It takes a gifted artist to become a great teacher and those who dare to teach never cease to learn.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Strong start for the new year

Anna Sparlin - entry level graphite
We have completed the first set of classes for 2020, both at the entry level and also some more advanced. Each of the courses with enthusiastic students and with very with very strong results. 
Please follow this link to see some of the completed work. 
Miniatures in mixed media by Lesley McGregory

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

SBAI - 40 Years of Illustration!

Watercolor by Angela Overy, 2007 (from Penstemons to Pines - Denver Botanic Gardens, 2010)

Dr. Janet Wingate, the former curator of the Kathryn Kalmbach Herbarium of Vascular Plants and Ms. Ann Cunningham taught occasional botanical illustration sessions at Denver Botanic Gardens already in the late 1970’s.  
Ms. Angela Overy offered her first regular botanical illustration classes at the Gardens in 1980. Angela started flower drawing while in England and had recently moved to Colorado. Her illustration classes were very popular being also different from the then prevalent “modern art” classes. The regular courses were expanded in 1990 when Ms. Overy established our botanical illustration certification program. This was a rigorous one year course of study and the first of its kind worldwide to teach a progressive course to students from beginner to the very accomplished artist.

Nymphaea 'Denver's Delight' watercolor by Susan T. Fisher

After 20 years, in 2000, the leadership for the program was passed to Susan T. Fisher, MFA and she grew the program to meet the needs of students who wished to professionally pursue botanical art and illustration. Susan T. Fisher laid the ground for a successful education model with a selection of required and elective courses.

Lupinus argenteus by Susan Rubin, colored pencil (2017)

Susan Rubin managed the program in 2006 and in January 2007 the program management was passed to Dr. Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski.
Trichostema arizonicum, colored pencil by Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski

We continued expanding and in 2009 started teaching in San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mexico and launched the collaboration with the local El Charco de Ingenio Botanical Garden. A distance learning program was initiated in 2011 to combine classroom participation with remote online opportunities and in 2018 we had our first virtual teaching session.
In 2013 we were renamed School of Botanical Art and Illustration (SBAI). In addition to the Foundational Certificate in Botanical Art and Illustration, we established the Diploma in Applied Botanical Illustration which opened the doors to individuals who already have earned the basic scientific illustration skills. 
Since 2011 we have arranged popular annual Arts and Archives international tours providing an additional opportunity to study not only global botanical art, but also science, historical documentation, and culture. Since the inauguration, the tours have traveled to 15 countries mainly in Europe to study early natural history documentation, science and global botanical art. The regularly occurring So Much Art and Culture (SMA-) tours to Mexico have been arranged since 2018. These are tours that combine art instruction with local culture (50/50) at the destination.
In 2015 we were able to host our first Artist-in-Resident participant and have continued to do so annually since.

The school made history in 2017 by receiving a group gold medal at the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) annual London Botanical Art Show. Each of the core instructors plus two alumni were involved in this successful group exhibit, Rocky Mountains: Plants and Fungi with Altitude. This rare achievement testifies to the skill of our teachers, the achievements of our students, the ability to maintain tradition and innovation, and excellence in all details. 
Today we offer around 160 15-hour workshops annually, we have 8 core teachers, and typically every year have 5-6 international visiting instructors. Annually 10-15 students graduate with a foundational certificate after having completed 15 required courses and at least 100 elective class room hours in addition to the approved 5-piece portfolio.
In the future we are looking for new opportunities to expand and reach more of the Colorado and distant learning community with our classes and programs. We also hope to have more scholarships and other alternatives to share our enthusiasm and knowledge with various local demographic groups, thus broadening the understanding of the centuries old tradition of botanical illustration.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Murals, Culture and Sketching wildflowers - September 2020 SMA tour with Lucy Smith

Part of the History of Mexico-mural by Diego Rivera at the National Palace of Murals, Mexico City

2020 SMA Tour – So Much Art and Culture, September 23 – October 5, 2020
Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende

