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

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

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Practice Makes Perfect II - our Kickstarter Project is Launched

(Two pages from our travelling sketchbook: Constance Sayas and Christabel King)

Denver Botanic Gardens’ School of Botanical Art and Illustration offers a comprehensive series of classes and workshops in the well-established tradition of portraying plants for aesthetic appreciation, scientific purposes, and historical documentation.

Practice Makes Perfect II: Botanical Illustration Sketchbook from Denver Botanic Gardens’ School of Botanical Art and Illustration is a collaborative project that showcases the skills and unique perspectives of 76 botanical illustrators. Assembled page by page as the sketchbook traveled from one artist to the next, this collection represents friendship, shared ideas and community, along with impressive artistic ability. Botanical illustration is based on scientific study, but it is also a highly creative form of expression that can be executed in many different media. This book reveals that combination of technical accuracy and aesthetic freedom, as each botanical image jumps off the page in all its detailed glory.
Our primary goal is to raise funds to publish the limited edition of 300 copies of Practice Makes Perfect II: A Botanical Illustration Sketchbook. This is an art book containing 76 illustrations made by artists from the School of Botanical Art and Illustration at Denver Botanic Gardens (hardbound, 7.5”x 11”, with dust jacket, sewn with reinforced end sheets and headbands, foil-stamped spine). It includes an interpretative overview of each of the illustrated subjects.

An original, handmade 160-page springback-bound sketchbook with 90 lb. Fabriano Artistico HP watercolor paper was used for this purpose. Each of the artists was given an 11”x 15” spread and up to one week to complete his or her work. Practice Makes Perfect II: A Botanical Illustration Sketchbook with a foreword by artist Billy Showell showcases a unique collection of talent and expertise ranging from natural science illustrations and artistic explorations to calligraphy with a personal touch.
The book also celebrates the forthcoming Freyer-Newman Center for Science, Art and Education and the 38th anniversary of the botanical illustration program at Denver Botanic Gardens. Our sketchbook project was completed in 76 weeks with participants from the Gardens’ botanical illustration community in 2016, including numerous renowned international artists. Part of the illustrations are in color and part meticulously executed in ink or graphite; each illustration offers insight into the individual artist’s way of working.

For more information or to watch a project video, please click here.
(watercolor by Billy Showell)

Monday, June 4, 2018

Reminder: Registration for Summer/Fall courses opens tomorrow, June 5th 9 a.m.!

(Nels Broste, 2017, watercolor)
The registration for the 2018 Summer/Fall botanical illustration courses opens tomorrow, June 5th 9 a.m. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Invisible Links - last day to submit

(Invisible Links, Lynn Bruskivage, colored pencil)

The call for entries for our annual botanical illustration exhibit Invisible Links  will be closing in about 15 hours (11:59 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time).
To submit your piece, please click here.

 (Invisible links, Susan Willis, graphite)

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Not always acutely correct but constantly educational

Sunflower by Cassi Bailey

In our series of Drawing on Tradition we recently completed a very popular class on Piet Mondrian, who was an instrumental part of the Dutch modern movement De Stijl founded in 1917 in Leiden, Netherlands.  In addition to his iconic abstract works he produced around 150 flower studies which along with trees inspired his abstract works.  
We do not always strictly adhere to accurate botanical portrayal but also analyze styles which help us to loosen up and play with expressive flower interpretation exercises. The students in this class loved the ability to focus on the parts of the subjects that they loved and the permission to ignore the parts that were not as beautiful or would be tedious to draw. They were also introduced to new media, water soluble carbon and jumbo sized pigment blocks on large format toned paper (18”x 24”). Very refreshing!
The 2018 Arts and Archives Tour visited the Gemeentemuseum in Den Haag and got a crash course on Piet Mondrian’s life and production. There is an earlier blog post about that visit (please click here)

More images from our class can be seen here.

Oriental lily by Joanne Katz

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Summer/Fall class registration opens in two weeks

Pen and Ink Textures by Bonnie Emery

This is a reminder for the Summer/Fall registration opening on June 5th, 9 a.m. Please click here to get inspired and see more student work from our spring classes.

Advanced level watercolor by Jane Smith

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Linking People with Plants - Worldwide Day of Botanical Art - May 18, 2018

Yucca harrimaniae, watercolor by Constance Sayas. This piece was also part of the School of Botanical Art and Illustration' s gold medal winning group exhibit at the 2017 RHS-Botanical Art show.

May 18th 2018 will be celebrated as the Worldwide Day of Botanical Art.
Exhibitions of original contemporary botanical art will be curated by the participating countries around the world and they are exhibiting original contemporary botanical art on native plants to a given area.
The main goal with this event is to link people with plants through contemporary botanical art, and educate the worldwide community on plant diversity through highlighting the world’s different plant geographic regions.
Artist from our BI-community participating in the ASBA and the US Botanic Gardens’ Worldwide Americas Flora exhibit are Dorothy DePaolo, Sharon Garret, Vanessa Martin and Constance Sayas.
Michael Campbell is participating in the Irelands’ Celebrating Native Plants of Ireland - exhibit.

