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

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year 2017!

I'm re-posting my blog from many years ago as I wish all our readers Happy New Year 2017!

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 (Sn) 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 (Pb) were used.

(my tin casting from the New Year's Eve prior to a BIG numbered birthday: sometimes the shape is obvious without a shadow interpretation)  

Friday, December 30, 2016

Our 2016 Graduates

(Echeveria secunda - graphite by Charlotte Ricker)

In 2016 thirteen students (Mary Barnes, Lisa Bird, Kristi Czajkowski, Mary Dee Francis, Deanna Gammon, Sally Grew, Cathleen Harrington, Anne-Marie T. Nishi, Kirk R. Peffer, Charlotte Ricker, Claire Dellinger Shive, Susan Willis, Annette Woodward) received their Foundational Certificate in Botanical Illustration from the School of Botanical Art and Illustration at Denver Botanic Gardens. 

Each portfolio included five plates: graphite, pen and ink, colored pencil, watercolor and artist choice - they are all presented here (You can also access the page from the right hand column).

(Tragopogon porrifolius - colored pencil by Deanna Gammon)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Holidays 2017 to All Our Readers!

(Callicarpa americana and Malvadiscus arboreus, Mary Burns, watercolor)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Botanical Illustration 2016 Scholarship Recipients

We are happy to announce the recipients for the 2016 School of Botanical Art and Illustration Scholarships:

1. Elsa Kern-Lovick

 (Ospreys, Elsa Kern-Lovick, graphite)
Elsa's passion is natural history illustration and she loves recreating and interpreting plants, animals, and natural processes. She has mostly focused on ornithology, but is seeking to gain and hone skills in botanical illustration because of plants’ important presence in our environment and on our plates, and because of their intricacy of morphology and diversity of function. 
Elsa has a degree in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic and wants to use her skills as botanical illustrator to promote sustainable agriculture and pursue illustrating field guides, scientific publications, and media. She lives in Bar Harbor, Maine.

2. Eileen Richardson
(grape leaves, Eileen Richardson, ink)
Eileen examines natural patterns and the origins of biomimicry in her illustrations. She wants to refine her skills in botanical illustration because it bridges the worlds of science and art. She hopes to be able to use the botanical illustration to fuel social movements, especially environmental conservation and preservation. 
Eileen has a BFA from Emmerson College and chef's degree from NTA's Natural Foods Program. She is currently heavily involved with the Rocky Mountain Land Library
To see more examples of the recipients' work, please click here.

Friday, December 16, 2016

EDIBLE until February 12, 2017

(Meredith Feniak, watercolor)
This juried Exhibition from the Gardens' School of Botanical Art and Illustration showcases edible plants and highlights both those that are commonly eaten and those that may appear less familiar on the dinner table.
To see all the art pieces included in the exhibit, please click here, you can also find the gadget for this exhibit in the right hand column.
(Winter Soup, Susan Curnutte, watercolor)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Registration starts tomorrow, December 13th, 9 a.m.!

(Chris Ruch, watercolor)
Tomorrow, December 13th, 9 a.m. you can sign up for 2017 Winter/Spring Botanical Illustration courses at Denver Botanic Gardens. You can find the downloadable course catalog by clicking here.
Follow this link to online registration. 
Please Note: Winter/Spring 2017 courses appear until to the end of December 12th as sold out. All classes are off-line between 00.01 a.m. and 9 a.m. tomorrow, December 13th. They reappear tomorrow, December 13th at 9 a.m. (MST) and are open for registration.

(Charlotte Ricker, watercolor pencil, colored pencil, gouache)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Potions, Poisons and Panaceas

This fall the School of Botanical Art and Illustration joined with the Art Gallery at the Fulginity Pavilion for Bioethics and Humanities on the Anschutz Medical Campus (University of Colorado) to produce an exhibition of contemporary botanical illustrations entitled Poisons, Potions and Panaceas, featuring plants with medicinal properties.
You can see the exhibit including the outstanding interpretation on-line by clicking here, you can also find an icon to the exhibit on the right hand column.

