Mission Statement

The Rocky Mountain Society of Botanical Artists is an open and diverse group of artists, collectors and admirers who share a love for the practice and perpetuation of botanical art and illustration with a fond focus on plants in the Rocky Mountain Region.
We encourage and participate in educational outreach, juried and non-juried exhibits, lectures, workshops and regular chapter meetings. The RMSBA is proud to be the very first chapter affiliation of the international organization, the American Society of Botanical Artists.

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's officially summer...

Hesperaloe parviflora, colored pencil on Mylar, Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski

...and that means all those things you planned to do are well underway now. Even with your busy schedule, don't miss the chance to explore works by American modernist Allan Houser (Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache, 1914-1994) in an outdoor sculpture exhibition at Denver Botanic Gardens. Native Roots | Modern Form: Plants, Peoples and the Art of Allan Houser will be at the Gardens from May 1 through November 13, 2011. The sculptures are compelling and monumental.

Native Roots | Modern Form celebrates bonds between people and also presents Native American uses for plants indigenous to the Rocky Mountains and the Southwest. There are some interesting and fun classes in botanical art in association with this exhibit, including Native Earth, an exploration of the forms of Houser's sculpture and the "three sisters" of Native American plants, corn, beans and squash, in colored pencil, with Libby Kyer starting August 12th; Indigenous Plants and Native American Cuisines, an exploration into the broad array of Native American plants used for food, medicine and ceremony, in the medium of your choice with Marjorie Leggitt, starting August 11; as well as classes on Native Grasses with Karla Beatty starting  August 9; and Pen and Ink III: Arizona Legumes II with Marjorie Leggitt starting September 19.

One day soon, when ducking indoors to access a bit of coolth on a hot day, why not take a moment and send me two images of your artwork, to rmsbartists@gmail.com? JPGs are great, about 150 dpi, in color. Include the titles of your paintings, medium/media, and if you wish, a brief note about where you found the specimens you simply had to paint!

Links this week in Ephemera include a pastel tutorial, news about the Kirland Museum, an idea generator on line, and a website with the work of regional arist Peggy Turchette. Enjoy!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Plan Ahead

Plan to check out the GNSI conference, which is fast approaching. Go to their website http://www.gnsi.science-art.com/2011WA/index.html for all the information you'll need to attend this gathering of like minds. Held at Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington, July 10-16, there is truly something for every natural science aficionado. Scrolling over the photos on their home page reveals artwork of the same species by members. Very clever, and a great way to tie art and nature together.

Plan to attend our next RMSBA meeting on the 26th of June (look under Events for the pertinent info) for demos of and hands-on work with M. Graham Watercolors.

The ASBA website to register for our annual conference in Boston this year will open shortly (http://www.asba-conf.org/). You'll get an email from Robin Jess when registration opens. Your Journal should be arriving in the next few days also, and you may register by mail if you prefer. Early registration helps to insure you'll get the classes and activities you most desire!

And finally, plan to nourish your art this summer. Take a look at the four new links in Ephemera. Two watercolor tutorials present methods for creating vibrant summer species. Berries, by Dawn McLeod Heim, shows the way to capturing succulence. Painting the Heidi Klum Rose by Doris Joa is a color saturated method for getting wonderful results. Don't miss the Leaf Tutorial by Ann Swan, and a great little tutorial on plein aire sketching in Drawing Rocks by Diane Wright.

Nature offers so many options this time of year. Try to sketch daily, even if life is too busy to allow for painting. It'll keep your hand in, record daily inspirations, and perhaps set the stage for paintings to come.

Alpine Forget-me-not (Libby Kyer, colored pencil) started as a field sketch on the Peak to Peak Highway, above 10,000 feet high, in June. It made its way into a finished painting sometime in October, using sketches, very brief color studies, and photo references. This plant's flowers are about 1/4" wide, and it has fuzzy leaves to protect it not only from cold, but from the fierceness of the sun at that altitude. It nestles up beside small rocks for protection from wind.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Thinking about art and creativity, one realizes the importance of words. And, conversely, the failings of words. Try to explain the color of red. Or find the words to describe the relationship of a botanical specimen to you and your art. Not always easy. I once described art to a colleague as painting words with pictures.