In addition to an optional art workshop, immerse yourself in the culture and traditions of San Miguel de Allende. This time we start our SMA - San Miguel de Allende tour from Mexico City and visit first some of the most significant places for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. This will be the prime time for wildflowers immediately after the annual rain season. For more detailed information and registration, please contact 720-865-3653 or

Wednesday, September 23:
Arriving Mexico City. We will be staying three nights in Chaya BandB Boutique 

Thursday, September 24:
Our guide for the cultural part of our tour, Alberto Avaleyra is joining us and is taking us first to the National Palace Murals in the World Heritage Historic Center of Mexico City followed by the guided tour of the National Museum of Anthropology 
Finally we visit the massive Rain God Sculpture that Rivera made in the Chapultepec Forest, the main park of the city. This is probably the most important sculpture that Rivera did in his life, please read more about it in the npr article

Friday, September 25:
- We start the day with a visit to the Coyoacan neighborhood with Frida Kahlo’s Blue House (Museum tour). We continue with a visit to the Studio of Rivera in San Angel neighborhood and Dolores Olmedo Museum with the most important canvas collection of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. 

Saturday, September 26:
Transferring to San Miguel de Allende and on the way stop by and learn about the pre-Columbian Teotihuacan site. If we arrive in time to Posada Corazon, our traditional BandB in San Miguel, we’ll be served a welcome dinner –

Sunday, September  27:
Full day guided tour of Cañada de la Virgen archeological siteWe'll explore the massive temple and archaic ruins that date back to 1050 AD. We visit the north temple, the south temple and end our tour at the top of the main pyramid, the House of the 13 Heavens. Alberto Aveleyra, anthropologist and our guide, shares his research on the ancient cultures of Mexico and talk about the discoveries made by the archaeologists, the burials, offerings and ceremonial objects. On the way back to San Miguel we have a pre-Colombian meal prepared by  Dr. Rossana Quiroz Ennis at the Museo de Astronomica Prehispanica.

Monday,  September 28:
A unique guided full day tour to the Los Palomas Natural Protection area including a Mexican Cowboy lunch prepared by the ranchers at the park. Sketching and documenting class with Lucy Smith is also starting. (You can participate in the tour, even if you are not part of the botanical illustration class)
page from Lucy Smith's sketchbook

Creating a Botanical Sketchbook (This class will be considered as a masterclass and equivalent to the class offered periodically at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.)

Learn how to keep a botanical sketchbook – an invaluable tool to record your plant drawings, color studies and written notes. A well-kept botanical sketchbook is an invaluable tool to record your plant drawings and field notes, color studies, and written notes. During these days in San Miguel Lucy will teach you how to keep a botanical sketchbook. You will practice drawing and sketching from life, both indoors and outdoors, and learn how to capture multiple levels of information to help inform your botanical artwork, all while being inspired by the wild flowers in different environments.
Dates: September 28-October 1, October 4

Lucy T Smith is a freelance botanical artist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. She has received many awards for her work, including the 2004 Jill Smythies Award for Botanical Illustration from the Linnean Society of London. She won the first prize in the Margaret Flockton Award for Scientific Illustration, at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney (2017), as well as Second Price 2007, Highly Commended awards in the 2005, 2006 and 2008 competitions. She has also received two Gold Medals from the Royal Horticultural Society. As well as her freelance work, Lucy produces paintings for private commissions and exhibitions.

Tuesday, September 29:
We drive up to Rocio Rias’ country house up on the mountains outside San Miguel to draw and document the orchard in the property. Guidance and illustrations with Lucy Smith

-Birthday of St. Michael
                The 29th of September is the day of San Miguel Arcangel, the patron saint of San Miguel...his celebration continues until the 2nd or 3rd of October with the Alborada, a festival involving lots of fireworks in the early hours of the morning where the church fires at the Presidencia (town hall) and the town hall fires back at the church over the center square. Dancing and celebrating lasts all night that night in the streets of San Miguel. There is a colorful parade that snakes through El Centro featuring Mexico's indigenous tribes. Participants are outfitted in tribal costumes and there are a several days of dancing on every corner of the Jardin.

