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

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Inspiring and Encouraging

(watercolor by Peg Christon)

Our 2020 Winter /Spring registration opens on Tuesday, December 10, 9 a.m.  The online registration site can be reached by clicking here. If you need to download and/or print the full catalog please click here.  

We only accept 12 students for each onsite classes, six students for distance learning options, or the intense foundational certificate Block I (see page 5-6 and page 21 in thecatalog). Please register early, our classes fill out fast!
Here are some works from our recently completed classes for your inspiration.
(Ink by Peggy Delaney)

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

2020 SBAI Winter/Spring Botanical Illustration Courses

Our 2020 Winter/Spring course catalog is out! You can view and download it by clicking here. The registration opens Tuesday, December 10, 9 a.m. Click here for the online registration page. (2020 courses are not visible yet at the registration site).

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

Watercolor by Barbara Anderson
Happy Thanksgiving week to all our readers! 
In November we had two workshops on Bromeliads, one in ink and the other in watercolor. Bromeliacaea  is a family of more than 3300 species providing one of the largest collection of foliage colors and patterns in the plant world and a true challenge in perspective, pattern and value. We also had a repeat of our very popular drawing on tradition class on the Isabel Adams' sketchbook techniques. In this posted group are also some finished work from our distance learning graphite class.
Please click here for more images from these classes 

Summer flowers in the style of Isabel Adams by Karen Mahnken

Monday, November 18, 2019

Congratulations to our 2019 Graduates!

Our 2019 graduates with the Foundational Certificate in Botanical Illustration:
Karen Appel, Stephanie Oliver, Lesley McGregor, Eleanor Clark, Peter Orleans, Sirinya Frankel, Rebecca Swain, Jane Smith, Jean Scorgie, Phillip Potter, Pauline Edwards, Leslie Brinson

Join us to congratulate the 12 new botanical illustration students who last Friday received their foundational certificate in botanical art and illustration from the School of Botanical Art and Illustration at Denver Botanic Gardens. Our youngest graduate, the 15 year old Sirinya Frankel also received the Sydney Parkinson reward.
We are very 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, True to Form.
Please click here to see the individual portfolios and here to see some pictures from the graduation ceremony.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Scratching the Surface

Scratchboard by Milvi Gill

Scratchboard is always one of the most popular elective classes that we annually offer. Pen and Ink on clayboard is one of the most adoptable and forgiving combinations of pigment. Contrasts in textures and values produce dramatic and luminous effects. You can see few more excellent plates from our 3-day workshop by clicking here

Scratchboard by Sue Carr

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

From Entry Level to Advanced

Entry Level Graphite, Rachel Sturtz

Please click here to see some finished (or almost finished) pieces from our entry level Graphite, Perfecting Perspective, Plants with Bite and Winged Victory. On the Winged Victory class the students studied the interactions between plants and insects; the Plants with Bite was focusing on carnivorous plants from our living collections.
Plants with Bite (Carnivorous plants), Laura Matthews, colored pencils 

Friday, November 1, 2019

World Travelers in Cafe Botanique, November 6

Pollen Grains – World Travelers Without a Passport
Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski

Join us to explore the incredible world of pollen grains. Pollen has a unique outer wall made of one of the toughest materials known in the organic world, resistant to high temperatures, acids and bases, enzymes, and other chemicals. As a result, pollen grains that are hundreds of millions of years old – as old as the time of the dinosaurs - can still be studied today, providing valuable insight into plant-climate interactions, landscape development, human impact on vegetation and even forensic investigation.

Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski is a Finnish-born scientist with a Ph.D. in quaternary biology from the University of Lund, Sweden, and D.Sc. in aeropalynology from the University of Stockholm. She has worked with pollen grains since her first year of college in Finland and has been involved in all aspects—from marine archaeology to asthma, and from lake sediments in the arctic tundra to the snowfields in South Georgia, Antarctica. The author and co-author of over 100 scholarly publications, she has been a researcher and taught at universities worldwide. Since 2007, she has managed the School of Botanical Art and Illustration at Denver Botanic Gardens.

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

Thursday, October 31, 2019

True to Form

(Please click on the picture to enlarge).

