Frequently Asked Questions
Oliva Maria Braida-Chiusano

Q. As for Certification:

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 Final Independent Study. Once a satisfactory presentation of their independent work is made, Certification can be achieved.

Q. What benefit is Certification?

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 Certification?

A. Students need to achieve 220 Core Credits and 60 Elective Credits for a total of 280 Credits.

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

A. There are students who achieve Certification is under three (3) years. Others take between 4 and 5 years. Because this is self-paced, it is possible to achieve the program as follows:

Course length time table with approximate dates for completion. Students must factor in their own busy life and develop a time table that will work for them.
Name of Course Number of Class Weeks Additional Time to Finish Projects Estimated Time to Complete Course
Drawing I 5 Weeks 4 Weeks 9 Weeks
Drawing II 5 Weeks 4 Weeks 9 Weeks
Research on Internet 5 Weeks 2 Weeks 7 Weeks
Watercolor I 5 Weeks 4 Weeks 9 Weeks
Watercolor II 5 Weeks 6 Weeks 11 Weeks
Drawing III 5 Weeks 5 Weeks 10 Weeks
Drawing IV 5 Weeks 5 Weeks 10 Weeks
Watercolor III 5 Weeks 5 Weeks 11 Weeks
Pen & Ink 10 Weeks 4 Weeks 14 Weeks
Plant Morphology 10 Weeks 4 Weeks 14 Weeks
Watercolor IV 5 Weeks 6 Weeks 11 Weeks
Business of Art 5 Weeks 4 Weeks 9 Weeks
Electives Workshops 4 Weeks 4 Weeks

Total estimated time: 36 months or 3 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 certification 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 the website as, "Bear This." Click here: http://dev.omartdesigns.com/category/DLAddTutorTime.html

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

A. All students that wish to study Research on the Internet, Plant Morphology 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. Visit the Academy Marketplace, here: http://dev.omartdesigns.com/category/DLAddTutorTime.html

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 communicate the need for an extension, Tutor 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 the Marketplace. 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.

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. Refer to the Academy Marketplace and learn more about “Clamshell” shipping and storage boxes which keep work safe during shipping. Select from two suppliers under Affiliate Art Supplies

1) Dick Blick http://www.dickblick.com/products/blick-metal-edge-archival-clamshell-boxes/; or
2) Amazon Botanical Art Supplies http://astore.amazon.com/academysupplies-20/detail/B002PIA6Z4

Q. How do I achieve certification?

A. Certification can only be applied for after all core and elective credits have been achieved and all grades are passing. Student must submit their Thesis Project of Independent Study for approval. Upon approval, Student begins to work on their Thesis which is composed of Three Researched Plant Subjects with research posted on Research Boards as learned in Drawing III, 3 Graphite Drawings, 4 Watercolor Paintings, and 2 Scientific Pen & Ink Illustrations. Once their project is completed, student presents their work to a jury at the Marie Selby Botanical Garden. Upon successful completion, student receives their Certification. 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 the Academy Website. If you are interested in Certification, 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 certification 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® Click on Marketplace, click on Academy Supplies.
  5. ORDER BOOKS at the Marketplace, and click on OM ART INSTRUCTION BOOKS. The set of books is your most economical choice.

    The complete set of books includes Volumes 1-12, and Course Paks #1-16. It is the best way to purchase the books as it will save you quite a lot of money.

    However, 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 online with a credit card.
  7. CHECK OUT of the ACADEMY MARKETPLACE: - Check out and pay for Academy Instruction Books and the Perplexi®, and Magnifier (if desired), and Course.
  8. TO ORDER ART SUPPLIES click on Affiliate Art Supplies. You have a choice between Daniel Smith and Dick Blick. 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.
  9. ORDER ADDITIONAL COURSE RECOMMENDED BOOKS: The Affiliate Art Suppliers also include Amazon Fine Art Books and Amazon Botanical Art Supplies. Under the Amazon Fine Art Books you have the course listings. In each course you will see required and supplemental books. For Drawing I, you will need Perspective Without Pain. Note that it is always helpful to purchase used books.
  10. ORDER ADDITIONAL BOTANICAL ART MATERIALS: The Affiliate Art Suppliers also include Amazon Botanical Art Supplies. Under this category you have selections for Proportional Dividers, Cameras, Helping Hands, Pencil Sharpeners, Microscopes, Light Boxes, Lights, and other supplies.

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 Supply List on the Website Store. Note you will 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 Academy Marketplace 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). Since each student’s “hand” is different, the Academy recommends you try various 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, pen if smooth, and light wash if 65-lb weight or over.

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.

3. For detailed information about art papers, go to: http://myartteacher.com/likes/about-paper/

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 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: “Academy Course Pak #5 in support of Botanical Watercolor 1 (Tools and Techniques)”.

This book may be purchased at: http://www.omartdesigns.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=O&Category_Code=BCIBA

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 in “Academy Course Pak #5 in support of Botanical Watercolor 1 (Tools and Techniques)”. This book may be purchased at:


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

A. There are three basic types of watercolor paper: Hot Press, Cold 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-pressed watercolor paper has a slightly textured surface, somewhere in between rough and hot-pressed paper. Rough Press is very bumpy. All three of these papers come in different weights: 90-lb; 140-lb, 300-lb ~~ Some manufacturers offer 250-lb. For Academy Students, it is recommended that they use 140-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 as it would never let you create clean sharp edges.

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 pieces 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 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.

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 do so 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 www.selby.org and go to education/art classes/Academy listings. Register online, or call Marilynn Shelley, Interim Director of Environmental Education 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.