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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Whimsy: Botanical Art and Illustration - CALL FOR ENTRIES

(Cockscomb, Celosia cristata by Susan DiMarchi, colored pencil)


You are cordially invited to submit work to the jurying process for the annual botanical illustration exhibition, this year featuring unusual plants. Your dedication to mastering the skills of this art form and illustration makes us extremely proud, and we would like to showcase your success in a public venue.

November 19, 2017-February 11, 2018
Venue: Denver Botanic Gardens, Gates Garden Court Gallery
Reception: November 19, 2–3 p.m.

We welcome artists who have participated in courses at Denver Botanic Gardens’ School of Botanical Art and Illustration after June 2015. 2-dimensional artworks of all levels and in any media taught in the school are welcome.

The organizing theme of this exhibition centers on plates that are playful, humorous, unusual, or unique. Artists are encouraged to take poetic license. Jurors will be looking for works that either are a unique interpretation of the subject matter or that feature a plant that is inherently whimsical.  We welcome all submissions whether traditionally based, contemporary, or “experimental” and we are eager to see a wide variety of thematic representations. Please refer all questions to Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski.

All media taught in the Denver Botanic Gardens’ School of Botanical Art and Illustration are accepted. All artwork must be original. No photography or digitally generated work will be accepted. No giclée prints or offset lithographs are considered.

If scale is included on the plate, only metric units are allowed.

Submission Method and format:
Each artist may submit up to three two-dimensional entries for juror consideration. Digital files only. Entries must be submitted digitally via, also known as CaFÉ. Detailed on-line submission instructions are available on the CaFE site. A complete submission includes a completed entry form and digital image for each entry. Images must be submitted as JPG files only, minimum of 1920 pixels on the longest side and 5.0 MB maximum with artist’s last name and title of artwork as the file name (e.g., Smith_Planta communis).

Submissions accepted:
September 1—September 22nd, 2017

Submission Deadline:
11:59 pm, September 22nd, 2017, Mountain Daylight Time.

Denver Botanic Gardens curators will be reviewing submissions. The work will be judged according to the standards of the media (typically composition, technical skills, and botanical accuracy), along with thematic relevance. 

Presentation, Size and Format:           
Upon acceptance to the exhibition, artists will submit matted artwork only; no frame. Mats must be 4- or 8-ply white rag (no eggshell, cream antique, warm white or any off-white mats), fitting exactly into a 16” x 20” frame (interior measurement). Pieces must be matted with both a backing board and a face mat and must be appropriately and securely attached within the matting—hinging and photo corners are both acceptable. Please do not submit matting with any loose elements, i.e. backing board or face mat not attached or piece not secured inside the matting. Artwork must be delivered in appropriate housing, such as paper wrapping or a mylar sleeve, and housing must be labeled with the artist’s name.

Delivery and Insurance:
Delivery requirements will be detailed with acceptance notices. While on site, artwork is insured by Denver Botanic Gardens. For insurance purposes, a valuation of your piece MUST be on file. Please complete this portion of the entry form accurately upon submission.

Publicity and Catalog:
By submitting your entry form, as sole owner of the copyright and intellectual property rights in and to any images submitted, you agree to irrevocably authorize Denver Botanic Gardens, without compensation to yourself or any third party, to reproduce, distribute, transmit, communicate, display and perform submitted images and any related images and materials provided by myself, privately or publicly, in whole or in part, throughout the world by means of any device or process (examples include but are not limited to online, print, film, and television), and authorize others to do the same, without contacting me, for nonprofit, educational, artistic, publicity and related purposes or for the purpose of promoting Denver Botanic Gardens or the exhibition. This non-exclusive license, which does not transfer ownership of your copyright to Denver Botanic Gardens, shall endure for the entire term of the copyright in and to said images and shall survive all assignments of copyright.

