurance of the ability to exhibit botanically correct and esthetically pleasing art that botanists can rely on is the primary benefit. The Academy does not guarantee that the student can find employment after completing their program. Each student finds their way to applying the information gained in this program. Career opportunities are always available and it is up to the student to select their own path. The Academy program will help students achieve a level of expertise and present themselves to the professional world. The rest is up to the student.

Q. On what basis has this program been created?

A. The Botanical Art & Illustration Program offered by the Academy of Botanical Art was first written for the Ringling College of Art and Design by Olivia Braida who taught with the Ringling from 1999 to 2011. The entire program is supported by the 12 books and 16 supplemental course paks that Ms. Braida wrote for the program. Each book represents a course and is structured in class format for easy study. Each class is self paced. In this program, there is a total of Sixteen (16) Courses. Books #’s 1-8, #11 and #12 are divided by five classes and Books #’s 9-10 are ten classes each. These 12 are written by Ms. Braida. Books 1-11 are Core Courses. Book 12 is an elective. Course #14, 15, 16 are written by John Beckner, Botanist. These are 

elective courses.

Q. How many credits must I accomplish to apply for a Diploma?

A. Students need to achieve 210 Core Credits and 60 Elective Credits for a total of 270 Credits.

Q. How long does it take to complete the Botanical Art & Illustration program?

A. There are students who achieve a Diploma under three (3) years. Others take between 4 and 5 years. Because this is self-paced, it is possible to achieve the program faster than described below:


Course length time table with approximate times for completion. Students must factor in their own busy life and develop a time table that will work for them.

Total estimated time: 36 -50 months or 3-4 years*

Scheduled is based solely on students personal schedule and ability. These time tables are not guaranteed. but an example of what could be achieved. We strongly suggest that you keep your illustrations small as this is a helping factor in completing work more quickly

Q. What about the Academy’s distance learning program offered with a Tutor?

A. Students who study at home and on their own have access to a telephone tutor. This is especially helpful for the more advanced classes. Students who work from home tend to progress more quickly and surely through the classes with the aid of the tutor and the feedback. It is not required, however, most students find it invaluable for their growth as an artist in this genre.

Q. What is the process for distance learning?

A. The process of distance learning is simple. Students once registered with a tutor will set a schedule with the tutor at a mutually convenient time and pace. Telephone sessions are in most cases half-hour lessons. For distance tutoring, student sends digital copies of their homework (scans or digital camera photos) to the tutor for feedback to learn from and move forward through the classes.

Q. Can I take the entire Diploma program at home on my own?

A. Yes, the program is designed so that you can study completely from home, and even use the support of local, approved instructors.

Q. Is is possible to take courses with the help of a tutor from time to time, whenever assistance is needed?

A. Yes, you may register for single phone tutoring sessions whenever help is needed. It is listed on this website under “Register Here” as, “Bear This.” 

Q. What Academy courses require distance learning versus class coaching?

A. All students that wish to study Plant Research Tutorial, and Business of Art , may find telephone tutoring helpful.

Q. What if five tutor sessions is not enough for me. Can I have more telephone sessions?

A. Yes, additional tutor time can be purchased in half-hour increments. 

Q. How long do I have to complete a course?

A. Once a course has begun with a phone tutor, there is a time limit to complete each tutored course of six months. Distance Learners and Class Students may request extensions. Home Study students who work on their own set their own time limits..

Q. What happens if a student does not finish the course within six month period?

A. Unless student has communicated the need for an extension, Tutored Students who do not complete the course within the six-month period forfeit their tuition, and will lose any unused Tutor calls. To resume again, a new tuition fee is charged. Class students must follow the same protocol and may attend a makeup class only in the case of available seating and previous arrangement.

Q. How much does this program cost?

A. Prices for all the books and courses are in this website under “Academy Instructional Texts” and “Register Here”. Students must refer to the prices posted, and since supplies and shipping costs are not included, must factor in the supplies they will need. Students do not need to purchase everything at once, but create a budget based on their totals and factor in the length of time it will take them to study. In this manner, they can pay as they go and not be too overly burden with the cost of tuition.

Q. How can I pay for classes with the Academy?

A. Your payment can be made by credit card, check, or cash once you have determined which class you wish to take. Simply call the Academy, (941) 953-9999, and speak to an Advisor. They will be happy to take your credit card payment by phone, or instruct you how to send your check.

Q. Are previous experience credits available:

A. Often student’s previous work is eligible for credits. At the Academy we only offer previous experience credits toward elective credits. There is a three step process to achieve this experience credit. Once the course is approved and the work is reviewed, the Academy will advise the student of the amount of credits they are eligible to receive. The transfer fee is $5 per credit, plus $25 registration for each course transferred. Students can also use this transfer method for pre-approved elective courses that the student may wish to take outside of the Academy offerings. The same rule applies and once the course is approved, and evidence of course completion is shown, students will follow the transfer process mentioned above.

Q. May I receive core credits For classes taken at other authorized Academy workshops?

A. Yes, students will receive credits but only when students register the course they are taking and submit completed assignments together with the course grade review fee.

