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.

Friday, February 28, 2014

February Member Meeting with Bird Drawing at DMNS a Hit!

On 21 February 2014, 12 RMSBA members experienced the joys of working behind the scenes at Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Carol Ferguson had arranged for us to use the bird mounts and study skins for illustrating birds. The study skins comprise the feathers, skin, beak, legs and feet of the bird specimen. Eyes are stuffed with cotton treated with arsenic or mercury and then the body is also stuffed with impregnated cotton, and the resulting torpedo-shaped arrangement of the skin et all provides a long-lived accurate representation of the species.

Jeff Stephenson, Zoology Collections Manager, was our guide and mentor. He's a fountain of knowledge about the collection at DMNS, has a great sense of humor, and was able to accommodate all the requests of the gathered artists, having located us. Mounted hawks, coots, ptarmigans, blue jays, road runners and other species were brought to our table, as well as study skins for requested species and full skeletons of a macaw and a variety of other birds. The skeletons were favorites of several artists, and provided us with a chance to really understand the underlying mechanics of birds. And bones are fun to draw!

Check out the pictures below. If you would like to attend the next RMSBA meeting at DMNS on March 7, 10 AM to 12 PM, contact Carol Ferguson HERE. There are two places available in March. Guidelines for attendees are:
1. We will be able to draw from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM, which includes some introductory words and a brief tour from Jeff, so drawing time is about 1.5 hours.
2. Please enter the museum through the Staff and Volunteer's Entrance, which is the single door on the north side of the building. Look for the flag pole and the bronze wolf sculpture. We will gather at in front of the Gift Store after checking in through the Security Station. 
3. No Food is Allowed and only water in a container that can be resealed may be brought into the work area.
4. No necklaces.
5. It is OK to use the media of your choice, i.e. water color, pen, color pencil, pastels, etc.

Julie, Heidi and Cyndi checking out specimens, with a roadrunner in the foreground, a macaw skeleton on the right, and a parrot in the center.
Karen appears to have drawn a couple of spectators, skeletal and feathered
Lynne, Sharon and Carol hard at work
Heidi, Cyndi, Libby and Dorothy working with specimens at the large table.
Lark Bunting, graphite and colored pencil, by Julie Terry
After Jeff introduced us to the specimens and the DMNS collection, we got our materials and specific specimens, and had about 80 minutes to draw. Most artists were working on recording identifying features, such as foot arrangements (3 toes forward, one back in most songbirds for example, two toes forward and 2 back for arboreal birds who feed on trees, like macaws and flickers), feathering patterns and "standard" bird anatomy. Look for the drawings to appear in March in our Drawing a Day adventure. And don't forget to submit your images for publication on the blog during the entire month of March. Each day will have drawings, words and inspirational tidbits for you to embrace drawing as a daily event in your life! Click HERE to submit drawings for our March madness! 

Denver's Month of Printmaking Opens Today

March is Denver’s Month of Printmaking. It alternates each year with Photography in celebrating traditional hand made prints, bookmaking and printmaking.

There are a slew of events and exhibitions in virtually every gallery and college in town. The most fun thing will be a Steamroller Print event which will use a steamroller to print 4 x 8’ prints.  Tonight is the kickoff with the reception for Denver’s Open Press, 25 years of Printmaking by Master Printer Mark Lunning. 

Click HERE to go to the Event Page.
Our members Patty McAuliffe and Carol Till have prints showing in the juried exhibition Pressing Matters opening at the Art Students League of Denver on March 3.
‘Snowstorm', a polymer plate etching printed on silver flecked paper, by Carol Till is one of her prints that can be seen in the exhibition Pressing Matters.

Botanical Art with Altitude Shines This Summer in Member Exhibition - Call for Entries

Vanessa Martin has secured a terrific gallery event for us in July of this year, at Square Deal Framing and Gallery J(click HERE for information about this gallery), July 15 through August 29th. This gallery has a number of exhibits annually, and we are delighted we are on this year's schedule.

The exhibit is titled "Botanical Art, with Altitude!," and we are invited to submit any images which include botanicals. This is a little more open event than some, and is unjuried. You may submit up to 3 artworks, matted and framed in the manner you wish, and ready to hang with hanging wires.

We will hang at least one, but hope to be able to include more. The entry form allows you to number your images in order of hanging preference. Images labeled as "1" will be hung first, and then we'll hang the others in your order of preference once space is determined. We have room for 45 to 50 paintings.

Works may be for sale. Gallery retains 25% commission. There is a small entry fee ($25) to support organizational expenses and tasty treats for the opening, which is scheduled July 19th, 2014, 4-6 PM.

Botanical Art with Altitude
*Submit up to 3 artworks, number them for hanging preference.
*Submission deadline: 28 June 2014
*Artworks must be matted, framed and wired for hanging.
*Drop off art Saturday at Square One, July 12th between 1-4pm
*Exhibit Start: July 15, 2014
*Reception: July 19, 2014, time to be determined.
*Exhibit closes August 29, 2014.
*Pick up artworks August 30th, between 1-4pm
You may enter up to 3 artworks. Please fully complete all requested
information on the entry form.

Location: Square Deal Gallery
1460 S. Colorado Blvd, Denver, CO  (next to Black Eyed Pea Restaurant)
Contact: Vanessa Martin; Click HERE to contact her.