This exhibition - Potions, Poisons and Panaceas - highlights both the medical and pharmaceutical properties of certain plants, revives our sense of awe when confronted by the beauty and mystery of nature, as well as it introduces us to an art-form that - though it retains many of its characteristic historical qualities - has evolved and incorporated many aspects and assumptions of modernity.
Simon Zalkind, Curator of Exhibitions
Fulginity Center for Bioethics and Humanities

Historical Ties between Botanical Illustration and Medicine
The origins of botanical illustration and the science of botany progressed alongside the history of medicine, especially pharmacology, in ancient Greece. In the 4th century BCE, Diokles of Carystus compiled the earliest known herbal, a medicinal reference manual for botanical study and plant identification. This work, and so many of its successors, have not survived. Although we do not know about the quality and accuracy of these illustrations, we do know that very early on, the Greek herbalists realized the power of the image.
The period of exploration and discovery in the 18th and 19th centuries is said to be the golden age of botanical and nature illustration. Thousands of plates and sketches were produced by skilled naturalists while exploring unknown parts of the world. Today an estimated 391,000 plant species are known for science of which nearly 21,000 have a documented usage in medicine. The documentation work is ongoing even today, and the search for new species continues.
The botanical illustrations that accompany scholarly works have a clear purpose of species identification with the artist acting as the hand and eye of the researcher. Botanical illustration, like any scientific illustration, requires accuracy, realism and objectivity, as opposed to emotion and sensitivity that is often found in other art fields. The illustrator’s ability to observe and accurately record details has proven to be superior to the detail found in a photograph.

Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski, Ph.D., D.Sc.
Manager of the School of Botanical Art & Illustration
(Image: Susan Curnutte, watercolor and graphite)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Focus on Nature XIV (December 3, 2016 - April 9, 2017)

(click the image to download the exhibit catalog, pdf 8.6 MB)

Focus on Nature is a juried biennial exhibit for natural and cultural history illustrators at the New York State Museum in Jamestown, NY and opens for public tomorrow December 3rd.
This time 65 artists around the world were selected to exhibit, among those are two of our instructors, Randy Raak and Susan Rubin. From our Colorado community also Dorothy DePaulo, Tiffany Miller Russel and Heidi Snyder are represented in the exhibit as well as our 2016 artist-in-resident Lauren Bassing.

On the left Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelio decaocto) by Randy Raak and to the right Mountain Golden Banner, High Altitude Bee (Thermopsis montana, Bombus balteatus) by Susan Rubin

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Teaching in El Charco del Ingenio

Since 2009 we have been teaching in El Charco de Ingenio Botanical Garden in San Miguel, GTO Mexico. This is in collaboration with El Charco and a part of Denver Botanic Gardens'  Center of Global Initiatives. Tomorrow, November 28th, we start again a 5-day course in Botanical Illustration.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Our best wishes to you and yours for a beautiful and happy Thanksgiving

(Lyn Williamson, colored pencil, page #37 in the SBAI 2016 Chronicles)

The pomegranate (Punica granatum) has been admired for centuries as a symbol of health, fertility, and resurrection; Theophrastus and Pliny consider the pomegranate a valuable plant both for beauty and for its medicinal properties. Historically, the pomegranate tree’s bark has been a source for tannin used in curing leather and its rind and flowers used as a textile dye.
It is estimated that pomegranate domestication began in the Neolithic era. Pomegranates are thought to have been domesticated initially in the Transcaucasian-Caspian region and northern Turkey. Evidence for using pomegranates in the Middle East is dated at over 5,000 years ago. Pomegranate artifacts and relics dating to 3000 BCE and on were found in Egypt, Israel Armenia, and Mesopotamia. Spanish sailors brought pomegranates to the New World, and Spanish Jesuit missionaries introduced pomegranates into Mexico and California in the 1700s
The pomegranate is used as a staple fruit in Armenian households worldwide. The Color of a Pomegranate, directed by Parajanov, is one of the gems in Armenian film history, and in Armenian mythology, the pomegranate symbolizes fertility and abundance. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Congratulations to the 2016 Botanical Illustration Graduates!

