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

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Passiflora treat!



Last weekend we had an extra special treat in the classroom: John Pastoriza-Pinol from Melbourne Australia instructed a 3-day workshop on fall flowers. We had the very rare opportunity to use passionflower (Passiflora 'Aphrodites Purple Nightie') as the subject matter. Please click here to see some images from the workshop 

John giving a demonstration

Each of the 12 students had a blooming specimen for the duration of the workshop

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Last watercolors for September


Maxillariella tenuifolia, watercolor by Phillip Potter

This is an update from our final session for September. We are ready for October!
For few more watercolor images, please click here.

Cyclamen (in process), watercolor by Barbara Anderson

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Tomatoes -

Tomatoes on vine, entry level graphite by Hope Broyles


Tomatoes are a common subject matter for us on the entry level graphite class, perfect to practice line, smooth application for achieving the continuous tone, and simultaneously the students learn the basics of form and light.  We often think that the tomatoes are easy to render…
The past weekend our 2018 Artist-in-Resident Asuka Hishiki from Japan taught an intermediate/advanced workshop on how to paint heirloom tomatoes. It was an intense learning experience and several new techniques were introduced to our students' toolbox.

As a bit of trivia it is always good to know that tomato was challenged in US Supreme Court in 1893. In Nix vs Hedden, 149 U.S. 304, justice Gray wrote "Botanically speaking, tomatoes are fruits on vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas. But in the common language of the people ... all these are vegetables, which are grown in the kitchen gardens, and which, whether eaten cooked or raw, are, like potatoes, carrots, ... and lettuce, usually served at dinner in, with or after soup, fish or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits generally, as desert." All this only for the Tariff Act of 1883 which required a 10% tax on imported vegetables (fruits were not taxed), in response to growing international trade.

To see more tomato renderings, please click here.  (Also included few vegetables from the entry level watercolor class.)

Heirloom tomato, watercolor in process by Milvi Gill


Friday, September 21, 2018

Growing Healthier Together in Cafe Botanique October 3rd


Growing Healthier Together: Connecting Community Gardens and Cancer Prevention
Erin Decker, B.A., University of Denver

The Community Activation for Prevention study (CAPS) is an innovative cancer research partnership between several universities and institutions including The University of Colorado, Denver Urban Gardens and the American Cancer Society. Learn about the relationship between gardening and health, as well as CAPS’ innovations in cancer research.


Erin Decker, B.A., is a Research Assistant with the University of Colorado, an educator, and an artist. She enjoys being in nature and connecting people to  good food and the natural world through play.
Wednesday, Oct. 3  |  6:30-8 p.m.
Gates Hall
Reserve Your seat by clicking here

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Ice Cream from 1718

Illustration by Zara Wilkins, U.K. (winner of the illustration competition)
The House of Illustrations in London had a competition to illustrate the first ever ice cream recipe published in English. The recipe "to ice Cream"  was written by Mary Eales in 1718 and published the same year in the Mrs. Mary Eales's Receipts (second edition in 1733).


Currently the British Museum of Food has an exhibition focusing on ice cream, past and present. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Flower Power in Cafe Botanique, September 12, 6:30 p.m.

Flower Power: How Botanical Illustrations Helped to Fuel the Industrial Revolution
Dr. Terry Tickhill Terrell, Independent Researcher

Dr. Terrell explores the role of botanical illustrators in designing textiles, which comprised the majority of Britain’s exports in the mid-19th century. The talk examines the critical role of botanical illustrations from the late 1700s to the mid-1800s, a period when demand for such textiles drove the industrialization of Britain. Explore a myriad of historical botanical illustrations and the fabric motifs that were derived from them.

Terry Tickhill Terrell is a researcher with a B. S. in Botany from the Ohio State University and Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of Georgia. In addition to her passion for textile design, she has 40 years of  experience applying scientific research to real-world problems.
Wednesday, September 12, 2018, 6:30-8 p.m.  |  Gates Hall

Friday, September 7, 2018

Happy September!

Rocky Mountain wildflowers by Susan Carr, watercolor

 The summer is definitely starting to be on its final stretch and we are soon starting the last quarter of this year. If you click here you can see some of the work that we have lately produced in the classroom.
Delosperma cooperi by Janet Wood, colored pencil and graphite

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Feedback Wanted!

As you might know the U.S. Copyright office has proposed fee increase in the copyright registration and other services. The Coalition of Visual Artists wants our feedback about the proposed fee increases and asks you to take a short survey.
You can access the 10-15 min survey material by clicking here.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Water Lily intense with Lucy T. Smith, Kew

 or, How the environment and lighting effects the natural color?