Jade Vine by Kaye Hurtt, with colors so other-worldly that
finding the right words to describe them is a challenge!

When your creativity needs a muse, right now, write a bit. Find words that describe, challenge, illuminate or amuse. Figure out how to translate those words into paintings. Save your notes! Many of my musings end up art projects that really work.

Some words simply irritate, as they are repeatedly misused! Nucular. Nuclear. Regardless. Irregardless. My pet peeve o' the moment involves the use of the word "medium." So many variations are used to describe the matrix for pigments. Media, mediums, medias. Let's just set the record straight. Medium refers to the carrier for pigments. For example, watercolor describes pigment carried in a water soluble medium. Further defined, it could become more specific, as in gouache, or acrylic, both of which are water media.

There are more obfuscations that we may want to abandon at some point. Colored pencil describes the applicator for a pigment, a handy wood or plastic casing, with pigments carried in a variety of media - wax, oil, water soluble carriers and even chalk. Media for pastels and pencils are determined, generally, by brand. In pencils, PrismaColors could be wax, Polychromos are oil, Caran d'Ache are synthetic wax, and most brands have an "aquarelle" line that is water soluble. Pastels can be "dry" or "oil." They're bound in gum Arabic, with chalks and other additives. The stick is what is generally described by the word pastel, not the media involved in making the pigment usable.. 

When you want to talk about using many carriers for pigments, watercolor with graphite or ink for example, the phrase is "Mixed media." An unfortunate choice would be "mixed mediums." That refers to a diverse group of psychics or a lot of averaging data! Not really what we wanted to say, but some potential for some wonderful puns! And we'll just have to rule "medias" right out!

A word that serves my art is "juxtaposition," literally, putting items in close proximity to one another. In art, I find unusual juxtapositions - items in close proximity where the connections are not necessarily immediate -  create interest, mood and power. To wit, our ant friend below! This image has to make you think, and the addition of words only heightens the impact.

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but if it's pictured  with interesting or unexpected companions, it creates a story line, a good way to invite closer viewing of your artwork.

These words are about our next meeting. Lots going on so plan on attending!

Sunday, June 26, Koelbel Library, 1:30 to 5:00 PM

Our agenda includes Carol Till, who will tell us more about the Rare II Project, with scheduled exhibition in 2014.

Then Kirk Gillespie representing M.Graham & Co. Watercolors, a paint manufacturer out of Oregon, will present their approach to making fine quality artist paints.  Kirk likes to keep it pretty loose, answer a ton of questions and share technical and not so technical information.  He has been in the art materials business for 21 years, and has a lot of experience with the chemistry and process of paint making. 

A maker of oil, acrylics, watercolor and gouache, each M. Graham line has qualities and properties that set them apart from other paints. Kirk will talk a little about each medium, we’ll have samples available in watercolor and gouache, and he'll go into deeper detail about those. Bring watercolor paper or your favorite surface for water media, a container for water and your favorite brushes. Come and learn about a truly amazing line of paints- made by hand in the USA.

Hope to see you at Koelbel Library, 5955 S. Holly Street, Centennial, CO 80121.  RSVP to Dorothy DePaulo at ddepaulo@gmail.com.

This week, some new words were added to the dialog of botanical art by Carolyn Payzant. Carolyn is a chemist and artist, and her passion is knowing color. Her new blog is in our Ephemera listing of links. This promises to be a valuable resource for any artist. You'll also find the website for the Arvada Center for the Arts, a lovely museum in our fair cities, a fascinating paper exhibition, and other interesting tidbits.

The ASBA website for Conference registration goes live on 17 June 2011 at http://www.asba-conf.org/. . But you can plan your activities at the Conference website, listed in Contacts, beginning 15 June 2011. Plan now for a wonderful experience. Timely registration helps to insure you get into the wonderful workshops and activities scheduled for us in historic Boston and environs.

Send your words - and pictures! - for use in our blog to rmsbartists@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

Friday, June 3, 2011

What a great time we had!

Sunday's meeting opened with some clever storage suggestions and a bit about the value of art journals by Susi Olson. Carol Till discussed the logistics for participating in RARE II, and Libby Kyer presented information about our blog, and how to particpate.