Wednesday, September 30:
9 a.m. - noon: El Charco del Ingenio botanical garden tour with a specialist and continuation of drawing wildflowers with Lucy Smith (You can participate in the tour, even if you are not part of the botanical illustration class)

Lunch at Posada Corazon

2-5:30 p.m.: A guided private tour of the historic center of SMA  – (3-4 hours)

- Jardin, Parroquia, the Centro Cultural El Nigromante (the former Escuela Universitaria de Bellas Artes school, and the murals by students and David Alfredo Siqueiro), Instituto Allende (and David Leonardo’s mural), Biblioteca Pública with its amazing murals and plaza of the Soledad. If you are on the mood we can go to the Mercado to have a glass of aguamiel or pulque, fermented drink that is done from agave nectar.

A page from Lucy Smith's Sketchbook
Thursday, October 1:
9 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.: Illustrating wildflowers and continuing with the botanical sketchbook with Lucy Smith (Posada Corazon’s patio)

Market to Meal cooking class (2-7 p.m.)- We start with a stroll through the town’s central food market to pick up some ingredients, peruse the variety of fresh and dried chiles and try small portions of the roasted and seasoned Mexican delicacies typically prepared and eaten in the market. From there, we’ll head over to the quaint shop of a local winery at El Jardin to try their selection and choose one suited for our meal. Back in the large, square and wooden kitchen of Posada Corazon, we’ll prepare a festive meal while enjoying a cheese tasting of a variety of typical Mexican fresh types, making fresh and roasted salsas combining different chiles, as well as all the main vegetable and meat ‘guisos’ or stews that will highlight what is in season (and, therefore, the most delicious), all variations of traditional Mexican recipes. We finish with a grand meal at the end and pitchers of Margaritas (vine also included) and an e-cookbook with recipes and pictures.

Friday, October 2:
9 a.m. – noon:  Illustrating Wildflowers and working with a Botanical Sketchbook 
(Posada Corazon) with Lucy Smith

Lunch at Posada Corazon

Afternoon:  On your own OR Visit the best arts and crafts factories owned by local people in San Miguel de Allende.
  • Pewter
  • Papel Mache
  • Weaving studios
Saturday, October 3:
9 a.m. – noon:  Final notes for Creating a Botanical Sketchbook (Posada Corazon) with Lucy Smith

Lunch at Posada Corazon

Afternoon tour to Sanctuary of Atotonilco (UNESCO World heritage site since 2008) .
The Sanctuary of Jesus of Nazareth, better known as the Sistine Chapel of America, is a baroque temple
from the 18th century known for its majestic works of art painted in its chapels, walls and ceilings.  

Sunday, October 4:
Full day tour to Guanajuato. Guided walking tour of the historic center and visit to Museo Casa Diego Rivera (guided tour)

Monday, October 5: Return home

Cost of the tour (based on 10 participants):  $2600 including drawing class, $1900 (art class excluded). Single room supplement $700.
- Fee includes shuttle to the airport (San Miguel-Leon or San Miguel-Queretaro, 1.5 hours away), lodging for 3 nights in Mexico City (double occupancy) and 9 nights in San Miguel (double occupancy) with luxurious full organic breakfasts, Internet, lunches listed above, all the program including the visiting instructor workshops listed above (For participants working towards the foundational certificate or diploma, this gives 20 elective credit hours).
- The fee does NOT include international airfare, travel insurance, meals not listed in the itinerary; tips, personal expenses such as beverages, laundry, and communication charges, medical treatments, medical or evacuation fees including but not limited to emergency transportation, additional lodging, additional transportation, extra guide/porter services, and tipping or gratuities.

For more detailed information and for the payment, please contact Mervi at 720-865-3653

Thursday, January 23, 2020

2020 Illustrator in Residence opportunity with School of Botanical Art and Illustration

 Aquilegia caerulea, watercolor by John Pastoriza-Pinol (2016)

The Illustrator in Residence Program is an exciting opportunity for illustrators to find inspiration in the natural beauty of Denver Botanic Gardens and further their practice with in-depth access to the Gardens’ extensive scientific collections. Residents will illustrate the Garden’s collections and landscapes with a focus on documenting plants native to the Rocky Mountain region, supporting the Gardens’ dedication to preservation, conservation, education and biodiversity.