Nymphaea 'Rhonda Kay' in progress, watercolor by Lucy Smith

During the past week we had two 3-day intense workshops with Lucy T. Smith, both of the courses focused on water Lilies, first one with graphite and the second with Watercolor.
Water lilies are complex, but by understanding and unraveling the patterns behind their life cycles and structures, the illustration can truly reveal their inner and outer beauty. 
Water lilies have both beautiful form and unique luminosity. The students learned the importance of careful dissections and how the same structure can vary depending where in the flower it is  positioned in relation to the central axis (i.e., stamen filaments)
Painting waterlilies in color can prove to be a real challenge as the color changes from one environment to another: color observation must often be made in the original, watery environment. We did also notice how the quality of lighting affects how we see the color in our specimens.
It was a true pleasure to have Lucy with us and learn about the ephemeral forms and beauty of water lilies. One of the highlights of her 2-week visit was her talk in Café Botanique focusing on The Long Lasting Tradition of Botanist and Artist Collaboration at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Please click here to see more images from these classes.


The same specimen photographed in different environments: 1. in its natural habitat; 2. right after the flower was cut, still outside, natural daylight; 3. daylight lighting, indoors (4500 K; CRI:85); 4. Same flower in T-5 florescent light (3500 K, CRI:<75 75="" nbsp="" p="">

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Cafe Botanique with Lucy Smith, U.K.

(Victoria amazonica, watercolor by Lucy Smith)

The Long-Lasting Tradition of Botanist and Artist Collaboration at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 
Lucy T. Smith, Freelance Botanical Artist, Kew, U.K.

Award-winning artist Lucy T. Smith has been producing pen and ink and color illustrations for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew since 1999. She has recently completed 200 plates for the upcoming “Palms of New Guinea” monograph and her work is reproduced in many journals, including Kew Bulletin, Curtis’ Botanical Magazine and Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. In 2001, she spent six weeks aboard the replica of the HMS Endeavour for a BBC documentary called “The Ship,” where she followed in the footsteps of Sydney Parkinson, the artist on James Cook’s voyage of 1768-1771.
Wednesday, August 22, 2018, 6:30-8 p.m.  |  Gates Hall

Reserve your sear by clicking here

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Invisible Links-exhibit now online!

Sword-Billed Hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera) and Passion Flower (Passiflora mixta), colored pencil and watercolor by Charlotte Ricker
(The sword-billed hummingbird and the northern banana passionflower have co-evolved in South America's montane cloud forests. With its near 4" bill, this hummingbird is the only species able to reach the nectar at the base of the passion flower.)

If you missed our exhibit opening today or have not the possibility to see the exhibit in person at Denver Botanic Gardens before the closing day, October 14, you can enjoy the participating works with their interpretation online by clicking here. You can also find the link (as links to our other recent exhibits) on the right hand column of the web version of this blog.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Invisible Links


Woodland Ties- Golden-cheeked Warbler, Ashe Juniper and Oak, watercolor by Mary Tricia Burns


August 15 - October 14, 2018

Reception: Sunday, August 19, 1-3 p.m.

This juried exhibition is part of an artistic tradition of portraying plants for scientific purposes and to celebrate the beauty of the natural world featuring works from the Gardens' School of Botanical Art and Illustration.

Experience the surprising diversity of living things whose lives are intimately interconnected with plants. From food and pollination to shelter and seed scattering, Invisible Links explores the complex and often hidden symbiotic relationships between plants and other organisms.

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Art of Instruction




Crocus, watercolor (left) and Aquilegia, egg tempera (right) by Laurence Pierson

"Scientifically reliable wall charts are more enlightening than the spoken word" (Dodel-Port, 1843-1908)

Large scale wall charts were valuable tools at the intersection of education, science and art throughout Europe in the mid-19th and 20th centuries. Among the best-known artists of these charts are Gottlieb von Koch, Carl Ballmann and Ebba Masalin. From school walls to our homes, they are not only seen as practical but also artistic.
We are offering a 5-week workshop on this subject in September - you start by dissecting your specimen, then documenting the morphological details carefully and then composing a scientifically reliable plate. 
You can see more information about this workshop (and register) by clicking here.
The first educational wall charts appeared in Germany in the 1820s. Here is Equisetum arvense (illustrator: Dr. Gottlieb von Koch) as seen in Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Gardens in 2017. From our 2017 Arts and Archives tour.


Thousands of teaching charts at the Humboldt University North of Berlin, these charts are still actively used in teaching at that University. From our 2017 Arts and Archives tour.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Visit to the Land of the Ancients


 Anasazi Heritage Center, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument Visitor Center,  Headquarters and Museum


This year part of our focus has been on learning about the Native American population in Colorado and their culture and relationship to the nature.

The Ute people are the oldest permanent residents of Colorado. Today they live in two reservations in southwestern Colorado: Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Indian reservation. We visited both of them and the adjacent Canyons of the Ancients National Monument during a 3-day, 2-night trip to the Four Corners area in Colorado.   
Please click here for more photos from our trip.