This two day salon features artworks created by students in the Gardens' School of Botanical Art and Illustration, part of the venerated tradition of portraying plants for scientific purposes and in celebration of the beauty of nature. 
True to Form highlights the complex visual language of the natural world showcasing its incredible variety of shapes, colors and textures within six  thematic categories: hairy,  spiky, shiny, striped, spotted, and multicolored.
On Friday, November 15, we also celebrate the 2019 graduates with the certificate of Foundational certificate for botanical illustration.This year we have twelve graduates.

Welcome to the opening reception, and celebration of the 2019 graduates!

November 15th, 6-7:30 p.m.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Alifie Rojas

Medicago sativa with its pollinator Bombus huntii, watercolor by Alifie Rojas (please click the image to enlarge)

Alifie Rojas from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico has been visiting us during the past few weeks. She is a natural science illustrator and has exhibited all around in Mexico. She has illustrated several books and was recently featured in the July-August issue (Number 145) of Biodiversitas. Today Alifie is mainly focusing on plant and insect interactions.
During her visit to Denver Botanic Gardens she illustrated Medicago sativa with a Colorado native bumble bee Bombus huntii. She also saw the bird's nest fungi (Cyathus olla) in the close by park and illustrated that for us.
Cyathus olla, watercolor by Alifie Rojas; (please click the image to enlarge)

Here is the specimen, Cyathus olla; the fruiting body is about 8 mm long and 6 mm in the diameter

Friday, October 18, 2019

In the Classroom and on Distance

By Janice Hoffman, Pen and Ink

Our illustration students can take classes either completely on-site, or as an option combining the classroom participation with remote online learning. From next summer (July 2020) we include an additional option in which the requirements can be taken in three 2-week blocks onsite with applicable on-line and homework sections in-between. The on-line sessions may include both virtual sessions and email reports. 
Please click here and you can see more images from our 100% on-site courses and from courses with the distance learning option. 

By Kelly Belanger, colored pencil

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Red: A Color of Passion with Isik Güner

During the past weekend we concentrated in the rich red color with Isik Güner from Turkey. This 3-day workshop was filled with demonstrations, practical exercises and individual guidance. 
Isik's book Botanical Illustration from Life is out in distribution for the European customers. The U.S. customers need to wait until November 5th. The book is also simultaneously printed in French and Spanish, which both should be out by November 5th. This book is all about observing, drawing, painting, exploration and mastering the art of illustration. An excellent guide from start to finish, and made to be used as a textbook!!!
You can get your copy either through the publisher, Search Press or Amazon.

Friday, October 11, 2019

October 2019 SMA-tour: Successful Illustration – There are No Shortcuts!

Isik demonstrating different approaches for the same final result 

The two final days of our tour were filled with demonstrations and illustration at the Posada Corazon’s terrace. Time after time Isik pointed out how important it is to make the initial sketches carefully, get all the connections right. Isik typically tests all the colors and different painting approaches on her practice piece and then chooses the one which works best for her and the specimen. There is NO shortcuts.
In one of the afternoons we also made our final walking tour guided by Alberto We visited the Art Institute, Belles Artes and also the city public library and studied the many important murals in town.
Our very successful 10-day Illustration/Printing/culture tour had concluded and we were ready for the return trip to the U.S.  
Mural created by 16-18 year old students in the public library honoring Stirling Dickinson, an American artist who was appointed director of the Escuela Universitaria de Bellas Artes. 
A fraction of the Quetzalcoatl el Sol Eterno (dimension 145 square meters) by David Leonardo (2003) at the San Miguel Public Library

Please click here to see more pictures from our final days in San Miguel de Allende.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Assistant Manager

(Panicum virgatum by Mary Crabtree, please click to enlarge)

We are searching for an assistant manager for SBAI. Please click here for more information.

October 2019 SMA tour: Eight hours Intense Learning about Siligraphy

Antonio Domingues giving us an overview of the technique

We had the privilege to have Maestro Antonio Domingues from La Esmeralda-institute, Mexico City, to come and teach us the basics of the siligraphy technique.  Siligaphy, water-less lithography, came to Mexico mainly from the Tamaring Institute of University of New Mexico, NM, U.S.
The image was traced on the smooth surface of an aluminum plate (originally used for newspaper printing). The drawing must be done with a pencil containing Gum Arabic. After several steps preparing the plates, the ink was applied and the printing was done. This is very much like the drypoint technique. The results are stunning! 

We used three different inks: black, sepia and blanch mixed little with green. At least 50 identical prints can be done from one plate.

