Niki Simpson Biography

Botanical painting
Niki studied Environmental Science (BSc Hons) at Sheffield University (which included 3 years of Botany). After her children were  born, and time spent living abroad, she joined the Botany Department at RHS Wisley in 1993, where she worked, first as Administrator for the RHS Horticultural Database and later managing the RHS Botany image collection. She exhibited a number of times at RHS London shows, receiving a RHS Gold Medal for her exhibit of watercolour paintings in 1998. For some years Niki was commissioned to produce illustrations for the RHS New Plantsman and taught short courses in Botanical Art for the RHS at Rosemoor Garden in Devon. With an interest in the future of botanical illustration, Niki was delighted to receive a Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust award in 2004, for a project to experiment with the digital techniques for botanical illustration.


Photography and digitally created botanical illustration
Niki now specialises in using digital techniques, including photography, to create reference standard composite illustrations, working in collaboration with botanist Peter Barnes. Her main interest is the depiction of plants of the British flora. She does not consider herself to be a photographer, rather an illustrator who uses photography. As well as a RHS Gold medal for painting, Niki holds two RHS Gold Medals for photography (2007, 2008) for her digitally created botanical images.

Her composite illustration of flax was included in The Power of Plants exhibition in Kew's Shirley Sherwood Gallery in 2009, and she has had solo exhibitions in BGBM Berlin, Germany, at the invitation of Herr Professor Lack (2007), and in the UK at RHS Hyde Hall, Essex (2009), RHS Wisley, Surrey (2012) and The Garden Museum, London (2010). Her work is held in the major collections at the RBG Kew, the RHS Lindley Library and the Linnean Society of London. She has been a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London since 2005.

Niki was commissioned to illustrate the groundbreaking The Vegetative Key of the British Flora, published in 2009 and now available digitally on Kindle.  Notably, her illustration of the briar rose was selected by an international panel of experts as one of  “over 300 outstanding botanical works of art from throughout history“ for the book Plant: Exploring the Botanical World, published by Phaidon in 2016. Niki received the 2018 Jill Smythies Award from the Linnean Society of London.

Currently Niki is continuing to develop her illustrations for interactive viewing for both scientific and educational use. Another aspect of her recent work involves experimentation with design and repeat patterns using her scientific material.