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

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 is 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)

Friday, August 9, 2019

Colored Pencils from Basics to Advanced Learning

(Jewel boxes from entry level colored pencil by Peggy Delaney )
After learning the basic drawing skills and color layering for colored pencils our students have the possibility to start with the entry level colored pencil. The typical is that each student selects several botanical subjects for small studies. We call these studies for jewel boxes which also provide an excellent opportunity to practice composition with both form and color. Our electives are designed to increase student’s knowledge, ability and experience in Botanical illustration and related fields. We recommend that the students integrate the elective curriculum with the required courses and take the relevant courses simultaneously with the mandatory courses for our Foundational Certificate in Botanical Illustration. This summer among our colored pencil electives focusing on techniques were practicing analogous colors, drawing from reference photos, and documenting our living lavender collection. This collection includes 19 different lavender varieties and over 2000 lavender plants . Some of these electives require a completed advanced colored pencil techniques course.
Please click here to see some finished or in-process work from our colored pencil classes during this summer.

Lavendula angustifolia by Susan Willis

Monday, July 29, 2019

Murals to Inspire

Our mural painting team with their instructor after the 3-day hard work 

Murals are typically art applied directly to wall, ceiling or other permanent surface. The earliest known murals are the Paleolithic cave paintings some 40,000 BCE. Masters like Leonardo Da Vinci (Last Supper) and Michelangelo Buonarroti (Last Judgement, The Creation of Adam, and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel) produced murals during the Renaissance period.
 It is during Mexican Muralism that murals got a new dimension as a powerful visual communication tool, through the large paintings of “the great three”: Diego RiveraJosé Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, at that time murals became the most important form of expression, and the subject of controversy and always a symbol of solidarity, freedom and hope.  
Today murals are an important form of public art with styles varying from abstract to trompe l’oeil.  In Denver the annual Crush Walls festival is spotlighting local, national, and international artist to bring the streets of RiNo district to life and has created hundreds of inspiring murals in that area since 2009. Read more about Crush Walls by clicking here.

Our school had during the past weekend the privilege to offer a workshop on the basics of painting murals. One of our instructors is a mural painter focusing mostly on botanical material and was willing to share her trade secrets with twelve students. The initial plan was to practice on our classroom wall and then paint it over during our annual maintenance week. The Zinnia-wall will stay without immediate over painting -Congratulations Zinnia-Team!!! 



Adding the furniture on its place makes a big difference and the decision weather or not the wall was going to be painted over immediately was easy to make.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Time for Color -

(Karen Mahnken, transparent acrylics)

This time mostly water media: Poppies in transparent acrylics; White flowers in watercolor; Poetry of Flowers in our drawing on tradition tradition series, this one focusing on Emily Dickinson's poetry with illustration techniques inspired by Dugald Stermer, and finally Pelargoniums in Watercolor. 



Rebecca Swain, watercolor

Irma Sturgel, watercolor pencil and graphite

Sue Carr, watercolor

For more pictures from these classes , please click here

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Santa Fe Folk Art Market: Appreciation of Cultural Heritage

Entrance to the Museum Hill International Folk Art Market

 Last weekend a group of SBAI-community traveled to Santa Fe, NM mainly to visit the International Folk-Art Market, IFAM (July 13, 2019). With traditional hand crafts from 53 different countries by 178 artists, this annual event at the Museum Hill in Santa Fe sold 40,000 + tickets.
This was the first year for the US to participate, with five US-born artists invited by the four different museums at the Museum Hill plus the School of Advanced Research. 
IFAM in Santa Fe was born 15 years ago (2003) and is a high-quality craft market. It gets over 600 applications annually and the exhibitors are selected through an effective two-jury system: (a) Selection Committee comprised by experienced museum curators and gallerists who judge each applicant for excellence and strong roots in folk tradition. (b) Placement Committee consists  of retailers and merchants who are looking for geographic diversity, media, price, and aesthetic.
This was a beautiful enriching experience, exceptionally operated and arranged. Over 1700 volunteers contributed to the success.
Samples of Kaitag and Caucasian silk embroidery, also called Armenian embroidery. It displays very fine detailed work with complex stitching originating in the mid 18th century. The motifs are derived from Ottoman and Persian art. Since 2004  group of women have been successfully working to save the art form from extinction. The silk is all naturally dyed. (Mehmet Cetinkaya Gallery, Turkey) 

The day before, we visited the Museum of International Folk Art including the Alexander Girard exhibition: A Designer’s Universe. The exhibition surveys Girard’s life and the connections to Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Florence Knoll, and Jack Larsen. His work for Herman MillerCompany, John Deere, and some private clients are also highlighted. We had the opportunity to explore the Girard Wing with around 10,000 objects representing roughly one tenth of the collection that Girard donated to the museum in 1978. One day is not enough for this museum!

Alfonso Sulca Chavez: Belt No. 25; sheep's wool weft, cotton warp, natural dyes Peru 2016. The design sketch of this piece is in the left had corner insert, Museum of International Folk Art


Display of Day of the Dead, children all over Mexico eat sugar sculls and play with toy skeletons. From the Girard Wing collections  

The International Folk Art Museum has a 30,000 piece textile and ethnographic dress collection, these ensembles are from Cusco, Peru as is the photo in the background. These costumes showcase the handwork, spinning and dyeing wool weaving on backstrap and treadle looms, knitting, sewing and embroidering.
These are all Alexander Girard's textile designs for Herman Miller, 1954-1961

For more pictures featuring a fraction of the Folk Art Market, please click here.