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

Friday, March 22, 2019

2019 SMA tour with Sarah Simblet: Sketching and Bellas Artes

Early Thursday morning everybody started with their sketching activities in El Charco followed by the tour of the tour of El Charco's research department and herbarium. 

 In the afternoon we toured the Centro Cultural Ignatio Ramirez Bellas Artes. We could see several murals of Pedro Martinez. There is also a mural by Eleanor Coen from 1941 and the very famous unfinished mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros The building is a former monastery which was converted into a fine-art's school in 1938.  The beautiful building was originally constructed 1755-1765 and hosts now classes in drawing, painting, ceramic and weaving also in printmaking and music.

Finally we toured the House of Allende, the history museum in San Miguel and had a informative slide presentation by our guide, Alberto.
For more photos, please click here.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

2019 SMA Tour: Cañada de la Virgen and Museo Astronomia


The main pyramid at the Cañada de la Virgen archaeological site, This is the underworld square in front of the main structure. Only the selected individuals could climb up the stairs close to the sun.

Cañada de la Virgen archaeological site 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 of the existing five: 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. 
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. We had an exceptional tour led by Alberto Aveleyra, anthropologist by the National chool 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 visited the Museo Astronomia Prehispanica and had a gastronomic experience of astrnomic proportions. We were served a precolombian meal. Dr. Rossana Quiroz Ennisas gave as an excellent presentation about the importance of the moon cycle in the prephispanic culture.The day was filled with outstanding information about the past cultures and an overall very pleasant experience.
Please see more pictures by clicking here

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

2019 SMA tour with Sarah Simblet - Third day

This was our second day of drawing and this time the students were focusing on domestic birds: chickens, roosters and ducks. 
During the day we also visited the unique mask collection of Bill LeVasseur who has spent more than 25 years acquiring an extraordinary collection of over 500 Mexican ceremonial masks (No photos).  Mr. LeVasseur also gave us a talk about the history of ceremonial masks.
In the late afternoon most of the students returned to the San Miguel Cultural institute site to observe and sketch the numerous egrets.

For some more photos, please click here

2019 SMA with Sarah Simblet

Typical view of the colorful houses in Guanajuato (from the car window)



We started our 2019 SMA  tour on Sunday with  a full day excursion to Guanajuato, the city of frogs and the state capital. Carlos was our excellent guide and gave us an detailed overview of Guanajuato’s history, especially the mining history and its importance for the city and Mexico. The Museum of Mummies was an interesting experience and certainly unique. In the house of Diego Rivera  (no photos of the collections) we could learn about his childhood and the later artistic life through the different phases - very, very interesting and educational.
 Part of Diego Rivera's mural
Later on we visited the Museo Iconográfico del Quijote, museum featuring art & craft exhibits related to Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra's "Don Quixote." Before driving back to San Miguel after the dark, we had a walking tour in the town with tunnels and extremely narrow streets.  
 Most of Guanajuato's streets are not suitable for cars

Early in the morning of our second day we gathered in El Charco del Ingenio for a bird tour and continued later with the introduction to the sketching class. 

 Sarah Simblet giving an orientation to her class after the bird tour
Early in the morning of our second day we gathered in El Charco del Ingenio for a bird tour and continued later with the introduction to the sketching class.
On Monday afternoon we enjoyed a 3-hour tour with Alberto who first explained the complicated history Mexico from the time of Cortez to the present which is displayed in the mural by David Leonardo at Instituto Allende.  We also had a walking tour to other historic places including the natural spring  where San Miguel was founded.
 This is the place where to current San Miguel was founded, the source of the water is underneath this building. The natural spring gave water for the whole town. Today the spring is still there but the water flow decreased drastically for 20-30 years ago.

For more pictures, please click here

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Stipple, line and some color -

 Old Mushrooms, entry level Pen and Ink by Christian Imhof
On the entry level Pen and Ink it is all about line and stipple - 
Jewelry boxes in process - entry level Colored Pencils by  Judith Petersen
Entry level Colored Pencil students start combining their drawing skills with the color layering techniques. The students are refining their skills in showing light and volume in any subject -
Daffodil studies, entry level Graphite by Mary Ann Bonnell
Students on the entry level Graphite often don't have any background in illustration techniques. The individual guidance  quickly teaches and helps the students to render accurate perspective, texture and detail.
More student work from these three classes please click here.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Colorado Wetlands and their conservation in Cafe Botanique!


