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

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas to all our readers!

Castilleja sp., watercolor by Cathleen Harrington

Friday, December 21, 2018

The final days of our 2018 SMA Tour

Roberta Lutgen's Frida Kahlo influenced interpretation (in process)

Our two last days in San Miguel went very fast: the Frida Kahlo class in the morning followed by more independent exploration of SMA during the afternoons. We all agreed that ten days is too short a period to absorb all the information, and learn about San Miguel’s colorful past. 
Many of the participants would have enjoyed more sketching which we will be doing in March 2019 when Dr. Sarah Simblet from Oxford, U.K.  will teach a sketching class on birds and plants of El Charco (March 16-24). During that week we’ll be spending the majority of the class time in El Charco del Ingenio gardens. For the cultural part we’ll explore Guanajuato, Atotonilco with Dolores Hidalgo, and the Cañada de la Virgen Archaeological Site in addition to specific tours around the heart of San Miguel de Allende.
To see some photos from our final days in San Miguel de Allende, please click here.
While the Frida Kahlo class was working inside, Randy went back to El Charco and did some painting of the canyon and the old water pipe (Randy Raak, gouache) - please click to enlarge

Friday, December 14, 2018

Different media - same result

Four different media to depict the same feather by Barbara Anderson (please click the image to enlarge)

On our Feathers and eggs class the students tested different media to find out the best way to render the delicate feather structures, varied textures and colors both on the eggs and feathers. One of the students rendered the same feather in four media: watercolor, colored pencil, charcoal and graphite - when the application is successful it is hard to see the differences in the final result.
For more images form our Feathers and Eggs class, please click here 
"Angry Bird" - in the emu family the female lays the eggs and the 'father' tales care of them. In this case he finds one of the eggs cracked which really upsets him. Excellent colored pencil rendering of both the bird, the feather and the egg by Thea Carruth (please click the image to enlarge) 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

2018 SMA-Tour: The collections of El Charco and Indigenous Masks

El Charco's Herbarium now contains over 1000 mounted sheets. The dried plants are attached mostly with cotton thread as the traditional way is. Flower parts are collected separately for a color reference (covered with clear tape)

After a short introduction to second workshop: Frida Kahlo’s Botanicals with Meredith we were picked up to visit El Charco again and focus this time on it’s collections.  El Charco has currently the biggest living cactus collection and gene bank (for example 180 mamillaria species), their collections include numerous rare and endangered  cactus species all collected around Mexico. The Garden has an extensive propagation program and a permit to sell a certain number of plants all grown from seeds  every year. El Charco started their own herbarium collection four years ago and at the moment the collection includes little over 1000 plants.
In the afternoon many of us visited a private mask collection (OtraCara de Mexico) including over 500 ceremonial masks collected around the indigenous villages in Mexico. 
For more photos, please click here.

From the private mask collection, this one was one for sale, we couldn't take any photos in the museum.

Friday, December 7, 2018

2018 SMA-Tour: Parroquia, Toys and Tin

Opuntia ficus-indica (dry land prickly pear), gouache by Lynn Williamson

It is surprising how much students can do in less than eight hours if the environment is inspirational! Gouache was a new medium for most of the workshop participants and all did produce, if not completely finished piece, very close to a plate ready to be matted and framed. The plant was Opuntia ficus-indica

In the afternoon we got a tour of of the second oldest church of San Miguel, Iglesia de San Rafael founded in 1742. We also took a closer look at the Parroquia and learned if its underground tunnels. The tunnel system connects all the other churches and the richest houses in San Miguel, they are wide enough for horses and wagons!!!
We visited the fantastic toy museum (with more than 1000 handmade toys) and then drove little outside of town to a tin workshop, Arte de San Miguel. Finally we finished the day at the artisan/organic food market.
More pictures from the day please click here  
Handmade tin stars for the Christmas decoration made by Arte de San Miguel

Thursday, December 6, 2018

2018 SMA Tour: Cañada de la Virgen Archaeological Site -

The House of the Thirteen Heavens 

Cañada de la Virgen is located some 25 km outside San Miguel. This ceremonial site was occupied between 540 and 1050 CE, when it was abandoned like many other sites in the region, likely because of the severe drought that lasted for an extended period of time. It covers about 16 hectares on a private land but is now government property.

We could see three complexes: A, B, C. The Complex A, House of the Thirteen Heavens (or Skies) served as an observatory and a burial site for the elite. The complex is aligned to the rising and setting sun, and the movements of Jupiter and Venus. All these movements were related to the Otomi calendar. Complex B is called The House of the Longest Night; and Complex C The House of the Wind.
We had an exceptional tour led by Alberto Aveleyra, anthropologist by the National School of Anthropology and History. He is specialized in the interpretation of the ancient Otomi codex and the history of precolumbian cultures related to the San Miguel De Allende surroundings. The day was filled with outstanding information about the past cultures and an overall very pleasant experience.