Q. May I receive elective credits For classes taken In other authorized Academy workshops?

A. Yes, students will receive credits but only when students register the course they are taking and submit completed assignments together with the course grade review fee.

Q. May I receive CORE credits for classes taken at accredited school institutions?

A. Normally, the Academy accepts art credits from authorized institutions only for elective credits. However, consideration is given to students who are quite advanced in technical skills. As a result, students will need to present prior work to Academy for review. Registration and Transfer Fees will apply.

Q. May I receive ELECTIVE credits For classes or workshops taken at other accredited school institutions?

A. Quite often the answer is Yes. However, students will need to present prior work to Academy for review. Registration and Transfer Fees will apply.

Q. When do I receive my credits for classes taken?

A. After the assignments are handed in, a review of the work is made and a grade is applied. The student receives a Grade Report and the Credits are recorded in the student’s file. Students need to keep their copy of their grade reports.

Q. How is the artwork submitted for grading?

A. Students will follow the submission guidelines found in each Course Volume and Course Pak. Shipping must be done without the use of “peanuts” for packing. “Clamshell” shipping and storage boxes which keep work safe during shipping are an excellent choice. Refer to the following link for more information about this product. In the alternative, see your UPS shipper. Be sure to include a return label with your package.

1) Dick Blick

Q. How do I achieve a Diploma?

A. a Diploma can only be applied for after all core and elective credits have been achieved and all grades are passing. Student will prepare a portfolio of their complete program work that shows completion of all the courses. Once the portfolio is prepared and approved, the student presents their work to the Marie Selby Botanical Garden. Upon successful completion, student receives their Diploma. Please refer to the Education Page for more details on this subject.

Q. How do I begin with the Academy?

A. If you would like to take classes with the Academy, here is how you can begin.

  1. REVIEW this Website. If you are interested in a Diploma, then read the information on the Education Page on how to achieve that.
  2. DISCUSS your thoughts with an Academy Instructor and DECIDE whether you will take individual classes or a Diploma classes.
  3. SUBMIT a 100 word essay to the Academy by email. Describe your artistic goals and intentions for study with the Academy.
  4. ORDER PERPLEXI® from this website, or call 941-953-9999.
  5. ORDER BOOKS from this website. You can start by purchasing Drawing I and II and their corresponding Course Paks 1 and 2, together with the Perplexi®.
  6. CLASS REGISTRATIONS & GRADE REVIEWS: Each course registration and grade review can be paid for individually with a credit card, check, or cash.
  7. TO ORDER ART SUPPLIES click on Affiliate Art Supplies on this website. You have a choice between Dick Blick and Jerry’s Artarama. Their respective page lists the different courses. Click on Drawing I and read the list carefully as you may not need all the supplies – you have choices and you may have things already. The pencils recommended are the best. You will need to get the book: Perspective Without Pain from this list as well for Drawing I. Remember to note any discounts. Apply the discount to the purchase of the brushes recommended on my site if you wish.

Q. What supplies do I order first on the Academy website?

A. Purchase Drawing I and Pak #1 and the Perplexi® for use in Drawing I. Refer to the Drawing I Supply List under the Affiliate Art Supplies for your supplies. Note you will also need to purchase a book on the supply list called, “Perspective Without Pain” by Phil Metzger.

If working with a tutor, purchase the Distance Learning Course for Drawing I which includes the Drawing I Book & Course Pak #1 and grading and review fee. Even if you purchase the Distance Learning course, you still need to refer to the Affiliates Art Supply lists to check your supplies, to order supplies, and obtain the “Perspective Without Pain” book by Phil Metzger.

Q. Why does the Academy recommend Tombow graphite pencils; may I use another product instead?

A. Tombow pencils yield a lot of graphite, which helps when trying to create the Sfumato pencil technique. Tombow pencils are very creamy and somewhat softer than other pencils. This means to obtain the same value level of an HB Tombow Pencil, you may have to use a B or 2B from other manufacturers l(i.e. Faber Castell). Although, most students prefer Tombow pencils, each student’s “hand” is different. You may need to try pencils from various manufacturers to determine which is the best for you. 

Q. Why does the Academy recommend ACID FREE PAPER and why is it important to use?

A. Academy students create beautifully refined drawings and watercolors which they will hope to keep for many years. As professional artists they may want to sell their works of art. Using acid-free paper for drawings or paintings are important for those artworks you intend to keep or sell. Papers that are not acid free will “burn” and yellow with age. This is also true of framing materials, which should also be acid free.

Q. What is the difference between sketch paper and drawing paper? May I use any brand other than what is recommended on the supply list?

A. Many art pieces are either finalized on paper, or at least concepts are flushed out on paper. There are many types of paper and the only way to learn what works best for you and your hand, your needs and your style, is to experiment.

1. Sketch Paper — 50, 60, 65, or 70-lb paper, smooth, medium, or rough surfaces, acid-free, suitable for pencil, charcoal, or pen if smooth.

2. Drawing Paper – Over 70-lb with smooth, medium or rough surfaces. Choose acid free, suitable for pencil, charcoal, crayon, pen if smooth, and/or light wash. The best will have a good “tooth” which means the paper surface will grab hold of the medium you are using. In Botanical Art, we are most often working with smooth to medium surfaces.