October 2019 SMA tour: Ghost Town from the past - Mineral de Pozos

Some of the buildings are still in ruins

On Sunday we didn't have any illustration in our program. Instead we visited the town of San Pedro de los Pozos (Mineral de Pozos), where silver and gold was mined since 16th century. It was a ghost town not too long time ago and now reviving as an arts community. People say that the town is like San Miguel De Allende in the 1950s-60s. Mineral de Pozos was born in 1576 as a mining town. 
The area around Mineral de Pozos was originally populated mainly by indigenous Chichimecas and Huachichiles.The main exploitation period of this mining district was between 1888 and 1922, with sporadic activities until 1942. By the last years of the 19th century, the number of working mines had reached 300 and the population in Pozos alone had reached 70,000. After the Mexican Revolution of 1910 mines began closing down, and many flooded, silver prices fell. According to the records by the 1950s, the town had shriveled to about 200, and it became a half-forgotten part of the small city of San Luis de la Paz, about 5 miles away. In 1980, government declared Mineral de Pozos a “National Historical Monument.”  On February 16, 2012, it was declared "Magic Town of Mexico" in order to facilitate further restoration of the ruined buildings.

For more pictures from this magical town, please click here

This was supposed to be the cathedral  in town, but only small part got finished and then abandoned.

Monday, October 7, 2019

October 2019 SMA tour with Isik Guner, 4th day: Painting and Atotonilco

 Isik demonstrating about the paper and how important it is to know the paper before starting to paint

In the morning all the students returned to their desks and now continued with their pieces. Most of them had already transferred the piece to a good paper and it was time to stat putting down the color.

Each time we have visited San Miguel de Allende we also go to Atotonilco and the The Sanctuary of Jesus Nazareno de Atatonilco including 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. The murals in the sanctuary are mostly done by Antonio Martinez de Pocasangre . 
The Sanctuary of Jesus Nazareno de Atatonilco

We continued to Dolores Hidalgo where we visited the home of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (now a museum), 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 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 sunny day filled with painting and Mexican history!
Taxus distichium, the official state tree
More pictures from our day, please click here,

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Intense start for the October 2019 SMA-Tour

Tagetes lanulata with the white Bidens odorata

Our October tour is right after the rain season, everything is green and the blooming wildflowers are  covering the grounds. 
We started our October 2019 SMA tour officially with a welcome dinner at Posada Corazon when everybody had arrived. 

Our guide Alberto explaining us the structure of the main structure on this ceremonial site

During the first day we visited the Cañada de la Virgen archaeological site located some 25 km outside San Miguel de Allende. This ceremonial site was occupied between 540 and 1050 CE, and then abandoned like many other sites in the region. This was likely because of the severe drought that lasted for an extended period of time. The ceremonial site covers about 16 hectares and is today the only archaeological site in Mexico where the number of people visiting it is heavily controlled and only a certain number of people can enter the area during the opening hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is also one of the only sites where the pilgrims and visitors enter the area from the east with the rising sun.
Several bodies have been discovered and C-14 dated about 1000 years older than the site itself. The DNA analysis is showing that one of the bodies was a Mayan male. The bodies were likely kept as relics among the Otomi people for 50-60 generations and finally interred in the temple at the top of the main structure. Two of the found bodies we young females, DNA analysis of one of them locates her to Yucatan Peninsula. We had an exceptional tour led by Alberto Aveleyra, anthropologist from the National School of Anthropology and History. He is specialized in the interpretation of the ancient Otomi codex and the history of pre-Columbian cultures related to the San Miguel De Allende surroundings.

After the pyramids, we had a pre-Colombian meal at the Museo Astronomia Prehispanica. The Lunch was planned and prepared by Dr. Rossana Quiroz Ennisas. 