For more pictures, please click here
Alberto - our exceptional guide for the day

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Gouache, Chapel of Calvary and Dolore Hidalgo

Individual guidance in the gouache class

Tuesday morning Randy’s gouache class started and in 4 hours all 11 students got their pieces well started.
In the afternoon we returned to Atotonilco and the The Sanctuary of Jesus Nazareno de Atatonilco. Being a Tuesday (with no services) we could study the murals, mostly done by Antonio Martinez de Pocasangre and enter and study the six lateral chapels surrounding the nave, concentrating mainly in the Chapel of Calvary (from 1776) and the chapel of De La Virgen Del Rosaro (from 1766).  This site, constructed by Father Felipe Neri  Alfaro, represents an important example of the cultural exchange between European and Latin American cultures and is a masterpiece of Mexican Baroque.
After a late but very tasty lunch in Dolores Hidalgo we visited the home of MiguelHidalgo y Costilla, the initial leader of the insurgent army against Spaniards in 1810 (Grito of Dolores) - the war and the Spanish rule ended in 1821. We also visited the incredible Parroquia of Our Lady of Sorrows in Dolores Hidalgo before heading back to San Miguel. Dolores is a very nice little, authentic Mexican town with almost no tourists. Another day filled with Mexican history! 
For more pictures, please click here

Stunning Golden altarpiece dedicated to the Virgin Mary at the Parroquia of Our Lady of Sorrows in Dolores Hidalgo (also called as the Church of the Grito), Cradle of the Mexican Independence. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

2018 SMA tour: El Charco del Ingenio and Instituto Allende

Mario Hernandez, the director of El Charco del Ingenio welcoming our group to the Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve. On the left David, our excellent guide for the day

In the morning Mario, the director of the Botanical Garden and Nature Reserve took us to El Charco del Ingenio. We had a fantastic 3-hour tour of the 170 acre Botanical Garden led by volunteer David, who had previously worked with the education at the Botanical Garden of University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 
After a short introduction to the succulent workshop by Randy we visited the Instituto Allende, weaving studios and the Factory Aurora.
Maestro Agapito Jimenez Rodriquez demonstrating the traditional weaving methods of San Miguel de Allende

For more images from the day, please click here.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

2018 SMA-tour: First Day

Inside Posada Corazon's Courtyard 
All 14 participants of the 2018 SMA, So Much Art and Culture – tour arrived to San Miguel de Allende last night and our 10-day long adventure kicked of with a welcome-dinner at Posada Corazon.  
After well deserved rest we started our Sunday program 7 a.m. as our guide for the day, Carlos, picked us up from Posada Corazon. 
Our day began with a visit to the historic La Gruta thermal springs outside SAN Miguel on the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (the old trade road between Mexico City and San Juan Pueblo New Mexico, 1598-1882). The group enjoyed the hot water and relaxing morning swim before the very tasty breakfast.
We continued to the Sanctuary of Atatonilco, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2008. The sanctuary was completed in 1748 and contains incredible paintings by the indigenous Mexicans and is known as the Sistine Chapel of America. Carlos, who is a part of the sanctuary’s restoration team, gave us an excellent historical review of the place.
 The original decorated mesquite-door to the Atotonilco sanctuary 

Finally we visited San Miguel Viejo, the location where San Miguel de Allende was founded in 1542. This was a full day history lesson thanks to our guide, Carlos.

At San Miguel Viejo, this little chapel is from the 16th century

Tomorrow we start our Illustration class with a tour if El Charco del Ingenio and later in the afternoon we have a 3-4 hour Arts and Crafts’ tour.
Aldama street - our main location for the week is on this street (right where the group of people is), the most photographed street in San Miguel

For more pictures from the day, please click here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Jewel boxes and more

(entry level Colored Pencil by Mary Fowler)

On the entry level colored pencil class the students create "Jewel boxes" and apply color layering and drawing techniques on small studies of botanical subjects.
If you click here you can see more images from our recently completed classes

(Graphite by Shannon Aasheim) 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Congratulations to our 2018 Graduates

Graduates with Foundational certificate (from left): Irene Young, Joanna Webster, Lynn Williamson, Mary Ann Sudduth, Ted Milner, Sue Carr, Diane Jones, Sally Liverman, Victoria Youcha (Barbara Churchley missing; Diploma in Applied Botanical illustration: Michael Campbell and Karen May  

Today ten BI-students received their Foundational Certificate in Botanical Illustration from the School of Botanical Art and Illustration at Denver Botanic Gardens. We also celebrated our first two graduates to receive the Diploma in Applied Botanical Illustration.
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 graduate show.
Congratulations for each and everyone!