Our group with our tour guide, Dr. J. Jefferson in front of the Southern Ute Museum established in 1971. The museum building is designed by Jones & Jones Architects ( also designed the National Museum of American Indian of Smithsonian)

Friday, August 10, 2018

Colorado Mycoflora-Project

Coprinus sp. by Elizabeth Virdin, watercolor

The collections of Sam Mitchel Herbarium of Fungi at Denver Botanic Gardens includes at the moment around 18 200 specimens from 2300 species. This herbarium is one of the most diverse and actively curated fungal collection in the region. It has now launched Colorado Mycoflora project to address the question how many species of macrofungi we have in the Southern Rocky Mountain Region. 
The aim is also to DNA barcode 1000 species of Colorado macrofungi over the next 5 years and provide a vouchered collections of DNA sequenced specimens to the research community.
You can find more information about this project by clicking here

Thursday, August 2, 2018

From historical trees to Ethnobotany and entry level Pencil

Aesculus glabra, graphite by Christine Hubbell

Fifty years ago landscape designer Al Rollinger undertook a huge effort of doing a street-by-street survey in Denver, documenting the location, diameter and height of over 1100 trees of 46 species. Denver Botanic  Gardens is surveying these trees to determine their health and which one still are alive.
By clicking the link here you'll get see some pictures from the finished/in progress work from our classroom.

Colored Pencil II, - By Milvi Gill; Onsite/On-line teaching model

Monday, July 30, 2018

Oak Spring Garden Library

Oak Spring Garden Library, Upperville, VA 

One Saturday in July I had the privilege to visit the library of Oak Spring Estate in Upperville, Virginia. The estate includes 700 acres protected by philanthropists Paul and Bunny Lambert Mellon as part of a conservation easement and exemplifying sustainable land management practices for agriculture, arboriculture and horticulture.

The Oak Spring Garden Foundation is dedicated to sharing the gifts and ideas of Rachel "Bunny" Mellon. The Library was built in 1981 as a gift from Bunny’s husband Paul Mellon and was expanded in 1997 to contain her growing collection of books, manuscripts and art on plants, gardens, and landscapes. Today it contains a collection of over 16,000 objects, including rare books, manuscripts, and works of art dating back to the 14th century. The collection mainly relates to horticulture, landscape design, botany, natural history and exploration; a part is also devoted to architecture, decorative arts, and classical literature. A large part of the library collection is digitally available for the general public.

For a Washington Post article about the Oak Spring Garden, please click here. The following images are among those taken during my visit.

Magnolia grandiflora by Georg Dionysius Ehret, 1737 - watercolor on velum skin 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

if you are in Washington D.C. ~

Charlotte Ricker: Pelican Plunge, 2018, colored pencil on film

If you are visiting Washington D.C. during the summer, please take the opportunity and visit the AAAS headquarters (the American Association for Advanced Science) and enjoy the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators 50th anniversary exhibit Visualize: Art Revealing Science, an exhibit with one hundred outstanding art pieces from the GNSI community around the world.  Four artists from Colorado were included, two of them our instructors. The exhibit is up until October 15th.



 Heidi Snyder: Pollinator Meadow, 2017, colored pencil on film

At the United States Botanic Garden we can see Botanical Art Worldwide: America's Flora also incorporating several Colorado botanical artist, one of them our 'own' Constance Sayas. This exhibit will also close on October 15, 2018

Constance Sayas: Yucca harrimaniae, 2017, watercolor

To see few more photos, please click here


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Lizars and Butterflies

Drawing on Tradition: Butterflies of William H. Lizars, ink and colored pencil by Mary McCauley 

William H. Lizars (1788-1859) is best known for his colored insect and bird illustrations on monochromatic habitat backgrounds. He was born in Edinburgh and an established portrait and genre painter who later went to work in the book trade and created plates for British Butterflies and J.J. Audubon's "The Birds of America" Our students were learning abut him and his techniques in our series of Drawing on Tradition. Please see more plates from that class and some entry level color classes by clicking here

Entry level watercolor by Yoshiko Metz

Friday, July 6, 2018

Our Kickstarter Project is Closing in 6 hours!

(Guzmania X by Karey Swan, watercolor)

We have six hours are remaining of our Kickstarter project, we have secured the publication of this book plus three artist-in-resident positions. At the moment we have only 25 books left - this is the last opportunity to get this book. Pledge now

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Happy 4th of July!


Etrog (Citrus medica),  advanced ink by Joanna Webster

The past month we have not only been fundraising, but we do work in the classroom also. We have little more than 60 hours left of our successful Kickstarter project  (closing on July 6th). Thank you all who have supported - we do have some volumes of the limited edition left for you to pledge for you who like to do it in the last minute!
See more work completed during June by clicking here.

