GUEST DOODLEWASH: The Insights of a Botantical Artist – A Wanderer Around The World

Doodlewash - Botanical Illustration by Işık Güner of Coelogyne Viscosa

Hi! I am Işık Güner from Turkey (You can see me on InstagramFacebook, Twitter, or check out my newly designed website!)

Doodlewash - Botanical Illustration by Işık Güner 3I originally graduated in Environmental Engineering, but instead of this, I chose an entirely different path for my life and have been working full time as a botanical artist for over 10 years. I am very glad I made this decision, though as the child of a botanist father and growing up surrounded by wild nature my decision was made easy.

Doodlewash - Botanical Illustration by Işık Güner 7I can confirm that being a botanical artist is very exciting, fascinating and engaging, as well as challenging. To develop such skills requires constant and dedicated practice, followed by more and more practice to hone my techniques. This I have done and am still doing. One of the most fascinating aspects of the work with plants is that each and every plant is different, so in effect this makes you start all over again with every different species.

For every painting I do, I might need to develop a new technique to apply just for that particular subject, prepare a new mix of pigments to match the colour of a plant you have never seen before or figure out how to apply the texture accurately. Each plant requires a different approach, and this makes me feel that I will never get bored with this work. It is truly endless and delightfully easy to get lost inside the intricate details of nature.

Doodlewash - Botanical Illustration by Işık Güner of Vanda brunnea


My early exploration in the botanical world started with some of the bulbous plants of Turkey, such as, Iris, Fritillaria, Colchicum and Crocus. During these early times I have started to explore watercolour and develop my drawing skills, but much more important was, I was having so much fun!

Doodlewash - Botanical Illustration by Işık Güner of Lapageria Rosea © Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

© Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

So to carry this joy and my skills further, I looked for inspiration and I found it at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. I first visited this amazing garden in my early 20s and since then, I have never stopped visiting! I remember one time, when I was just practising on watercolour, a man came into the room and threw a flower on my desk, and asked “Would you like to paint this?” The flower was Lapageria rosea, the national flower of Chile, and the man was Martin Gardner.

He trusted this young artist and gave her a very exciting opportunity to really develop her skills and to be part of one of the biggest projects and commitments of her artistic career to date – ‘The Plants from The Woods and Forests of Chile’. This first painting was one of thirty-nine illustrations I prepared for this book and now after eight years of hard work, we have achieved the completion of a truly extraordinary and fascinating book that reveals (at least a part of) an amazing flora! The project was in effect my graduation in botanical illustration.

Doodlewash - Botanical Illustration by Işık Güner of Berberis Trigona © Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

© Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

During the life of the project, my life has changed significantly and I have started to live with a giant portfolio, a suitcase full of only my art materials, and my camera. Then a journey starts with endless traveling. All this time, I was going on and on again between Scotland, Turkey and Chile, and it was not easy to have a proper schedule of all these journeys, because they were entirely dependent on the flowering times of the species that I was going to work.

So quite a bit of time, I was using emergency exit of the country to catch the flowers on time! For one of the species, Gunnera tinctoria, it took about 3 years only for the preparations, I had to go to three different locations in the world to find the proper flowers, fruits and leaves. It was a great effort, but every moment was worth it!

Doodlewash - Botanical Illustration by Işık Güner of Gunnera Tinctoria © Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

© Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

During these great years in Edinburgh, when I was developing my skills, improving my technique and learning a lot about botany, some other wonderful opportunities were coming my way. In 2010, my paintings were selected by the Royal Horticultural Society ‘Botanical Art Exhibition’, and this was very exciting! I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I was very young when I first visited RHS exhibitions in London. Since then I have had an interest in art, in botany and in science.