Then, Libby demonstrated Caran d'Ache pencils, a Swiss manufactured colored pencil with intense hue concentrations. Members had the opportunity to test a variety of colored pencils, including Pablos, SupraColor Softs, and Neocolors I and II  on 4 substrates: Fabriano #140 Hot-pressed watercolor paper, Yupo, drafting film and colored stock. We used wet and dry techniques.

Registered participants received samples of Caran d'Ache's product line. Carol Till won the 30 pencil set of SupraColor Softs, Caran d'Ache's watercolor colored pencil. Congrats to Carol and many thanks to Caran d'Ache!!

Libby Kyer demonstrates some great pencils from Caran d'Ache

A broad sampling of products and substrates allows members to test and enjoy products

We broke for a light and tasty lunch, then continued the program with Dorothy DePaulo providing members with a folder that contained instructions, photo reference and film for creating colored pencil paintings on drafting film. Step by step printed instructions led members to use both sides of the film, and finishing suggestions included use of white paint, colored backing papers and more.

Dorothy also shared some of her paintings on drafting film, including a magnificent crow. Heidi Snyder was unable to attend, but sent some of her artworks on film also, including a water lily on a scintillating dark background, with painting on both sides of the film with colored pencils.  Members had time to begin a painting of a fall oak leaf with support from Dorothy.

Dorothy DePaulo's Oak Leaf, colored pencil on drafting film, which served as the basis for a workshop about working on film and techniques uniquely suited to it.

Many thanks to our instructors and to Caran d'Ache. 

Our next meeting is on Sunday, 26 June 2011, Koelbel Library. M. Graham Watercolor will demonstrate their products during this meeting. They create formulations taken from a time when artists relied on natural materials. They have created a watercolor with exceptional amounts of pigment in an old fashioned binding medium of pure gum Arabic and natural blackberry honey. The result is watercolor of extraordinary strength that is easily diluted for smooth, controlled washes and deeper darks. Alive with strength and intensity, watercolor made with honey absorbs moisture from the air, preventing hardening on the palette or in the tube.

"Watercolors" by M Graham Watercolors artist Frederick Graf
The vital stats for this meeting are under Events. This will be our last meeting until Autumn, so don't miss the opportunity to learn a great deal about watercolors, mingle with peers, and catch up on the activities of RMSBA. We'll be asking for your input on the new RARE II project, and for your help and input on the 20th ASBA Meeting and Conference, to be held in Denver in 2014, hosted by RMSBA. We can't do this without you!

Kaye Hurtt captured these two tulips in her garden, and they are the embodiment of Spring. I would love to have more members' artworks. Are you out there?

RMSBA members Carol Till and Maria (MaryJo) Ramsdale will be sharing a booth at the Summer Art Market, the Denver Art Student's League annual art fair. Visit them in Booth #15 on Third Avenue between Sherman and Grant Streets, in Denver June 11 and 12, 10 AM to 5:00 PM.

Carol will be selling her original etchings of plants, animals and six new bird nest etchings. She's also cleaning out the art closet and will have some colored pencil botanical art on sale. Mary Jo will be displaying her portraits and botanical watercolors. This is their fourth year doing the fair together. Only members of the League can exhibit and only original art can be sold at the Art Market.  

For more info about the market see http://www.asld.org/ or the artists' websites: http://www.caroltill.com/ or www.mariaramsdale.com 

Sonoran Sinita, etching by Carol Till

Under Calls for Entries, you'll find the call for our fall exhibit, The Colorado Garden, to be held in September and October. Be sure to make your plans to participate in the exhibition and the opening! 

Check out the Preliminary Call for Entries for the RARE II Exhibition. Yes, it's early, but it will give you lots of time to plan. The list of imperiled plants is there also. Select one from the list to participate in this event. Review the possibilities, select the plant you want, and email Libby at rmsbartists@gmail.com. I'll enter your choice. This is a first come, first served listing, so select early to get the plant of your dreams.

As summer barrels in, don't forget to check out workshops. You may find one perfect for your summer art needs. Making art under warm summer skies has to be about as perfect as life can get.