3. For detailed information about art papers, go to:

Q. I already have a watercolor palette; may I use that instead of what is recommended on the supply list?

A. The Academy recommends that you start Watercolor I with a fold up Watercolor Palette because it will be used as a teaching palette. Students may use their other palettes as the watercolor courses progress, as well as learn other ways to set out their paints.

Q. May I substitute watercolor paints that have the same color name but a different manufacturer than what is on the supply list?

A. It is not recommended to make paint substitutions. Watercolor paints vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Often the same pigment is presented under a different name. Often the same named pigment is a totally different color. In many, many cases, the same named pigment will act differently when applied to paper.

For more about watercolor paints refer to Volume 5 and Course Pak #5 for Botanical Watercolor 1 (Tools and Techniques) available on this website.

Q. I already have watercolor brushes; may I use these brushes instead of what is on the supply list?

A. Botanical painting with watercolors demands a precision tool. Watercolor brushes come in so many shapes and sizes it is important to know about them before you spend your money (or use the wrong tools for the job). Many, especially the Kolinsky Sable brushes, are very expensive. In addition, they are not easy to compare. What is sold as a #4 from one manufacturer may actually resemble only a #2 in another. In other words, you are not getting the same amount of brush and this often translates into spending more than necessary.

Watercolor brushes are explained Botanical Watercolor 1 (Tools and Techniques)”. This book may be purchased on this website.

Q. What is the difference between hot press and cold press watercolor paper?

A. There are four basic types of watercolor paper: Hot Press, Cold Press, Soft Press, and Rough Press. Hot Press paper has a very smooth surface and a slight sheen. It is used to simulate Vellum (kid skin) used by early botanical masters. Cold Press watercolor paper has a slightly textured surface, somewhere in between rough and hot-pressed paper. Soft Press paper appears very smooth and a little fuzzy. It absorbs the paint quickly and makes it harder to spread smoothly. Rough Press is very bumpy. All four of these papers come in different weights: 90-lb; 140-lb, 300-lb ~~ Some manufacturers offer 250-lb. For Academy Students, 140-lb Hot Press Paper is highly recommended. Once the student is more advanced, they may want to use 300-lb Hot Press Paper.

Q. May I substitute cold press watercolor paper for hot press watercolor paper for the exercises and assignments?

A. The botanical artist is known to work primarily with a quality Hot Press watercolor paper made of 100% rag cotton, chlorine and acid-free, and archival with an internal and external sizing. Hot Press paper has a very smooth surface that allows the artist to create crisp, clean edges. Although it is possible to use Cold Press paper, especially if the paper is not too bumpy, all students are requested to used Hot Press paper for their lessons and art projects. In Watercolor IV students experiment with different techniques on Cold Press paper. Rough Watercolor Paper is not recommended for assignments with the Academy.

For detailed information about watercolor paper, go to:

Q. Are exercises submitted on separate foamboard?

A. It is necessary to attach completed DRAWINGS to foamboards, but no “EXERCISES.” Collect and assemble EXERCISES for each class. Be sure to identify each piece of paper. Keep all exercises together in a folder or envelope. Once exercises are assembled in a folder or envelope, identify the contents clearly.

Q. Can multiple, fine, TONAL DRAWINGS be affixed to the same piece of foamboard?

A. No. Each drawing must have its own board and tracing paper overlay.

Q. How large should the foamboard be?

A. The foamboard should be at least one inch larger than the artwork all the way around the art.

Q. What tape should I use to tape the artwork to the foamboard?

A. Acid Free white artist tape is preferred.

Q. Should I sign my artwork, and, if so, what is the best way to do so?

A. Yes, sign your artwork. Do so in the right corner. If the composition of the artwork does not allow for signing on the right, then do so on the left. Sign with your “artist signature” not your check writing signature. Usually, initials are not recommended. At the least, use your last name. Dating your work is entirely up to you. You may sign and date your work on the back of the art if you do not wish to include it on the front.

Q. In what medium do I sign my artwork?

A. Usually the medium of the art. Avoid signing watercolor paintings with a watercolor brush. Try, instead, to use a writing pen filled with watercolor making sure the color is non-obtrusive.

Q. Should I cover the finished artwork with a clean piece of tracing paper?

A. Yes. Remove any tattered or soiled tracing paper you used while creating your artwork. Place a clean sheet of tracing paper over the artwork. Label the tracing paper overlay with your full NAME, COURSE, PROJECT, and DATE. Do not let the label obscure the artwork. This paper will allow the instructor to write their review of your work without damaging the art.

Q. How to Register for Classes at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida?

A. Visit and go to education/art classes/Academy listings. Register online, or call Laura Avery, Director of Classes and Exhibits, at 941-366-5731 x 239.

Q. What hotels do the Academy recommend?

A. If accommodations are needed, please request the Director of the Academy you wish to attend to send information on Hotels.

To Order Academy Books & Paks, please  click here

To Order Art Supplies, please click here

To Register for Classes, please click here