Doodlewash - Botanical Illustration by Işık Güner of Lophosoria Quadripinnata © Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

© Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

The exhibitions blew my mind. They inspired me and I looked wide-eyed at every painting. Even so, I wasn’t planning to be a botanical artist. After all, I was going to be an engineer! But then there I was after all those years, ready to exhibit my own work at the same exhibition. I also exhibited in 2014 and in both exhibitions, managed to win not only a coveted gold medal, but also ‘Best in Show’ awards for my paintings of ‘Araucaria araucana’ (2010) and ‘Gunnera tinctoria’ (2014). I have also exhibited at the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society (BISCOT) several times and was twice awarded with the prestigious ‘Mary Mendum Medal’.


Doodlewash - Botanical Illustration by Işık Güner of Alstroemeria Pulchra © Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

© Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

During this time I was also developing my skills on education and teaching. Since 2008, I have organised workshops around the world, from Turkey to Scotland and Spain to Chile. My latest was a small workshop in China. My working experience on these countries also makes me develop my skills on teaching three different languages, Turkish, English, Spanish, but not Chinese, I can only order food in Chinese and say Hi! I am one of the tutors for the Distance Diploma Course in RBGE, a three-year course for advanced students and this September we will be accepting our 4th group intake! Exciting!

Now, I am really happy to say, with my sister Basak, I am developing some new art tours around the world and our first trips are to:

Doodlewash - Botanical Illustration by Işık Güner 6We are organizing a series of art tours to discover exciting plants in different parts of the world with our brushes in our hands! And as sisters, we have fun together! My sister was also inspired by our botanist father and followed his footsteps to become a brilliant botanist studying plants around the world. She is also a photographer and recently published the critically acclaimed Flora of the Silk Road (IB Tauris). If you would like to learn about botanical illustration in the field as well as learn a great deal of information about the plant(s) that you are painting, please visit the Vira Natura Tours website for more information.


Doodlewash - Botanical Illustration by Işık Güner 4When I am working on my illustrations, I use watercolour as the medium. For me it is the one and only choice. I love the delicacy and transparency of the colours, which is perfect for creating lifelike nature illustrations. I started my art with this medium and I don’t think I will ever give it up. Perhaps, I am a little too conservative about this, not to even try something else, but for me watercolour is just so perfect for my work.

Doodlewash - Botanical Illustration by Işık Güner 5I often use Winsor & Newton Artist’ Value, I love those pigments. In my paint box, I do have a number of different pigments, including favourites I know well such as Green Gold and French Ultramarine (and although the latter has some unwanted texture in it, we are getting on very well lately. ) And I know very well how they will react with each other, how they will move on the paper, how they will change colour when I gently put more layers of colour on top.


I am writing this post from China, in the middle of an exhibition marathon in various Chinese botanic gardens. You can here see some of my orchid paintings that I have prepared them for ‘The Beauty of the Orchids’ Project – This project focuses on orchid species endangered from over collection. The idea of it is to use the power of art to reach a wide audience to engage emotions and encourage the responsible purchasing of appropriate orchids.

Doodlewash - Botanical Illustration by Işık Güner of Rhynchostylis Gigantea

Doodlewash - Botanical Illustration by Işık Güner 1Our plan is that through these exhibitions we will disseminate the orchid information to a great number of people and also survey these people to see what effect if any our botanical illustration has for conservation purposes. Our exhibition marathon has started in south-west, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, and will end in north-east, Beijing. So right now I am travelling from place to place around China, with forty-one orchid illustrations (including ten of mine). You can visit my page to see more details of this collection.


Doodlewash - Botanical Illustration by Işık Güner 2I am feeling free when I am painting, and freedom is priceless. So my future plan is to be free, and produce more paintings and dream about some fresh projects as long as I live in a world with flowers.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for letting me write my words!

Işık Güner
Vira Natura Tours

Recommended2 recommendationsPublished in Featured Artists
  1. Sue Dreamwalker 6 years ago

    Oh my.. As a keen gardener myself, these are astounding paintings in wonderful detail from Işık Güner What beautiful paintings are these.. I am now off to see those Orchid Paintings..
    Thank you Charlie for sharing Işık Güner ‘s stunning artwork..