Mary Crabtree, entry level ink (online with on-site component)

Friday, June 29, 2018

Second Stretch Goal reached - third one?

(click to enlarge)
Ta-Da!!! We reached the second stretch goal and Dr. M got her painting finished - and no, Doctor M. was not painting the Amorphophallus, she was painting the second Artist-in-Resident in action! (cartoon by David Clarke).

Thank you all for your support! We have 6 days and few hours left of this drive - tell your friends, it is time to pledge now while the numbered limited edition books are still available!  - Can we get the third Artist-in-Resident position?

(by Eileen Richardson, watercolor and ink)
Pico de Gallo for the summer table, an excellent salsa recipe by Chef Eileen!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Interpretative tour to study Ute Indian traditions

The main axis of this tree has been girdled and the main growth was forced to a 90 degree angle  

In our curriculum we focus not only on illustration techniques and how to handle different media but we also learn about history, traditions, culture and of course nature. Last week we had a field trip to visit three private properties in Colorado where we studied archaeological record and potential prayer trees and trail-markers connected mainly to the Ute Indian Tribe. Our guides were Mr. John Anderson and Ute Tribal Elder Dr. James Jefferson. These 150-450 year old trees appeared to have been altered for navigational, medicinal, burial or 
spiritual purposes.
We will travel to Ute Indian Reservation in July and to Fox Run Park (El Paso County) in August. More information about these tours here.
You can see more pictures from our one-day field trip by clicking here


Our group with the knowledgeable guides next to a large size burl. Typically these are formed when part of the grain become malformed because of stress (injury, virus or fungal infection). This particular burl had a very pleasant cinnamon/vanilla scent -

Second Stretch Goal today?

 Dr. M is setting up the easel and rushing to paint ... There is not too much time left. (illustration by David Clarke)

Can we reach the second stretch goal today and support for the second Artist-in-Resident position?

For more information about our Kickstarter project, please click here. If you already supported, please tell your friends about this amazing publication.

"For Poppy" by Ann O'Connel, colored pencil

Friday, June 22, 2018

We are running towards our second stretch goal !

Dr. M rushing to ... First of the series of 4 illustrations by David Clarke

We are half way through to reach our second stretch goal - thank you for your support.

Keep spreading the word and see what happens for Dr. M - we have 14 days left of this drive. If you are planning to get our second 'sketchbook' you need to hurry, the book will be selling out!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

First Stretch Goal Unlocked!

Ratibida columnifera, watercolor by Işık Güner, our 2017 Artist-in-Resident

Thanks to your generous support we have now unlocked the first 6-week Artist-in-Resident position! You might be our 2019 A-I-R!
We have added a new incentive: High quality giclee print of Işık Güner's outstanding watercolor plate of Ratibida columnifera, a Rocky Mountain native.

Işık Güner was our artist in residence in 2017 -

Friday, June 15, 2018

We Did IT!

Aquilegia coerulea, Colorado Columbine, watercolor by John Pastoriza-Pinol, 2016

We reached our primary goal with our Kickstarter Campaign and are now ready to go for the first stretch goal and the first 6-week Artist/Illustrator-in-Residency position at Denver Botanic Gardens.

John was our 2016 Artist-in-Resident and during his stay completed this watercolor piece as a part of the "Nubile Perfection" collection. If you increase your pledge by $75 by June 22, 2018 you'll get the high quality giclee print of this work of perfection!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Climbing toward the Goal!

Dr. M. climbing the beanstalk at Denver Botanic Gardens, and just below the goal to publish the sketchbook (illustration by David Clarke) - click to enlarge


Our current Kickstarter Campaign had a successful start and at the moment we are at 89% of our goal ($16K) to get the sketchbook published.  Thank you all for spreading the word and thank you for supporting our project. 

Beyond that we hope to achieve our stretch goal to support the annual paid Artist/Illustrator in Residency Program and the possibility to host the illustrator internships next summer here at Denver Botanic Gardens. Our Botanic Gardens’ community of researchers, horticulturists, teachers and students is known for sharing all of their knowledge and experience with each other, making this a great place to immerse in art and science.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Polyester film and watermedia

Watercolor pencil on layered Dura-Lar by Karey Swan

Polyester drafting films, like Mylar and Dura-Lar (both by Grafix), are not typically coated to accept water-based mediums. The .004” wet media Dura-Lar film is specifically coated on both sides to accept water media. We recently tested this in the classroom and successfully completed a workshop with watercolor pencils on Dura-Lar. 
Caran d'Ache revolutionized the pencil market in 1931 by introducing the first ever water-soluble pencil (Prismalo),also known as watercolor pencils. The watercolor pencils are one of the youngest art mediums used today.

See more images from our class by clicking here
Watercolor pencil on Dura-Lar by Lynn Bruskivage