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

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Nature Journaling in the Colorado Rockies (8 500 ft - ca 11 000 ft elevation)

(sketch by Maria Hodkins)
You have still time to register for the unique opportunity to record the wildflower displays close to the Denver-Boulder Metro area. The Nature Journaling workshop scheduled for next weekend (Aug 5-7) and held at the Caribou Ranch - Mud Lake Open Space will include a guided walk focusing on the cultural and natural history of the area. Some new photos from the area are posted in the BI-Facebook (Taken on July 29th). To learn more about the instructor, Maria Hodkins, please click here to come into her website, to see samples of her work, please click here.  
(Please click the image to enlarge)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Nature Journaling in Caribou Ranch and Mud Lake Open Space

(please click to enlarge)
Caribou Ranch is located between Nederland and the Indian peaks Wilderness Area in Boulder County, CO. The 2,151 acre property includes wetlands, meadows, streams and forests and lies mainly in the montane life zone between 8,300 and 10,000 feet (2500 - 3100 m) in elevation.
Geologically much of the ground is 1.7 billion-year-old Precambrian Boulder Creek Granodiorite. Biotite gneiss is also found here and is even older (1,8 billion years old).
The Canadian Magloire DeLande established the DeLonde Homestead in the area in 1863 and the Switzerland Trail, the former route of Denver, Boulder & Western Railroad run through the area from 1904 to 1919. In the 1870s miners flocked to work at the many mines in the area. Remains of the Blue Bird Mine that was mining blue azurite and silver are still on the property. The ghost town of Caribou is a few miles away and gold is still mined there.
Caribou Ranch was well known also in the entertainment world in 1970s. In 1971 a music producer purchased the property and converted the barn to a recording studio. Celebrities such as John Lennon, Elton John and Rod Steward recorded here. The control room of this studio was destroyed by fire in 1985.  

In July-August the Caribou and Caribou ranch area is extremely rich in wild flowers and compared to Crested Butte in abundance. The mixture of wetlands, meadows, streams, forests and woodlands provides excellent habitat to dozens of species of mammals (e.g., Elk, black bear, mule deer, mountain lion, coyote, bobcat, beaver, bat, short-tailed weasel). The property also hosts nearly 90 species of birds.
Today this property belongs to Boulder County Parks and Open Space and is subject for protection and conservation of wildlife habitats and natural resources.
(please click to enlarge)
The adjacent Mud Lake Open space ( also a part of Boulder County Parks and Open Space) is equally perfect learning environment with a unique wildlife habitat. Wild Bear Center for Nature Discovery organizes hands-on educational programs in the area.
For more pictures from this area, please see the BI-facebook, or click here.

Botanical Art and Illustration Program offers a 3-day Nature Journaling Class (The Art of the Nature Journal) at Caribou Ranch and Mud Lake Open Space with Maria Hodkins on August 5 through August 7. For more information and to register, please click here (There are still few seats left)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Watercolour -

Our 2011 Arts and Archives tour had the possibility to view the excellent exhibit on Watercolor at Tate Britain in London. This exhibit explores the art of watercolor, which as a art medium has always been considered a distinctive part of British cultural heritage, from the medieval illuminated manuscripts, maps, early botanical art and natural science illustrations to examples from the contemporary British watercolor art.
Typically art connected to the scientific naturalism has been absent from the art historical discussions. It was traditionally considered somewhere in between science and art and claimed to be practiced by copyists who were more utilitarian workers for the taxonomic classification and identification than artists. This exhibit displays some of the greatest botanical illustrators in the history, such as  Dionysos Ehret, Franz Bauer and Sydney Parkinson from the 18th century, Arthur Henry Church and Margaret Mee from the early 20th century in addition to the contemporary botanical illustrators from the 21st century.   
The comprehensive exhibition catalog is finally available in the US.  It has a wealth of information about this traditional medium and casts a new light on an outstanding British artistic tradition. The 208-page catalog edited by Alison Smith includes the following chapters:
1. Introduction by Alison Smith
2. Water + Colour: exploring the medium by Nicola Moorby
3. Watercolour: Practice to profession by David Baley Brown
4. Intimate Knowledge by Anna Austen
5. The Natural World by Tabitha Barber
6. Travel and Topography by Matthew Imms
7. The Exhibition Watercolou by David Baley Brown
8. Watercolour and War by Allison Smith
9. Inner Vision by Philippa Simpson
10. Watercolour Today by Katharine Stout
11. Abstraction and Improvisation by Nicola Moorby and Katharine Stout
Bean painting by Rachel Pedder-Smith - specimens from the Leguminosae family