 (from left: Kathleen Harrington, Mary Barnes, Lisa Bird, Kristi Czajkowski, Anne-Marie Nishi, Mary Francis, Deanna Gammon, Sally Grew, Kirk Pfeffer, Charlotte Ricker, Claire Shieve, Susan Willis. Annette Woodward missing from the picture)

Today thirteen Botanical Illustration Graduates received their Foundational Certificates from the School of Botanical Art and Illustration at Denver Botanic Gardens. 
We are impressed with the graduates’ competence level and Denver Botanic Gardens is thoroughly proud of their accomplishments.
The graduation and award ceremony was followed by the opening reception for the annual juried botanical illustration art show.

Charlotte Ricker had the best overall 2016 portfolio and she also received the 2016 Sydney Parkinson Award (part  of  Mary Francis' portfolio seen in the background)  
Our guest speaker at the event, Peggy Turchette, a former SBAI-graduate gave an inspirational presentation to the graduates. She described how her 20-year career as a botanical illustrator became a bridge to her work in creating historically informed costumes of Anna Pavlova, world famous ballerina. 
 After the graduation ceremonies we had an enjoyable reception for our annual BI-exhibit (photo: A. Brill)

The 2016 Botanical Illustration exhibit is called Edible and is on display until February 12, 2017 (photo: A.Brill)
Lively interpretations of the subject matter - (photo: A.Brill)

A more complete presentation of the graduates work will be on-line shortly.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Winter Spring 2017 Course Catalog is Out

The printable course catalog can be downloaded by following this link. Registration for the 2017 Winter/Spring classes starts on December 13th, 9 a.m.; until then the classes show as if they were sold out. You can register on-line by following this link, calling or in person (Dec. 13th, 9 a.m.).

Friday, November 11, 2016

Color, line and some stipples

(Chris Ruch, watercolor)

 It does not happen every year in Colorado that we can collect hollyhocks from our garden and paint them. We are experiencing an extremely sunny, dry and warm November without any frost nights in the Frontrange area yet.
You can see some examples of the exercises from few recently completed classes  by clicking here.
(Eileen Yelverton, pen and ink)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Cafe Botanique, November 2, 6:30-8 p.m.

The Inspired World of Beatrix Potter
Connie Ryle Neumann

This year celebrates the 150th birthday of Beatrix Potter (1866-1943), the famous creator of the British children's classic "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" and other little books, penned over 100 years ago. However, there was much more to the shy but observant Victorian lady whose pursuits in botanical illustration and Lakeland farm conservation broadened her literary legacy. Potter documented the natural world of England and Scotland in her journals, her letters, her little "bunny books" and her vast portfolio of fungi, woodland animals, gardens and landscape paintings. Through slides and readings Connie Neumann will introduce the inspired and imaginative world of Beatrix Potter.

Connie Ryle Neumann served as a school teacher and librarian for over 30 years in Texas, Germany and Colorado. She is a member of the international Beatrix Potter Society and has traveled and studied British children's authors and illustrators since the 1980s.

Wednesday, November 2, 6:30-8 p.m. 
Gates Hall

Monday, October 24, 2016

Egg Tempera in Botanical Illustration and Icons

 Phalaenopsis by Laurence Pierson, egg tempera

Egg tempera techniques have been part of our school curriculum for several years with convincing results. Last fall we expanded our offerings by including Byzantine iconography in our program. This is one of the oldest art forms to survive unchanged for the past 2000 years. The technique uses gessoed wood panels with genuine gold leaf and egg tempera made from natural pigments. 

