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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Time to throw the tin - Happy New Year

I am re-posting my blog from several years ago as I wish you all Happy new Year:

Since 1753 the Gregorian calendar has been in use in Finland and January 1st has been the first day of the year. Traditionally the night proceeding the first day of the year has been the time for magical tricks with the intention to open the door to the future.

Casting of tin is one of the most popular magical tricks in Finland on New Year's Eve. Everyone gets a small piece of tin (nowadays mostly lead) in the shape of a miniature horseshoe, which is a traditional symbol of good luck. The horseshoe is melted and the liquid metal poured quickly into a bucket of cold water, where it quickly solidifies in fantastic shapes.
The shape and shadow of the resulting cast is examined and interpreted to predict the various future events of the coming year. Different shapes have different meaning, promising good luck or health, wealth, happiness, sorrow, sickness etc. If the cast breaks down to pieces, it is a sign of "bad luck".
This tradition originates in ancient Greece. These Magical Tricks were later spread to Central Europe and today probably only used in Finland. Instead of tin also beeswax and lead were used.
Click here to see how it is done.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


(Lois Sanford, from watercolor II class)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Artist-In-Residence Opportunity in Boulder County, CO!

(Sue Shoaff's nature journal page from our workshop at Caribou Ranch, August 2011)

Boulder County Parks and Open Space Department is announcing a Artist in Residence Opportunity for next summer at Caribou Ranch. The selected artists can stay up to 7 days  in the historic DeLonde Barn at Caribou Ranch and work in and with the inspiring landscape of the Caribou ranch. For more information, please click here.
For application rules and guidelines, please click here. The application deadline is February 15, 2012.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Focus on Nature XII -

(Amorphophallus titanum with Sarcophogid by Susan Rubin, Colored Pencil on Mylar)

At least two entries from the Denver Botanic Gardens' Botanical Illustration Program were accepted to  Focus on Nature, the biennial exhibit on natural history illustration at New York State Museum of Natural History, Albany, NY. This FON XII exhibit will hang between April 28 and December 31, 2012. The prestigious exhibit series was incepted in 1990 and typically includes superior illustrations from 10-15 different countries.

Congratulations Susan and Randy!

(Sagittarius serpentarius, Secretary Bird by Randy Raak, graphite on paper)

Conservation and Communities

(please click the image to enlarge, poster design incl. illustration by Randy Raak)

The Society of Ethnobiology is dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of the relationships of plants and animals with human cultures worldwide. The 35th Annual Conference will be held at Denver Botanic Gardens in April 11-14, 2012. For more information, please click here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Happy Registration!

(From Colored Pencil II by Sue Klebold )

Online registration for 2012 January-July courses starts on Monday, December 12, 9 a.m. - 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ink with Brush and Quill

(Yucca, detail by Susan Curnutte; please click the image to enlarge)
We are used to see pen and ink technique in more technical illustrations, however quill and brush combined with ink have been used for thousands of years both for writing (calligraphy) and for creating images. Bird feathers and bamboo sticks have been used both in India and Egypt prior the beginning of the common era (Prisse Papyrus, 2000 yr BCE).In the more recent time Cicely Mary Barker is well known from the late 1800s England. She illustrated accurate plants with fairies. She also illustrated religious books and painted panel for churches. Arthur Rackham's ink illustrations and art is famous for the softened pen lines which were muted with watercolor. He often placed his scenes in gardens, like Royal Botanic gardens in Kew or Kensigton Gardens in London. 

Within the Botanical Illustration Program in Denver Botanic students we using only quill, brush and ink at the "Expressive Ink" class instructed by Susan DiMarchi
Next season we will be offering Drawing on Tradition: The World of Cicely Mary Barker and you can continue the exercises with ink, quill and brush combined with color.
You can see more images from the classroom by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mylar - Duralar - Herculene and Colored Pencil

(Bougainvillaea by Susan Rubin, Colored Pencil on mylar)

We recently encountered some confusion about various types of drafting film and their suitability to Botanical Illustration media.  Susan Rubin has been working with Mylar since 2002, and consequently has developed a bias toward that product.  In an effort to be objective, she ran a test on the most common three:  Mylar, Duralar, and Herculene, to see how they worked with colored pencil.  The Texture on Mylar class tried the same experiment, and reported essentially the same results. NOTE: these results are only for Colored Pencil and do not necessarily apply for Pen and Ink or Graphite. We will be publishing similar type of test for these media later.
The following report is put together by Susan Rubin (our Colored Pencil instructor for many years):
Mylar and Duralar and Herculene are all polyester drafting films and can be found in thicknesses, from 2 mil to 10 mil. All of the films can be found “double frosted”, with both sides matte-finished for drawing.  All of these drafting films are archival and valid grounds for graphite, ink, and colored pencil.  
 (Test by Susan Rubin, please click the image to enlarge)
Susan lined up three little squares of the various films and worked across them with the same layers and the same pressure (2 on the pressure scale), using Faber-Castell Polychromos and Prismacolor pencils.  She tried erasing, lifting with waxed paper, smearing, and layering color. 
Susan's results:  All types of film performed well for erasing and lifting and alas, they all will smear.  The big difference is in the surface tooth and the depth of the tooth, which determine the total layers of colored pencil one can apply. All had limitations in accepting layers of waxy Prismacolor pencils, which filled the tooth very quickly.
Least compatible for COLORED PENCILDuralar.  The very fine and shallow tooth accepted very few layers of pencil, and the surface did not allow for even blending.  Save Duralar for ink work, where it is a wonderful surface.
FINE for COLORED PENCILHerculene.  With a slightly smoother tooth than Mylar, Herculene accepts color and layering well, but with a more limited tooth than the Mylar.  What does that mean?  Fewer layers overall.  Plan carefully!
BEST for COLORED PENCIL:  Mylar .005. This surface will accept up to 20 layers of Polychromos colored pencil applied with a light (Pressure Scale 2) touch.  Colors build and blend evenly and can be worked on both sides of the surface.  The .005 thickness is sturdy enough to take repeated turning of the surface and erasing without buckling, but retains its translucent quality.  

Thank you Susan for this report!

(Our Botanical Illustration Program frequently offers courses in Colored Pencil on Mylar (as an option for following classes in the coming season: Drawing on Tradition:  Georgia O’Keeffe, Art Nouveau Botanical Tile Designs and FloweringFruit Trees
Please note that the registration for these classes opens on December 12, 9 a.m., and at this moment the classes show as if they were sold out)