Watercolour, February 16 - August 21, 2011
Tate Britain, London U.K.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gymnosperms of the United States & Canada

 Published already last year but perhaps not yet got the deserved attention Gymnosperms of the United States & Canada by prof. emeritus Elrey S. Nixon provides useful and beautifully presented taxonomic quide for 115 different species (6 families, 20 genera) within the North American Gymnosperm group. Most of the descriptions belong to the pine family (66 species, of which 38 are different pine species) and cypress family (30 species). The identification keys rely mostly on stem, leaf and cone characters. Both the genera and the different species within each genus are arranged alphabetically. The taxonomic nomenclature is after that of Flora of North America, Vol 1, Chapter 13 (Gymnosperms by Eckenwalder).
The publication is illustrated, designed and published by Bruce L. Cunningham who is well known for his unique style. He was also featured in the Today's Botanical Artists by Marcus and Kyer (pp.136-137).
The Gymnosperms is written for beginners in plant taxonomy, naturalists, foresters and dentrochonologists. It is very clear and the illustrations are outstanding and the text is easy to follow - warmly recommended also  for every botanical illustrator.
(example of two different pages from the publication, please click the image to enlarge)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Looking forward to GNSI 2012 and Savannah Georgia

This is how most of us remember Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA (in the photo: Juna Kurihara from Japan and Alice Tangerini from Smithsonian, Washington DC)

The GNSI Annual Conference in Olympia Washington suffered from the same problem as all the previous meetings I have attended: The core conference days (Monday through Wednesday) were divided into three simultaneously running equally interesting 1-hour sessions and I could physically only attend one at the time. I also realized that this is one of the reasons I always want to go back to these meetings, hoping that 2/3 of the presentations would be repeated with updated information.

On Tuesday some of my personal highlights were Katura Reynolds'  presentation on the history, development and future of stippling; Peggy Macnamara's explorations in the world of nature; Daniela Molnar's interpretation of the confluence of visual and verbal art with reference to scientific illustration. Michael Felber took us to Katmai National Park in Alaska where he has been observing the coastal Grizzly bears on several occasions at close range (15-20 ft). Finally on Tuesday we got a presentation on the Salt Creek Tiger Beetle and the invaluable work that the Great Plains Chapter of the GNSI has done to increase the awareness of this endangered species in Southern Nebraska. I missed all the paleo-talks and many more.
Wednesday was as interesting since it included the latest on Intellectual Property and a lively panel and open discussion on the future of botanical art with reference to the techniques (traditional versus digital). Here we generally agreed that the computer program (like Illustrator) is a tool that requires knowledge of drafting skills for effective use within scientific illustration. Tania Marien had a very interesting presentation about Plant Blindness. She also talked about the Botanical Capacity Assessment Project and the surprising findings which you can read about in the final report.
 The most cutting edge presentation of this conference was given by Captain Suzan Wallace. Suzan  represents the sailors who have throughout history been at the vanguard of (nature) journaling, blogging and navigation technology (such as time keeping, astronomy, GPS, etc).  With the help of Skype Suzan provided a virtual appearance by Glydnis Ridley who documented Jeanne Barret, the first woman to circumnavigate the world. Danielle Eubank was also virtually present. Danielle is the expedition artist for the Phoenicia, a re-creation of a 6th century BCE Phoenician sailing vessel.
The core conference was concluded with a banquet at the Longhouse Education Center. Odin Lonning (Tlingit) and Orcha Annie (Choctaw/Five Tribes descent) performed and also introduced the Vashon Hydrophone Project to the GNSI community.

Thank you and congratulations for the GNSI NW Chapter that was responsible for the practicalities of this conference. Very well done!!! 


After the core conference many of the 150+ participants stayed for field trips and/or workshops.  Those of us who left immediately are eagerly awaiting the next conference in Savannah, Georgia:


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

42nd Annual GNSI conference begins in Olympia, WA

In the techniques showcase various illustrators demonstrated their skills - here Marjorie Leggitt explains how to get textures right with pen and ink. Marjorie is one of the core teachers in our BI-program.