The Importance of Plant Identification in Mile High Wetland Conservation, Regulation and Protection
Gwen Kittel, MS, Ecologist, NatureServe; Ryan Hammons, MS, Environmental Scientist, HDR Engineering; Karin McShea, MS, Pinyon Environmental

Hear from experts how wetlands provide important habitat for wildlife and biodiversity in Colorado. Learn about the importance of these areas; how conservation, mitigation and restoration are employed; and how scientific illustration is used in correct plant identification.

Gwen Kittel, MS is a vegetation ecologist specializing in wetland and riparian ecosystems. For the past 25 years, she has worked throughout the western U.S. and western Canada as an ecologist for NatureServeThe Nature Conservancy and Colorado NaturalHeritage ProgramRyan Hammons, MS works for HDR, an engineering firm, and provides biological survey and permitting support for a wide range of projects that have potential to impact protected natural resources. Karin McShea, MS is a biologist with Pinyon Environmental, Inc. She has worked in Colorado for the past 15 years assessing a wide variety of biological resources, including wetlands and riparian habitats.


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

(watercolor by Charlotte Ricker, 2018)
Reserve your seat by clicking here

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Watercolor and graphite, or both combined

Entry level watercolor by Allison Gray (in process)
We teach illustration techniques in graphite, pen and ink, colored pencil and watercolor. You can see here some of the in-process work from our entry level watercolor class. We also teach a technique combining graphite and watercolor by starting with a pale graphite under-drawing or grisaille and finish with the watercolor washes.  

June Zapata, entry level graphite

Roy Sanford, graphite (from our composition class)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Beauty in the Details II

(fr. left) Shepherdia argentea, Crataegus ambiquaPopulus deltoides, Tilia americana and Pyrus calleryana, colored pencil by Mary Crabtree

This is the second posting about winter twigs and dormant buds, a class inspired by Identification of Trees and Shrubs in Winter using Buds and Twigs by Bernd Schulz. The first part was posted here on February 5th. Please click here to see more images from the class

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Colorado's Lost Apples in Cafe Botanique


Colorado's Lost Apples: Rediscovering our Forgotten Legacy

Katharine Suding, Ph.D., University of Colorado, Boulder

Join us to learn about the Boulder Apple Tree Project, which strives to map, identify and preserve the amazing biological and historical heritage of apples in Colorado. In the mid-1800s, there were thousands of unique varieties of apples in the United States, some of the most astounding diversity ever developed in a food crop. Later, the apple industry narrowed their promotion to only a handful of varieties and the rest were forgotten. These forgotten varieties became commercially extinct but not biologically extinct; some trees remained near old homesteads and in abandoned orchards. This story played out in many places such as Colorado, where remnants of old orchards dot the landscape. Here, these abandoned trees represent cultivars that have resisted disease and the environmental stress of a dry climate as well as the genetic diversity absent from commercial apple production.

Professor Katharine Suding is a plant community ecologist, professor of environmental biology and a fellow of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at University of Colorado Boulder. She works at the interface of ecosystem, landscape and population biology. Her goal is to apply cutting-edge 'usable' science to the challenges of restoration, species invasion and environmental change.

Gates Hall, Wednesday February 20, 6:30-8 p.m.

Reserve your seat by clicking here


Chenango Strawberry, watercolor by M. Palmer (The Archives and Special Collections of Colorado State University Libraries)

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Historic Palmer Wax Apple Collection

 Each of the apples are labelled and numbered by Ms. Palmer. This variety is Stayman's Winesap collected from Canyon City, CO; the date on the card is February 1905 (grower J.E.Snow)


Colorado State University Morton Library's Special Collections houses an unique set of more than 80 wax apples with related illustrations created by Miriam A. Palmer in the early 20th century.
One of the exceptional illustrations by Ms. M. Palmer (watercolor and graphite)

Ms. Miriam Augusta Palmer was born in Pennsylvania on August 28, 1878. She enrolled in the University of Kansas and received her M.A. in Art in 1904. She became associated with the Colorado Experiment Station of Colorado Agricultural College as an Illustrator and Instructor of Drawing in 1904. 
Ms. Palmer was considered an expert for her ability to illustrate insects, but also to create life-like wax models of fruit. Most of the wax apple models of Colorado varieties were created in 1905 and 1906. 
In 1925 Ms. Palmer earned her M.S. in entomology from Colorado Agricultural College where she served as associate professor of entomology and zoology until 1951. She was a recognized world authority on aphids. 
Plate I from the Aphids of the Rocky Mountain Region, text and illustrations by Miriam A. Palmer , 1952 (The Thomas Say Foundation, Volume V,  452 pages)

Colorado State University honored Ms. Palmer with the D. Sc. Honorary degree in 1959, she died in Fort Collins in 1977.
CSU is in process of digitizing this amazing collection to make the history of the early Colorado apple varieties available for wider audiences.