This residency is offered for a period of six weeks between June 9 and October 9, 2020. The resident is expected to spend 40 hours a week engaged in residency activities, ideally Monday through Friday although some flexibility is possible. Optional professional development opportunities like lectures or programs may also be available to the resident during evenings and weekends.


The scope of this residency features two key elements: 

  • Creation of a body of work supporting the mission of Denver Botanic Gardens, particularly focused on plants native to Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region. This work will be created through reference to the Gardens’ collections and landscapes, with specific plants selected for illustration by the Gardens’ Research and SBAI staff. The resident will retain copyright of all works produced during the residency, but will grant permission to Denver Botanic Gardens to use images for publicity, retail purposes, and publication. Additionally, of the artworks created during the residency, one piece will be selected to remain with Denver Botanic Gardens as part of its permanent collections.
·         Leading one 3-day workshop for 12 students in the Gardens’ School of Botanical Art and Illustration. This workshop will focus on a technique or media that the resident specializes in, subject to the approval of the Gardens. Dates of the workshop will be determined based on the residency timeframe. 

Additionally, interaction with visitors is optional though highly encouraged, promoting public understanding and appreciation of the natural world and offering an opportunity for visitors to see the Gardens through the eyes of an artist. Opportunities could include:

  • Offering an open studio to share works in progress
  • Conducting demonstrations for the public
  • Writing blog posts for the Gardens’ website
The residency provides a stipend of $4,000 paid up front to offset costs of travel and transportation, art supplies, and living expenses.

The Gardens additionally offers space to work inside or outdoors en plein air and access to the Gardens’ collections, including pressed plants, preserved fungi, and other preserved herbaria collections, living plant collections, rare books, archival materials, art collections, and books and periodicals in the Garden’s library.

The resident must provide their own art supplies and equipment, as well as their own travel, transportation, accommodation and related living expenses.
Ratibida columnifera, watercolor by Isik Güner (2017)

The residency is open to all illustrators who have completed a certificate program in scientific illustration, botanical art or illustration, nature illustration or equivalent qualification or experience. Artists working in all media will be considered. Current School of Botanical Art & Illustration instructors or staff at Denver Botanic Gardens are not eligible for the residency.

International applicants who are proficient in English are encouraged, although additional tax documentation may be required. 

Please email the application form on the following pages and the required attachments to with Illustrator in Residence 2020 in the subject line:

Submissions must be received by 11:59 PM, MST, February 29, 2020. Notifications of acceptance and regrets will be sent by March 13, 2020.

Colorado 'sampler', watercolor by Asuka Hishiki (2018)

Please click here for a downloadable pdf-document

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Intensive Foundational Certificate

Tillandsia,  Colored Pencil (distance learning option), Milvi Gill

Since 2011 the School of Botanical Illustration has offered an distance learning option, which is a hybrid combining classroom participation (10 classroom hours) with remote online teaching. Typically the results from these sessions have been convincing, however this form of training is high cost and time consuming.   

Entry level watercolor (distance learning option) by Cynthia Zyzda
In 2020 we are searching additional options to better facilitate our out-of state and international audience. We are introducing an intense Block system in which all the 15 required courses for the Foundational Certificate at the SBAI can be completed in three intense two-week BLOCKS onsite. The classroom instruction covers each class in 12 hours spread over two consecutive days within the 2-week block. The last day of each block is dedicated to a Deep-Dive Day providing the students an opportunity to explore the trickier challenges, questions and the next steps in their illustration studies.
Each of the 2-week blocks is followed by online sessions which may include both virtual sessions and email reports. The number of students for each block is limited to six (6)
In order to receive a credit for each session in a block and continua to the next level, the student work is evaluated according to the technical competence, accuracy and overall composition.
To complete the certificate candidates present a final themed portfolio reflecting a comprehensive botanical research of the chosen species. In addition to the intense blocks, the students are encouraged to take part in stand-alone courses to enrich their knowledge of different techniques and ways of working. 

For more information about the BLOCK system, please do not hesitate to write your questions to the school.

