Sven Bellanger

Scientific botanical illustrator & Graphic Designer
Department: Research
Phone: +32 2 260 03 27 (direct) +32 2 896 61 21

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Sven Bellanger

Documenting science through art has always appealed to me and so I am happy that the creation of botanical illustration is my main focus within the Botanic Garden. 

I mainly create illustrations for the new Flora of Belgium & the Manual of the Alien Plants of Belgium website. Mostly based on dried herbarium specimens, I create black & white illustrations as morphology, structure and the internal parts of the plant are taxonomically more significant than color and a traditional pen and ink illustration is a more clear and readable way of communicating information without ambiguities. Occasionally I work on assignments for some of our African Flora’s which brings me in contact with a more exotic range of plant species. 

A valid illustration starts by consulting the available documentation and comparing different dried herbarium specimens of the species at hand, some of which are from important historical collections and are particularly valuable and fragile. If possible, I also look into other available (herbarium) material found in our collections, in the first place in our vast collection of living plants. When required, preparation and dissection are done under a microscope or a binocular loupe. Combined with a study of the literature in books, articles and specialized websites, and in mutual consultation with the scientist involved. I then consolidate all relevant information accurately in a unifying, detailed and scientifically correct botanical illustration. Experience has learned how to imbue new life to the dried and flat reference material. Important details are emphasized where needed, broken or incomplete specimens are reconstructed with respect for the truth and different individuals are often combined to one ideal, encompassing drawing. The final illustration captures the essence of a plant and is a scientifically exact representation, controllable by any scientist and has therefore an important role in sharing research and findings in an accessible visual way.

I additionally have a responsibility working as a graphic designer. This implies the conception and design of ideas and projects like invitations, posters, book layout, cover design, etc. always taking into account the target audience and pursuing both visual expression and creativity. Occasionally I help create, plan and set up expositions and exhibitions stands.

Member of the AEIMS (Association Européenne des Illustrateurs Médicaux et Scientifiques), as well as of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrations (U.S., Washington, DC).


MA, Graphic Design, School of Arts, Ghent, Belgium (2002)
MA, Scientific Illustration, Maastricht, Netherlands (2005) 

Employment history

Scientific illustrator & Graphic Designer, Meise Botanic Garden, Belgium, 2006 – ongoing
Guest professor, School of Arts, Ghent, Belgium, 2006 - ongoing