Our core-watercolor teacher Laurence Pierson has over twenty years' experience in icon painting and working in egg tempera. She studied iconography at the Louvre, Paris, under a Lebanese master. Later, she studied with a Greek and a Chilean iconographer, and thus was exposed to different schools and different techniques while refining her own approach. Laurence has taught in France and Ireland, and since 2013, at the School of Botanical Art and Illustration in Denver.

by Laurence Pierson
During November 28-December 2 Laurence has been invited to teach an icon painting class in Saltzburg, Austria. Please see the announcement below or connect to the registration website by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Drawing traditional and on Tradition

Sorbus sp.; colored pencil II, Joanna Webster

In our series Drawing on Tradition we recently studied the style and application techniques of Dugald Stermer (1936-2011), who created a vast collection of drawings, book illustrations and educational work combining expressive drawings with descriptive calligraphy.
Codiaeum variegatum var. pictum, mixed media by Karey Swan

To see more images from our recently completed classes, please click here

Sunday, October 9, 2016

September Selection

Typha latifolia by Lyn Bruskivage, pen and ink

You can find out more about our regular activities in September by following this link.

Since her first visit in 2004 Ann Swan has been returning to Denver Botanic Gardens every second year to teach colored pencil techniques and her new tricks in our school. This time she had two 3-day workshops focusing much in composition and color mixing.  

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Symbolism and Legends of Chinese Culture in Cafe Botanique, Oct. 12

Story Hats
Leslie Molen

Colorado textile artist Leslie Molen shares the story of the unique hats she has designed while interpreting Chinese folk art. These textile creations are filled with the symbolism and legends of ancient Chinese culture.
Leslie Molen has been an internationally known textile artist for the last 25 years. She is a member of the National Institute of American Doll Artists (NIADA). 

Wednesday, October 12, 6:30-8 p.m.
Gates Hall
Click here to reserve your seat 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Painting on Location - Three awesome days at The Gardens with James Gurney!

(sketched during J. Gurney's CB-presentation on September 14th by R. Raak)

Last week's Cafe Botanique with James Gurney reached a record attendance of almost 180 people. The talk was a very well received educational recap of Color and Light, the important tools for a realistic painter. 
During the two following days students learned about painting on location with limited palette using gouache and/or casein. To see more pictures from the workshop with James Gurney by clicking here.

View of the water garden by Meredith Feniak

Friday, September 9, 2016

James Gurney in Cafe Botanique!

Wednesday, September 14, 6:30-8 p.m.
Mitchell Hall 
Color and Light in the Landscape
James Gurney

The subject of color often seems like an abstract science, but it really comes to life when it is related to light and atmosphere, the central tools of any realist painter. I’ll cover most of the standard geography of color: hue, value, and chroma; as well as limited palettes, warm and cool color, with many new insights about visual perception from the modern science of neurobiology.  I’ll share clear examples of familiar problems faced by every outdoor painter, including  reflections, rainbows, clouds, dappled light, sunbeams, and subsurface scattering.

James Gurney is the author and illustrator of the New York Times bestselling Dinotopia book series. He designed the World of Dinosaurs stamps for the U.S. Postal Service and has worked on over a dozen assignments for National Geographic magazine, painting reconstructions of Moche, Kushite, and Etruscan civilizations. He has won the Hugo, Chesley, Spectrum, and World Fantasy Awards. Solo exhibitions of his artwork have been presented at the Smithsonian Institution, the Norman Rockwell Museum, and the Norton Museum of Art. He has recently been named a “Grand Master” by Spectrum Fantastic Arts and a "Living Master” by the Art Renewal Center. His book, Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painte was Amazon’s #1 bestselling book on painting for over 150 weeks and is based on his daily blog.

Space is limited, reserve your seat!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Potions, Poisons, and Panaceas - soon on display!