Please see more images of the Palmer Collection by clicking here

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Observing deciduous trees and shrubs in Winter


Syringa vulgaris, ink and colored pencil by Jane G. Smith

We often think that identifying dormant deciduous plants is complicated. These few examples illustrates how dormant twigs are bursting with beautiful energy, textures and colors providing important information before the leaves appear. In addition to fresh plant material the students were using Bernd Schulz’s monumental work: Identification of Treesand Shrubs in Winter using Buds and Twigs (including 700 species and over 1400 color illustrations) as their textbook.
For more images please click here.
 Tilia cordata, ink and colored pencil by Mary Crabtree

Monday, January 28, 2019

Inspired by Frida Kahlo

Portrait of a loved one by Jane Smith, paint, embroidery and photo transfer

Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits resonate femininity, grace and strength.  At our 2018 SanMiguel de Allende tour, the group participated in a mixed media class focusing on Frida Kahlo’s Botanicals. 
Portrait of a loved one by Roberta Lutgens, paint, embroidery and photo transfer

Inspired by Kahlo’s iconic style the students used photo portraits of themselves or loved ones, and incorporated the local flora with paint and embroidery in their plates. The portrait photo was transferred to the plate by using a photo transfer method.

Portrait of the twin sons by Maredith Feniak (The instructor), paint, embroidery and photo transfer

We will be repeating this class on-site at Denver Botanic Gardens in February-March (starting on Wednesday February 20, 1-4 p.m.) – we still have some seats available for registration.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Invisible links at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden!

Sword-Billed Hummingbird and Passion Flower - northern banana passionfruit (Passiflora mixta), sword-billed hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera). 
The sword-billed hummingbird and the northern banana passion fruit have co-evolved in South America's montane cloud forest. With a bill nearly 4 inches long, this hummingbird is the only species able to reach the sweet nectar at the base of the passion flower. (Charlotte Ricker, 2018, colored pencil and watercolor) 


Our last year's BI-exhibit Invisible Links is out on travel! The exhibit will open on January 26 at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont, North Carolina. The exhibit is part of DSBG's 2019 Art & Orchid events and will be on view until March 3, 2019.

Please make sure to visit if you are in Belmont, NC

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Immersed in the Burren - Diploma Presentation


Immersed in the Burren: A Botanical Journey through the West of Ireland
Michael Campbell

Join Michael Campbell for a reflection on his numerous expeditions to a region located on the western edge of Ireland known as the Burren. Due to its unique geology, climate and diversity of flora and fauna, the Burren is an area of great ecological interest and contains over 70% of the country’s flowering plant species. Campbell will share his botanical adventures and his artwork, inspired by the region’s distinct landscape.

- This is Michael Campbell's presentation for Diploma in Applied Botanical Illustration

After 30 years as a graphic designer, art director and creative director, Campbell has embarked on a second career as a botanical artist. He is a graduate from the School of Botanical Art and Illustration in 2010 and is currently studying within the Diploma Program. In addition to his personal studies, Campbell shares his love for the arts and botany through teaching at University of Colorado Boulder, Regis University and Front Range Community College.

Sunday, January 20, 1-2:30 p.m.  
 Mitchell Hall

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Prayer Trees of Colorado in Cafe Botanique


Prayer Trees of Colorado

John Wesley Anderson


Join local author John Wesley Anderson for a discussion on prayer trees in Colorado. Anderson will introduce characteristics of these trees, which can be identified through unique shapes and growth patterns, large areas of missing bark, pruning or scars. These living artifacts provide rich ethnobotanical information.

John W. Anderson is an author, artist and consultant. He has written and published several non-fiction books with the Old Colorado City Historical Society.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019 - 6:30-8 p.m.
Gates Hall

Reserve your seat by clicking here

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Happy New Year 2019


Autumn leaves, colored pencil by Karen Mahnken


To start the New Year please enjoy some images from late last year. Every year we offer at least one class in textile design, this time the class was inspired by English textile artist Lesley Richmond and her nature inspired work.
Ernst Haeckel inspired class challenged the students to create complex arrangements. Ernst Haeckel was a German naturalist who named and described thousands of new species (mainly marine) in the later part of the 19th century. Haeckel was a master of symmetry and organization.

To see more images from these classes and few others, please click here.


Trumpet vine with humming birds, watercolor by Sue Carr