The GNSI Annual Conference in Olympia WA was opened with two exciting keynote presentations: David Craig talked about the intelligent crows and their ability to manage the art of facial recognition, and Fred Sharpe took us to the world of humpback whales. 
With a techniques showcase and several additional presentations (e.g., Bryn Barnard's exploration of the history and politics of some of the past epidemics), and the annual art exhibit opening reception this week-long conference got very effectively started.
See more pictures from the first day in the BI-Facebook or by clicking here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Botanical Illustrations for protection against plant thieves

(The Late Duke Cherry, Pomological Magazine, vol. i. pl. 45; from The Fruits of America, p. 34, 1856)

In the most recent issue of Smithsonian Magazine (July-August, 2011: 76-82) Daniel J. Kelves discusses the very important roll of botanical illustration in the intellectual property questions prior to the modern Copyright Laws.  
The American Pomological Society was established in 1848, one year after Hovey & CO began publishing a series of American Fruit illustrations. This was the time when many new varieties from England and other part of Europe were introduced into the US and a wealth of newly discovered indigenous fruit varieties had emerged in the country. The first volume of The Fruits of America was published in 1852 and Hovey (the publisher) indicated a special national pride in portraying the fruits of his own country.  
Charles M. Hovey owned a 40-acre nursery in Cambridge, MA and was a well known horticulturist. He published fruit illustrations so that growers, sellers and buyers could reliably identify the different variates. William Hooker in London had published the Pomona Lodinensis already in 1818  for the purpose of resolving the nomenclature problems within the nursery business. American pomologists demanded accurate images to document the intellectual property and the Massachusets Horticultural Society and later the Department of Agriculture (1891) engaged a German immigrant Joseph Prestele and his son William to produce illustrations with extreme botanical detail. The illustration program employed around 65 different artists of which at least 22 were woman. A typical color plate was approximately 9" by 12" or the "pocket size 6" by 9" and approximately 7700 watercolors of the nursery specimens were produced. This program ended in the late 1930s and the Plant Patent Act was established 1930. The original Pomological collection is preserved at the National Agricultural Library Special Collections and many of them are digitized.
You can read the Smithsonian magazine article "Cultivating Art" by clicking here. 
(Noblesse peach by William Hooker didn't meet the accuracy requirements of the American pomologists)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Experience for Yourself


Experience for yourself the story of the most extensive scribal commission in the world since the end of the Middle Ages. This documentary is about Donald Jackson and his monumental work with the Saint John’s Bible and it describes among other things the calligraphic techniques and tells about the imaginary which incorporates symbols from Navajo basket-weaving patterns to microscopic views of today’s viruses and the local flora and fauna of Minnesota and Wales.

TWO VIEWINGS of the video documentary at DENVER BOTANIC GARDENS:

Ø       July 6th, 6 – 7 p.m., Mitchell Hall
Ø       July 7th, 12 noon – 1 p.m., Mitchell Hall

The Saint John's Bible is considered the Sistine Chapel of the modern era and overseen by the Benedictine monks at Saint John's Abbey in Minnesota. It is the first modern-day Bible entirely handwritten and illuminated in 500 years and made for 21st century. It is a collaboration project between Saint John's Abbey, University in Collegeville, Minnesota and Donald Jackson's Scriptorium in Monmouth, Wales.  Donald Jackson, the Artistic Director of the project is a renowned Western calligrapher and illuminator.
The original Bible when opened is 3 ft. wide and 2 ft tall, it includes 1150 velum pages divided in 7 different volumes. The first words were written on velum in early 2000 and the last volume was completed just a few weeks ago (the final presentation of the last volume was last week in Minnesota). Ancient techniques and tools were applied through the whole process, using old hand-ground ink on carefully selected calf-skin vellum for the text, gold and platinum for guilding, and turkey, goose or swan quills for the application.

A 3BM Television Production for BBC Wales and Saint John’s University with support from Target Corporation.
Approximate running time, 49 minutes

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Independence Day Holiday!

(© Kathleen Dolan, colored pencil - please click the image to enlarge)
This plate was produced from the "Flowers and Shakespeare" class. Along the same lines we offer an advanced colored pencil class "Lyrical Flowers" starting on Tuesday July 5th (1 - 4 p.m.). This course is a studio class focusing on Mylar film and its extensive benefits. Registration for this class is still open - for more information and online registration, please click here, or call 720-865-3580.