Medicinal and Pharmacological Botanical Illustrations
(Helleborus orientalis 'Ivory Prince', Susan Curnutte - watercolor and graphite)

Opening Reception: September 8, 2016, 3-6 p.m.
Fulginity Pavilion for Bioethics and Humanities, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus,
13080 East 19th Avenue, Aurora, Colorado 80045
(please click to enlarge)

Friday, August 26, 2016

August Activities

(Five Pyrus communis cultivars, watercolor by Susan Willis)

You can get a little glimpse of what has happened in our classroom during August by clicking here.

 From the Gardens succulent selection, graphite by Charlotte Ricker (in progress)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

7th Annual Arts and Archives Tour, April 18 - May 1, 2017

Quercus petraea, sessile oakPlate #2667 from Flora Danica, published between 1761 and 1883. It was aimed for popular education in the kingdoms of Denmark and Norway, and the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. Read more about it here

This time we are exploring the arts, design and archives of Copenhagen (Denmark) and Berlin (Germany) with surroundings. The detailed daily program and special, for this group designed tours are under final development, however you can expect the following be included:
1. April 18-24 Copenhagen (Accommodation at Hotel Vesterbro, a superior first class hotel)
- Glyptoteque and Tracking the Colour Project
- Fredriksberg's Castle, the largest Renaissance Castle in Scandinavia. It also since 1878 has housed the Museum of Natural History
- National Museum of Natural History of Denmark (The Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum & Library, and the Zoological Museum)
- National Gallery of Denmark and Cotterfer Codex, the conservator and the Royal Collection (one of the oldest collections of its kind)
- We'll visit Odense where Hand Christian Andersen's Museum is and Roskilde, Denmarks first capital
We spend one day in Sweden visiting University of Lund Archives  and Swedish Agricultural University in Alnarp

A patent of nobility from 1629, granted by Charles I of England to the brothers Jacob and Patrik Forbus. From the De la Gardie collection, University Library, University of Lund.


 From the Örtengren Collection which is a collection of books, mainly in the field of pomology, fruit growing, and related subjects, once owned by the business man Sven Helmer Örtengren (1852-1922).
- we'll see also the Wooden Library, xylothek 

Train Transport to Berlin (First class, express)

2. April 24 - May 1 Berlin (Accomodation in Maritim Hotel, a superior first class hotel)
- Natural History Museum and Collections (Botanical and geological departments with libraries)
- Brothers Grimm
- Botanic Gardens Herbarium and Collections
- Humbolt University and  Brothers Grimm
- Checkpoint Charlie
- We'll visit Potsdam and Fredrick the Great's Palaces
(From Flora Danica)

The Price: $2830* (double occupancy)
The above package includes breakfast, internet access, tax and service fee in hotels; first class rail ticket, local transportation to destinations; entry fees, tour fees and basic no-trip cost travel insurance (upgraded policies available for an additional cost).  

The trip is limited to 12 people only and it is sold out. If you are interested please let me know and I'll add your name to the waiting list. In 2018 we travel to Southern Spain (Grenada, Seville etc.) and Morocco - you can already put your name on the list if you plan to come with!

The Royal Palace, Potsdam

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Edible: Botanical Art & Illustration

(Aubergine, Constance Sayas, watercolor)


You are cordially invited to submit work to the jurying process for the annual botanical illustration exhibition, this year featuring edible plants. Your dedication to mastering the skills of this art form and illustration makes us extremely proud, and we would like to showcase your success in a public venue.

November 20, 2016—February 12, 2017
Venue: Denver Botanic Gardens, Gates Garden Court Gallery
Reception: November 20, 2–3 p.m. 
We welcome artists who have participated in courses at Denver Botanic Gardens’ School of Botanical Art and Illustration between June 2014 and July 2016 or are an active participant in the Botanical Illustration community. Artworks of all levels and in any media taught in the school are welcome.