Contact with questions.
Please direct all technical questions about submitting your work to

(Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia reginae  (Trouble in Paradise) by Barbara McKee, watercolor)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Portrait of the Artist: Meredith Feniak

Great interview article of Meredith Feniak with plenty of images in the current June/July 2017 Colorado Homes & Lifestyles (pages 53-58).
If you do not have the possibility to get the printed issue you can see it on-line here.
Meredith received the foundational certificate in botanical illustration in 2014. She is currently part of our teacher crew at the SBAI and our main community outreach representative.
(Meredith Feniak: Best Watercolor Plate of the 2014 Foundational Certificate Portfolios)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Agave, Bats and Tequila

(By Sally Grew, click the image to enlarge))

Did you know that nectar-feeding bats are the main pollinators for Agave tequilana? Agave is harvested for tequila and mezcal production right before blooming thus the reproduction of this plant is strongly restricted. This is also decreasing the food availability for bats. Tequila Interchange Project (TIP) advocates for the preservation of sustainable, traditional and quality practices in the industry and for incorporating bat-friendly practices in the production system.   
Here is Sally Grew's story board illustrating the relationship, and challenges for Agave and bats. 
(Panel #2, by Sally Grew, please click to enlarge)

(Panel #3, by Sally Grew, please click to enlarge)

Monday, June 5, 2017

SBAI will participate in Denver 2017 Comic Con: Comics for Scientific Storytelling

The School of Botanical Art and Illustration will participate in the Denver Comic Con with a panel discussion on Saturday, July 1st 12-noon – 1 p.m.: 

Drawing Science: Comics for Scientific Storytelling
Graphic novels present an interesting opportunity to introduce readers to challenging scientific ideas. Combining text with images creates an easy to understand platform that appeals to a wide variety of learning styles. Panelists address the process of scientific storytelling through botanic-based comic stories with a focus on pollinators.

Get your tickets now! Denver Comic Con at Denver Convention Center June 30 – July 2. The tickets typically sell out early!
We have recently completed a successful 5-week workshop on the topic “Pollinator's Journey” with the instructor Jay Peteranez affiliated with Pop Culture Classroom. 
You can see a few example panels from our workshop by clicking here

(part of Christine Hubbell's story about pollen wasps and Penstemon; please click to enlarge)

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Illustrated Urban Garden

(Please click to enlarge)

An urban garden can take on many forms—tiny backyard plots, community gardening in city parks, guerrilla gardening on vacant lots, indoor hanging gardens, rooftop growing, vertical gardens, patio container gardens, or a full urban farm.
According to the USDA about 15% of the world’s food supply is now grown in urban centers. Growing fruits and vegetables is the biggest emphasis of the movement, but backyard chickens and goats, rain water collection, pollinator gardens and beekeeping are also on the rise. (More...) 
Gallus gallus domesticus, (Barred Plymouth rock rooster), watercolor and gouache by Randy Raak

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Tulips, Tulip Mania, Tulip Fever…

Dancing Tulips in progress (watercolor and graphite) by Rebecca Swain 

In the 17th century a fanatical interest in horticulture caused wealthy collectors to buy tulip bulbs for extraordinary amounts of money. The Persian poets were praising their beauty as early as on the 12th century. This spring several of our courses focused on tulips, the symbols of devotion and love. Tulip Mania class studied the history of tulips in Europe and concentrated on watercolor techniques combined with graphite.

Today we have over 3000 different varieties of tulips and 87 accepted species.

See some works from our tulip mania and other tulip inspired courses  by clicking here.
 (by Jean Scorgie, colored pencils)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Label Designs for the 2017 Plant Sale

(Plant compositions suggested by Angela Tingle) 

 Denver Botanic Gardens has many years included in their annual plant sale Container-in-a-Bag plant groupings based on the color palettes of famous artworks. This year our students simplified and slightly stylized the plant selections which normally are shown by photographs. This gave the students an opportunity to compose and draw small compositions to show gardeners what to expect. They also learned how to work to specs, including following templates, adhering to style and color requirements, and meeting deadlines.
One of the illustrated tiles was selected to the final Container-in-a-Bag label, see all the designs by clicking here.
(The final Edgar Degas' Label, plant #5 by Angela Tingle)