Botanical Art & Artists-site by Katherine Tyrrell has an excellent summary of this worldwide  event. 

Geranium versicolor, colored pencil Michael Campbell - part of the Irish exhibit

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mother's Day 2018!

(Laura Matthews, colored pencil)

Friday, May 11, 2018

2018 Arts and Archives - Malaga and Our Final Day in Andalusia

The entrance to the Museo Picasso Malaga

If you are in Andalusía, you shouldn’t miss visiting Malaga on the Costa del Sol, 120 kilometers southwest of Granada. We took a bus and arrived after a very pleasant journey through olive orchards and mountains to this southern town founded by the Phoenicians circa 770 BCE.
Our first destination was the Museo Picasso Málaga housed in Palacio de Buenavista from the early 16th century and a National Monument since 1939. It is located in Malaga’s historic city center just a stone throw from the building where Picasso was born in 1881. Museo Málaga was created in response to Picasso’s desire to get his work exhibited in the city where he grew up.The core of the collection was created with donations from the artist’s daughter-in-law and grandson. It was also Junta de Andalucía’s priority to coordinate setting up a museum devoted to the artist whose styles and techniques changed the course of modern art.
The central court yard of the Malaga's Picasso Museum

The permanent collection originally included some 233 works. Since March 2017, the collection is complemented by a selection of 166 works from the Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte (FABA). Our excellent guided visit through the 12 galleries revealed how the artist’s work evolved over his life time. We saw all his artistic periods beginning from childhood to the age of 90+ years including paintings, sketches and sculptures. Very interesting but no photos in the collections!
Malaga's Glass and Crystal Museum's courtyard, on the back wall collection of 20th century glass. 

We finished our 2018 Arts and Archives tour with a memorable visit to Malaga’s Glass and Crystal Museum (Museo del Vidrio y Cristal de Malaga). It is located in an 18th century mansion known as the old San Felipe Neri Inn by the church of the same name. This private museum opened in 2009 and has over 3000 pieces of glass dating from the Phoenician times to the 20th  century. About 1,000 pieces are on display at any given time, the rest being constantly rotated. 
Designs of the Swedish Ulrica Hyldeman Vallien and Finnish Gunnel Nyman 

The museum is a private home and the collection is divided into various historical eras, across two floors, with period furniture and paintings from each era to complement the glass. We had the privilege to have Senor Gonzalo Fernandez-Prieto, the passionate owner of this museum, as our knowledgeable guide.
Senor Gonzalo Fernandez-Prieto explaining the history behind three of the numerous stain glass works in his home/museum 

This was the end of our 2018 Arts and Archives Tour, another inspirational and successful trip. We were all captivated with the science and art history as well as cultural and political history and architecture that filled these two weeks. We were welcomed with open arms everywhere and our keen interest was appreciated by all our hosts. 
Thank you Holland and Andalusía – next year we travel to Istanbul and Uzbekistan.
More pictures from our final day, please click here.

An example of the exquisite Spanish fashion (street view from Malaga)

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Summer/Fall 2018 Course Catalog

Our 2018 Summer and Fall course catalog is out. You can view and/or download it by clicking the image above, the link on the right hand column ( the web version), or by following this link.
We will be offering 67 workshops during mid-July - early-December, including 37 workshops from the required curriculum and 30 elective workshops.
We do have the pleasure to host two visiting instructors: Lucy Smith from U.K. and John Pastoriza-Pinol from Australia. While Asuka Hishiki from Japan is with us as the 2018 artist-in-resident, she will also teach one workshop in September.
The registration for these classes starts on June 5th, 9 a.m. You can already view the classes on the registration website, registration starts in four weeks.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Old and New Techniques: Carbon Dust and Watercolor Pencil

(by Dawn Leopardi, Carbon Dust)

As a part of our elective courses selection we offer classes in carbon dust and watercolor pencil, both very popular and loved by everybody who can get into those classes. Carbon dust was developed during the 19th century. Max Brödel (1870-1941), a German medical illustrator, pioneered the technique and recommended it specifically for the medicinal illustrations. Brödel was also instrumental in creating the Department of Art as Applied to Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in the end of the 19th century. Using a combination of pencil lines and dust washes applied with brushes, this medium produces rich tonal renderings with the value range of charcoal and the precision of watercolor.
The history of colored pencils is not too well documented. We know that the production of the first art color pencils started in 1924 by Faber-Castell and Caran d’Ache.  Water-soluble pencils are one of the newest art mediums, likely invented in the 1940’s.
Please click here to see some images from our recent workshops

(by Lynn Williamson, Watercolor Pencil)