As the title suggests, illustrations will feature plants that are edible. This may include plants used directly for consumption – vegetables, fruits, seeds, mushrooms, etc. – as well plants used as components of foods, including spices, plants used for flavorings or food colors, and infusions. Less conventionally edible plants, for example plants traditionally considered weeds, or those that are not commonly known to be edible, are also welcome. Plants that are consumed for non-food purposes, such as plants used as poisons or for their psychoactive properties, will not be considered for this exhibition. Please note that this call extends to plants that can specifically be eaten by humans – plants for animal consumption are not included in the scope of this exhibition. 
We welcome all submissions whether traditionally based or contemporary, and we are eager to see edible plants that have been eaten in a variety of cultures. Please refer all questions to Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski.

All media taught in the Denver Botanic Gardens’ School of Botanical Art and Illustration are accepted. All artwork must be original. No photography or digitally generated work will be accepted. No giclée prints or offset lithographs considered.

If scale is included on the plate, only metric units are allowed.

Submission Method and format:
Each artist may submit three two-dimensional entries for juror consideration. Digital files only. Entries must be submitted digitally via™, also known as CaFÉ™. CaFÉ™ is a web-based service that has detailed on-line submission instructions and a team of professionals available to address your tech support needs. A complete submission includes a completed entry form and digital image for each entry. Images must be submitted as JPG files only, minimum of 1920 pixels on the longest side and 5.0 MB maximum with artist’s last name and title of artwork as the file name (e.g., Smith_Planta communis).

Submissions accepted:
August 22nd — September 5th, 2016

Submission Deadline:
11:59pm, September 5th, 2016, Mountain Daylight Time.

The jury will consist of Denver Botanic Gardens’ curatorial staff. The work will be judged according to the standards of the media (typically composition, technical skills, and botanical accuracy), along with thematic relevance.

Presentation, Size and Format:           
Upon acceptance to the exhibition, artists will submit matted artwork only; no frame. Mats must be 4- or 8-ply white rag (no cream or off-white mats), fitting exactly into a 16” x 20” frame (interior measurement). Pieces must be matted with both a backing board and a face mat and must be appropriately and securely attached within the matting—hinging and photo corners are both acceptable. Please do not submit matting with any loose elements, i.e. backing board or face mat not attached or piece not secured inside the matting.

Any housing submitted with artwork must have your name clearly written on it—we cannot guarantee the return of housing without a label. Artists juried into the exhibition will receive detailed information and requirements upon notification.

Delivery and Insurance:
Delivery requirements will be detailed with acceptance notices. While on site, artwork is insured by Denver Botanic Gardens. For insurance purposes, a valuation of your piece MUST be on file. Please complete this portion of the entry form accurately upon submission.

Publicity and Catalog:
Images submitted for this exhibition may be used in a catalog or publicity in print or electronic form for the exhibition and may be used for promoting the exhibition before, during and after its run without further permission being sought.

Contact with questions.
Please direct all technical questions about submitting your work to

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Amorphophallus titanum at Denver Botanic Gardens

Amorphophallus titanum on August 5th, at 10:20 p.m. after starting to slowly open earlier in the afternoon (5:20 p.m.)

If you are in the Denver area during this weekend (August 6-7) stop by Denver Botanic Gardens and see the blooming corpse flower - Amorphophallus titanum. Peek in Marnie's Pavilion and you can see and smell it. Last night at 10:20 p.m. the smell was already very strong.
Earlier (1 p.m.) on August 5th we did the daily measurements: the spadix had only grown 1/2" since yesterday, the total height was now almost 64" (click to enlarge)

The spathe was truly beautiful and had started to loosen slightly (1 p.m., Aug 5)

What about our Stinky, Amorphophallus titanum that bloomed last year? It has rested one year and now entering the leaf state. The leaflets are starting to separate. It is tall, strong and monumental.
(Please click to enlarge)