Monday, May 15, 2017

2017 Arts and Archives: Final days

On Saturday morning we visited the Berlin Museum of Medicinal History at the Charite. At the end of the 19th century, Rudolf Virchow created one of the largest collections of pathological-anatomical specimens. He wanted to provide specimens of healthy and diseased organs to improve the education among physicians, students and even the public for every known illness, and to also show what was under the human skin.  The museum opened in 1899 and included about 35000 specimens. A great number of collections were lost during WW II, only some 1800 specimens survived without greater damage. In 1998 the Museum at Charite was reopened to the public. The former Rudolf Virchow Lecture Hall was also destroyed at the very end of the war, the ruins were preserved and now form a unique atmosphere for scientific gatherings and other events. 
In this unique museum we could view not only 300 years of medicinal history starting from the time when the Charite was established as a plague hospital (around 1700), but also patient treatment history. With the help of our excellent guide (a medicine historian) we were able to view the 750 piece specimen collection and documentation of the founder's views of health, illness and the course of diseases. This was very interesting and educational - no photos could be taken.

On Saturday evening we had an exceptional opportunity to enjoy a sold-out concert with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra with the guest conductor Mariss Jansons (chief conductor of Royal Concertgebow in Amsterdam).  It was an unforgettable experience be among the 2440 others and listen to Sibelius, von Weber and Mahler with one of the world's greatest orchestras (ranked as #2 after the Royal Concertgebow in Amsterdam). The concert building by Hans Scharoun was inaugurated in 1963 and still is one of the most impressive and significant spatial creations of the 20th century in the whole world. 

Entombment of Mary by Giotto di Bondone, 1310. This painting is Giotto's finest demonstration of his skills and deep philosophical understanding of religious events. Giotto was also one of the first  artists to implement perspective.

On Sunday, many of us returned to the Kupferstichkabinett and revisited the Maria Sibylla Merian-exhibit and also the Gemäldegallerie with its extensive Paintings from the 13th to 18th century.
Before it was time to say good bye to Berlin we made sure to visit the Jewish Museum with the Daniel Libeskind building.

“Voided Void,” or Holocaust Tower is a part of the Libeskind building at the Jewish museum in Berlin.  Daylight penetrates the tower only through a narrow slit in the unheated concrete silo and any exterior sounds are heavily muffled by the walls. 

This was the end of our 2017 Arts and Archives Tour, another inspirational and successful trip. We were fascinated with the science history in both Copenhagen and Berlin, and also the current architecture, infrastructural efficiency, friendliness, the very moving WW II legacy, and so on.
Next year we'll return to Europe, to the south of Spain (Grenada and Seville) and Amsterdam.  

For more pictures please click here

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Summer and Fall 2017 Course Catalog

Our 2017 Summer and Fall catalog is out. Registration for these classes begins on June 6th, 9 a.m. The catalog will be shortly added here. You can also view and download it from here.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Arts and Archives 2017: Potsdam, the city of history

In Summer 1945 Harry Truman, Josef Stalin and Winston Churchill met at the Cecilienhof Palace for the Potsdam conference. The very famous photo of the Big Three was taken right at this point. 

The goal of the Arts and Archives Tours is not only to familiarize the participants with the science documentation and cultural history but also some of the political history of the nations that we visit. For centuries Potsdam has played an important role in German history and we visited this historical town, now UNESCO World Heritage Site, for one day. The day was a successful sightseeing experience and a teaser to return when more time is available.
Please see photos from our sightseeing tour by clicking here

 Neues Palace on the western side of Sanssouci park. The building was begun in 1763, after the end of the Seven Years' War, under King Frederick II (Frederick the Great) and was completed in 1769. It is considered to be the last great Prussian baroque palace.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

2017 Arts and Archives: Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum

The Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Garden has 16 glass houses open to public.
One of the very highlights of our 2017 Arts and Archives tour was the visit to the Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Garden and Museum where our guide was Dr. Norbert Kilian, the head of the library and museum.
Berlin Botanical Garden was originally developed by the Great Elector of Brandenburg, Frederick William as a model agricultural garden in 1679. In 1879 a Botanical Museum was created to house and promote research on the continuously growing collection. It is today the second largest botanical garden in the world with an area of 43 hectares (126 acres) and ca 22000 plant species. In 1995 the institution became part of the Freie Universität Berlin.