    • isikguner 6 years ago

      Ohhh Sue, Thank you very much! Are you actually see my paintings in person? or through my website =) let me know if you are around China.. =))))

      • Sue Dreamwalker 6 years ago

        Işık, Would that I could visit China in person.. The next best thing was visiting your wonderful website and seeing those amazing paintings.. Thank you for making my day.. I love Orchids and attempt to grow a few at home.. I hope you continue to enjoy each brush stroke of your beautiful creations..
        Blessings to you and yours,

  2. Laura (PA Pict) 6 years ago

    Utterly breathtaking and captivating paintings. Wow!

    • isikguner 6 years ago

      Thanks a lot Laura, for reading through and leaving those nice words =)

  3. Melissa Elliott 6 years ago

    Your paintings are amazing. The level of specific detail boggles the mind, and they are truly beautiful. The most precise use of watercolor I’ve ever seen.

    • isikguner 6 years ago

      Thanks Melissa! Wow! to hear such things is really encouraging! very appreciated!

  4. Sharon Mann 6 years ago

    Pure magic Isik, thank you for your beautiful gift to the world. Thank you Charlie.

    • isikguner 6 years ago

      Oh Sharon, that’s the nicest thing to hear, doing my best to be helpful to myself and to the plants

  5. amusingword 6 years ago

    How impressive! You are quite good at what you do!

  6. isikguner 6 years ago

    Oh Thanks! Practising all those years helped a lot =)))

  7. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 6 years ago

    Your dedication to the tiniest detail makes the art glow with life. It’s a pleasure to move around your website and view masterpiece after masterpiece, knowing how much your art contributes to preserving plants around the world. Well done, Isik, and may your career continue to flourish.

    • isikguner 6 years ago

      Thank you very much Sharon! If I could help to preserve one or two spices in the world, that would be a big pleasure for me..

  8. artandmoondreams 6 years ago

    Wow…totally spellbound about an amazing art career and stunningly beautiful paintings…fantastic post, great read! Thank you for sharing.

    • isikguner 6 years ago

      Thank you very much! It took a bit of time to write in other language than joy mother language =)

  9. Jen 6 years ago

    Oh wow, what beautiful paintings. So delicate and alive!

  10. M. L. Kappa 6 years ago

    What lovely work, Isik! I’d love to join your Greek workshop – I’ll have to see of I can make it. Meanwhile, if you need any additional info about Greece, please do not hesitate to contact me. I’ve followed you on Instagram. 🌸

    • isikguner 6 years ago

      Ohh, that would be lovely if you can make it! So perhaps in the future we meet =)

  11. beverlydyer 6 years ago

    Amazing works! I completed a Botanical Illustration Certificate here in North Carolina at the NC Botanical Garden. I loved it during my program. Thank you for sharing your talent!

    • isikguner 6 years ago

      Thanks a lot! I loved it too during all those years, still loving it =))

  12. Phil Cooper 6 years ago

    Absolutely beautiful, what a talent 😊

  13. isikguner 6 years ago

    Thank you so much Phil! Pretty much practicing all those years =)

  14. Afife Izbırak 6 years ago

    Sevgili Işık,
    Ben de Türkiye’den Türkçe sözcüklerle hayran grubuna katılmak istedim. Ellerine ve emeğine sağlık. Muhteşem işler yapmışsın.Kutluyor ve yanaklarından öpüyorum.

    • Isık guner 6 years ago

      Ahh Afife Hanım, ne kadar teşekkür etsem azdır.. Çok çok sağolun : )

  15. Anita 6 years ago

    What an incredible life you have! I was at the same botanical gardens in Edinburgh recently as I also have a love for flowers and plants. There are so many good botanical gardens in the UK and Wales. Keep up your great work. X

  16. FlowerAlley 6 years ago

    Wonderful x 100000000!

  17. Sharon Nolfi 5 years ago

    Lovely botanical paintings! I love plants and am working on painting them better.

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