Our lunch menu
The day was filled with outstanding information about past local cultures and with an abundance of wildflowers. (For more pictures, please click here)

On Thursday we toured El Charco botanical gardens and studied a plethora of wildflowers with Michael, our guide with Australian roots. 
We were lucky to see one of the few native orchids in bloom - Dichromanthus cinnabarinus

In the afternoon we had a Mexican cooking class. We learned about traditional local Mexican Food, went to a traditional food market to by our ingredients, while leaning about the different chili peppers both fresh and dried. We prepared a festive meal while tasting variety of typical Mexican fresh cheese types. 
 Visiting the local food market with our chef Esmeralda

The fresh and roasted salsas that we made, tasted and combined with different fresh and dried chili peppers, as well as all the main vegetable and meat stews were delicious. We could also enjoy the special virus infected corn (huitlacoche), cooked it with onion on a pan and used it as the filling in roasted Mexican pepper leaves (like grape leaves) with cheese which were then re-roasted – really good! To see more pictures from the day, please click here.
Huitlaloche, virus infected corn, delicacy during October in Mexico

Yesterday our illustrating class with Isik Guner started at Posada Corazon’s terrace. This was the perfect possible setting for an illustration class. 

Isik explaining basics of measuring at the beginning of the session
Class in action

In the afternoon our destination was the Los Palomas Natural Protection Area close to Guanajuato (elevation over 8000 ft). AT the entry we heard that the park was unexpectedly closed for the day because of a regional gathering for the high level ecology people. This had not been announced to the public at all ahead of time. 
Wildflowers at 8000 ft elevation, Castilleja and Cosmos among them
The situation turned to almost better, since we entered the area from the back site, saw so many wildflowers in bloom, collected several of them for the coming class, and then continued to see some of the fantastic city of Guanajuato, the heart of Mexico.

Stop to the Mayolica ceramics factory in in the town of Santa Rosa and to see the artist painting the vessels individually made the day even better!

A professional painter at the Mayolica porcelain factory. The factory has its own art school.
You can see more pictures from each day by clicking below:

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

From Pencil I to Limited Palette

Illustrating a gladiolus with a limited palette (colored pencil by Lesley MacGregor) 

Majority of our students do not have any art background when they enroll in their first 15-hour illustration course (Pencil I) in our school. 
After the entry level class most students continue with Light on Form-class which is like Pencil I b, a class where the students learn about light and shadow, and the basics to create a three-dimensional drawing. If you follow this link you can see some examples from a recently completed Pencil I weekend class and also some examples from a Light on Form workshop.
Entry level graphite (Pencil I) by Natalia Alarik

Realism in Botanical illustration follows  James Gurney's book Color and Light. The students learn about gamut mapping and limited palettes while focusing on botanical subject matter. Several  students from that class requested it to be a required one for the foundational certificate.  

Tulips from a Light on Form class by Susan Martin

Monday, September 16, 2019

Japanese Silk Embroidery in Cafe Botanique

Rozashi: The Art of Japanese Silk Embroidery
Margaret Kinsey, Deltona, FL

Rozashi is an ancient form of Japanese needlework that originated in China. It uses silk gauze, thread and metal thread to create designs featuring geometric forms, birds and flowers. Originally called Kyoto Nobles Rozashi, the technique was practiced by the ladies of the court and passed down from one woman to another.

Margaret Kinsey teaches for both national embroidery organizations in the U.S. and for the Embroidery Association of Canada. She was the keynote speaker at the 2012 New Zealand Embroidery Guild Conference in Christchurch, NZ and has chaired three EGA International Embroidery Conferences. She is the 2020 recipient of the National Academy of Needlework’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Margaret is an Embroiderers’ Guild of America certified teacher in silk and metal thread techniques and is the U.S. teacher for the Kunimitsu Rozashi Studio.

Wednesday, September 18, 6:30-8 p.m.  |  Gates Hall
Please click here to reserve your seat

Monday, September 9, 2019

Colored Pencil and Watercolor Pencil

Focus on Foliage in colored pencils by Ellen Ittelson

Watercolor pencil is probably the youngest among the different media that we include in our curriculum. They are suitable for mixed media exercises and blend well with almost any other media.  
Please click here to see selection of illustrations from our entry level watercolor pencil class, you can also see works from our Focus on Foliage class on which the students studied different leaf shapes, textures and color – all in colored pencils.

Entry level watercolor pencil complemented by colored pencil by Susan Willis

Monday, August 19, 2019

Exploits in Watercolor - studies in wet-on-wet

(By Allison Gray)

 Exploits in Watercolor is one of our very popular, regularly offered electives. The students are exploring the watercolor properties while painting fruits and vegetables. They will expand their watercolor skills by dabbing, blending, charging and bleeding, and at the same time learning to manage the water in the watercolor painting. This is the opposite of drybrush painting!

Please click here to see additional examples of studies in progress.

(by Peggy Delaney, in process)