Carl Ludwig Willdenow's Album Amicorum  from the latter part of the 18th century. Willdenow was the director of the Berlin Botanical Garden from 1801 until 1812. He formed the basis for the herbarium and library.

During the bombings of WWII the Museum lost 90% of its herbarium collections, 99% of the library and 100% of the rare collections. The rebuilding started 1957 and the museum and herbarium today includes the Willdenow Herbarium, Bridel Herbarium, spirit collection, gymnosperm cone collection, fruits and seed collection, wood collection, gall collection, plant remnants from Egyptian tombs (G. Schweinfurth Collection), collections of resins and plant fibres, and DNA bank.
The museum has a large herbarium of about 3.6 million preserved specimens in 24 herbarium rooms, and the library includes 300000 books (on some 9.5 km of book shelves). The Garden publishes two periodicals, Willdenowia and Englera.
Dr. Kilian gave us an enlightening presentation of the history of the Garden and Museum, a tour of the library and Herbarium, showed a collection of rare and antique books with botanical illustrations, and explained how botanical illustrations have been a part of the botanical sciences through the millennia.

The oldest herbarium at the Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Museum. The individual plants are attached on the pages of a bound book, This book-herbarium is from 1660.   

Please click here for more photos from our visit 

Friday, April 28, 2017

2017 Arts and Archives: Children's and Young People's Department, Berlin State Library

 (From 12 Monate des Jahrs, Frederic Terrisse, 1853)

Early Thursday morning Dr. Carola Pohlman, the director of the Children’s and Young People’s Book Department  at the Berlin State Library welcomed us to Westhafen where this department is temporarily located because the  House Unter den Linden-branch is under re-structure.
First Dr. Pohlman gave us an excellent historical overview of the library development. At the earlier days of the library’s existence children books were not collected, it was first 1951 when this changed and since then every published German children book was acquired.  The library began the systematic acquisition of original illustrations for children books in 1978 and that collection includes more than 10000 pieces by 140 illustrators.  
Today the library has 200 000 volumes, these cannot be borrowed, but only viewed in the reading room. The collection in Berlin is one of the largest and most outstanding of its kind in Europe.
After viewing a large number of first edition volumes and seeing original illustrations published in Children books we toured the whole 200,000 volumes collection. Thank you Carola for a excellent morning!  
 Our great takeaway: a faximile of Heinrich Hoffmann's Struwwelpeter (Frankfurt 1926)
More photos from our Thursday morning, please click here

2017 Arts and Archives: Humboldt explorations and educational reaching collections

In the morning we visited Dr. Jutta Weber, the Director of the Manuscript Department of the Germain State Library. This library was founded in 1661. It was an independent part of the Prussian state administration since 1810, which was closely connected with the newly founded university in Berlin. From 1810 to about 1884 the rise to the leading library of Prussia took place. In 1918 it was named the Prussian State Library, and it became one of the most important scientific libraries in the world. The Second World War caused great destruction to this institution, and its development was hampered for nearly half a century.

Today the Berlin State Library is placed on three different  localities: Haus Potsdamer Strasse designed by Hans Scharoun. The Potsdamer Strasse building it was opened to the public in 1978. It was renovated from 1999-2001. The building is currently being further redeveloped into a modern research library as a companion to the Haus Unter den Linden and will house the collection from 1946 onward. Parts House Unter den Linden is now under re-structure and children and youth literature are placed on a third location in Westhafen.

During our visit with the help of Dr. Jutta Weber, the director of the manuscript department, we focused on Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and his legacy, his travels and connections, especially the to the relationship between him and Chamisso. Chamisso knew many of the early explorers very well and provided important contacts to Humboldt. He traveled to America 1798-1884 and then lived in Paris until 1827.
In the afternoon we visited the Humboldt-University of Berlin and got a viewing of their teaching collections at the Comparative Zoology department. Professor Dr. Gerhard Scholtz was our enthusiastic guide. The collection was founded in 1884, and includes some 30000 objects which are still used for teaching purposes today.
Radiolaria model designed by Franz Schultze

 For more photos from our day, please click here