Joanna Webster and Mary Ann Sudduth received the Sydney Parkinson Award for excellency in Botanical Illustration. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

2019 Winter/Spring Catalog is out!

Please click here to download and print the pdf-file. Registration opens on December 11, 9 a.m. - online registration is encouraged.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Thursday, November 8, 2018


Based on a photo Ellen took of fishing shacks and lobster pots in St. Martin Island, New Brunswick (Ellen Ittelson, graphite)

Perspective is one of our required core classes and the prerequisite for all second level classes. This perspective is mainly focusing on aerial perspective and mainly concentrating on plant material, our typical subject matter. For several years now we have had the possibility to offer a 15-hour class on linear perspective which has turned out to be very popular and very useful tool even for botanical illustration and field sketching.
You can see more linear perspective and other work from the past weeks by clicking here.

Datura inspired by Art of Instruction, large scale wall charts that are still used as a tool in classroom instruction especially in Germany. (Shiere Melin, gouache)

Friday, November 2, 2018

Inspired by Beatrix Potter

Book Club by Bonnie Ladwig

In our series Drawing on Tradition we focused this time on Beatrix Potter’s carefully observed botanicals combined with her whimsical anthropomorphic animals. Even though Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) was best known for her children’s book she was above all a scientist from the Victorian time England.
To see few more images from this class in addition to few other, mainly colored pencil works, please click here

Tillandsia xerographica, colored pencil by Phillip Potter

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Heritage Grains

Dr. Nanna Meyer, University of Colorado 

Join Dr. Nanna Meyer, Associate Professor in Health Sciences at the University of Colorado, for a presentation about the role of ancient grains such as spelt, farro and amaranth in small-to-medium scale agriculture, nutrition and community. These healthy and sustainable grains offer broad artisan and culinary applications along with opportunities in research and education. Learn more about their uses and the challenges of restoring their role in today’s culture.

Dr. Meyer is an Associate Professor in Health Sciences at the University of Colorado (UCCS) with a focus on nutrition, exercise, health, and sustainability. Meyer founded the Sport Nutrition Program in 2009 and helped to establish the profession of sport nutrition. As the urgency to address climate change increases, Nanna’s time is now also devoted to integrating local and regional food systems into her teaching, research and service, including the topic of grains. With Grain School at UCCS, her goal is to work on restoring a healthful and sustainable grain chain in the Rocky Mountain Region and opening the world of whole, heritage, and ancient grains to those interested in reinventing their plates, menus, breads, and malts.

Café Botanique, November 7, 6:30-8 p.m.
Gates Hall

Reserve your seat by clicking here

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween!

Carved by Randy Raak, one of our multi-talented instructors 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Asuka Hishiki, our 2018 artist in resident

 (photo: Scott Dressel-Martin)

This fall we had the pleasure to host Asuka Hishiki from Japan as the 2018 Artist-in–Resident.
Asuka became familiar with the Rocky Mountain native flora and painted Bouteloua gracilis (Blue grama) as her main work. Furthermore she created an exceptional “Colorado plant collection”, and painted some Colorado mushrooms.  She sketched and documented with color samples several plants typical to Colorado to be finished and painted back in Japan.
Finally during the last week at Denver Botanic Gardens, she installed a large format “Arch of Monarchs including some 2000 hand printed, and cut butterflies inspired by the annual monarch butterfly migration. That installation will stay with us until Dias de los Muertos (Day of the Dead, November 4).
Asuka also taught a 3-day workshop on watercolor and heirloom tomatoes.

While Asuka was with us she learned that she had been awarded the American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA)’s Diane Bouchier Award for Excellence In Botanical Art. Congratulations Asuka!

We are thankful to have had Asuka here for six weeks, to learn about her methods, follow the progress of her outstanding paintings, and to enjoy her company.  We will continue collaborating and hope to welcome her back in the not too distant future.

For more images of Asuka's work please click here.

Bouteloua gracilis (Blue grama), watercolor, Asuka Hishiki 2018

Part of the "Arch of Monarchs" installation, mixed media and recycled paper, Asuka Hishiki, 2018

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Screen printing and Andy Warhol

(Aspen by Courtney Daily)

Our curriculum frequently includes offerings helping us to loosen up. At the same time we have the opportunity to explore something completely new while learning about art history.
On one of these 15-hour courses we explored Andy Warhol’s bold, graphic postmodernist colors and learned about screen printing technique. The class culminated in the Ink Lounce Screenprinting Studio and to print a set of striking 12”x 12” prints.
Andy Warhol brought the screen printing technique into the common usage during the 1960’s. He also was one of the first artists to justify the practice as a technique within the fine arts.

Waterlilies by Lynn Williamson - four different takes

To see more images from this class, please click here 

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.