Pen and Ink (distance learning option) by Karey Swan

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

SBAI 2019-2020 Scholarship

We are happy to announce the recipient of the 2019-2020 School of Botanical Illustration Scholarship:

Brianna M. Drew, Laramie WY

Ginkgo - Gouache and Watercolor, Brianna M. Drew

Brianna is currently studying towards her BA in Fine Arts at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. While studying with us Brianna's goal is to refine her current art skills to a more professional level and to learn more about plants along the scientific illustration. Brianna will start with her first course with us in few weeks -


Monday, December 30, 2019

Anna: Exploring the Life and Art of Anna Pavlova

Anna Pavlova's "Russian Dance" Private Residence of Lord and Lady Londonborough, London 1909 - the outfit recreated by Peggy Turchette

The Dairy Arts Center in Boulder is displaying a unique exhibit exploring the life and the art of the world famous ballerina, Anna Pavlova, born in St. Petersburg, Russia 1881.
Peggy Turchette has been working with her Pavlova project for the past eight years. Through her research she has recreated 85 of Anna Pavlova’s performance costumes and couture in one-quarter scale.  
Anna Pavlova at the age of 15 when she was studying at the School of Imperial Ballet, St. Petersburg, Russia (1896). Anna was accepted to the school when she was 10-years old. - Costume recreation by Peggy Turchette 

Peggy Turchette graduated from our school with the certificate in foundational botanical illustration in 2007. 

In 2016 Peggy spoke to the botanical illustration community at our annual graduation ceremony and described how her 20-year career as botanical illustrator became a bridge to her work in creating the historically informed costumes of Anna Pavlova.
If you are visiting Boulder, CO please plan to see this extraordinary display which closes on January 12, 2020.
The Dying Swan, premiered at the Mariinsky Theathre, St. Petersburg, 1907 - Anna Pavlova costume recreation by Peggy Turchette
In addition to the Anna's clothing Peggy also recreated the pets - this is Anna Pavlova with her pets at Ivy House, Golden Green, London 1912
"The Legend of Azyiode" from "Oriental Fantasies" Danced with Michail Mordkin, Denver, 1914 - Costume recreation by Peggy Turchette
Note: Please click the images to enlarge!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas to All our Readers!

(A Christmas Card by Rudolf Koivu)

The gifted graphic artist and painter, Rudolf Koivu (1890-1946), is one of Finland's most famous illustrators. Koivu is best known for his illustrations of fairy tales and other children's publications. Koivu's Christmas cards and cover pictures for Christmas magazines have had a strong influence on the Finnish image of a "real Christmas".

Rudolf Koivu Prize (10 000 euros) is awarded every second year for the best children's or youth book illustration in Finland. The Rudolf Koivu prize was first awarded in 1949 to celebrate the lifetime achievements of the artist Rudolf Koivu. This year’s (2019) price went to the illustrator Marika MaijalaThe purpose of the prize is to raise the quality of artwork in children's books.

(A Christmas Card by Rudolf Koivu)

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

“The Kiss” – a great ending for 2019

Inspired by G. Klimt by Chris Imhof

While learning new methods we are from time to time taking a step from the traditional botanical illustration to focus on artists like the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt (1862-1918). Klimt represented the Vienna Secession Movement and Art Nouveau; Klimt became perhaps the most important Austrian painter in the world. He painted some landscapes but mainly focused on the relationship between the man and woman, and also on the female body and feelings of life and death. The largest collection of Klimt’s works can be seen in the Belvedere Museum,Vienna.

Our last workshop of 2019 focused on Klimt’s golden phase and the use of metallic color with the arrangements of different patterns. Please click here to see more images (finished and in process) from the 3-day workshop.

Inspired by G. Klimt, Meredith Feniak - the instructor

Friday, December 13, 2019

Drawing skills are instrumental

Milvi Gill, carbon dust
 Our foundational certificate program starts with classes in graphite pencil and form. It is instrumental to learn drawing techniques with pencil prior the studies in color media.
If you click here you can see more images from our graphite classes and more advanced color media classes.
Cucurpita pepo var., graphite by Roan Jenks