Special Exhibit Information: You may enter up to 3 matted and framed
artworks, wired and ready to hang. At least one artwork will be hung, and
second and third images may be hung if there is room. We have room for about
45 to 50 paintings. Please include genus and species if known, common names are always good, and you may title the work.
Click HERE for the Entry form.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Keeping a Sketch Set Handy

Minimal Perfection
            A good way to find time to draw is to make drawing easier, keeping drawing supplies immediately to hand. At a minimum, try these materials and supplies:

            2 B graphite pencil – the workhorse of the art world
            2 H graphite pencil – great for fine lines, paler shades
            Ebony pencil – facilitates laydown of dense darks
            A sepia Conte crayon or pencil – a nice mid-tone and a
            touch of non-black
            A white colored pencil – great to combine with darker
            tones, pump up highlights
            Hand held sharpener – keep your pencils sharp
            2 pens – Copic or Pigma Microns are great. .05 and a 1 are
            great - for super dark fluid lines and great for contour work
            White plastic Click eraser pen – to draw with. Don’t bother
            to erase extensively. Re-work lines on the fly, using the
            “wrong” line to steer you away from it to a more
            effective line.
            Spiral bound sketch book, white paper or with a selection of
            colored papers, or just one non-white paper – working on
            non-white paper allows you to proceed without establishing
            mid-tones, and asks you to look at things a different way than
            the usual every day sketch. Seeking new experiences is
            integral to good drawing exercises.

This kit, pulled together in a small case or baggie, can travel easily wherever you need to go in your home, office, or on the road.
I generally add a touch of color when I want to, or when I'm drawing something that has unique color and I want to remember it well. You can add watercolor to your drawing, or colored pencil, to create a more fully rendered drawing. I like to keep my drawings simple, so recently I set myself the task of using 5 colors only to create a drawing. I have a 'base' of graphite, and add colored pencils - Caran d'Ache indigo blue (very true color), sepia (any maker) or brown ochre and 2 local colors. Then, I use a white Gelly Roll pen for pops of white where I want them, or a white colored pencil. You'll be seeing the results of that plan here and there in our month of drawings a day.
So, pick out the materials that work well in your hand - graphite, wax or oil pencils, brush tip art markers, technical pens, watercolor...you name it! What works for you is the right choice. We'll start A Drawing a Day in earnest on Saturday, 1 March 2014. Remember, you can send me your scans HERE, by attaching them to an email. And remember, send your thoughts about the drawing too. Sharing technique enriches those who share their work as well as those who view it. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Why draw?

Well, first because a good drawing is the foundation of a good painting. It’s the basis of all we do as botanical artists. A completely rendered drawing is a work of art and illustration on its own. A great cartoon (outline only drawing) allows the artist to transfer the image to great paper and add color or ink to make a finished artwork. It works out and solves problems before the excitement and confusion of color is fully involved.
Sketchbook page with specimen pasted in, and form study beside it,
3 colored pencils, by Libby Kyer

There are other special benefits when you develop a drawing habit. They include:
            Daily drawing integrates art into your life. Change your sense of ease and proficiency just by drawing each day? Yep. It works. It’s like playing scales on a piano daily. Art is a physical skill as well as a creative one. Just like piano. Your hand has to talk to your head, and then back again to your hand to make it work. Practice makes perfect. Really.
            Daily drawing will illuminate what you already know, reaffirming your confidence in your known skills.
            Daily drawing will illuminate what you don’t know. When we run into a problem with a drawing, if we’ve given ourselves permission to draw at will and make mistakes as well as masterpieces, we’ll find out what we don’t know. Then, we can research how to solve the problem effectively, rather than just wondering, “Why can’t I get this to work?”
            Daily drawing helps you develop your own style. You already have style. Constant use of your skills develops that style into a recognized personal statement. It informs the art so that others have an idea of how you approach it. Viewers identify with style.
            Daily drawing helps you discover where you want to go with your art. Find yourself drawing a ‘favorite’ subject a lot? Figure out why you’re drawn to that subject. Think of ways to use this knowledge to enrich your artistic life. Perhaps a series of small white flowers in a bed of lacy greens will allow you to honor that yen and lead you to a new understanding of self.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What Shall We Do for Our Drawing a Day Project in March?

So for our purposes, we will not be viewing fully rendered realist images this March. Let’s commit to making really good drawings – sketches, contours, massing in studies, blind contour, gesture drawings, or any other application of line, tone or color to surface that serves us. And, let’s share the results. Send them to Ye Olde Blogmeister by clicking HERE, and then forwarding a scan of your work and a brief description about why you drew the image, and what it did for you; for example, worked out a problem in a bigger picture, captured the sun at just the right spot falling on the cat, helped you rewire your brain to draw only what you see, worked out form issues, captured motion, etc. We’ll post your image and your words here. 

Janet White's lovely sketch created during a class at the Denver Botanic Gardens, demonstrating good line quality and lots of interesting leaf shapes representing perspective.

Stay tuned for some tips on how to keep a drawing kit handy, so even the busiest of us can take a moment to draw, feed our inner artist, and create something special. And there will be links about drawing, materials, inspiration and motivation posted at regular intervals to help you along. By the time Spring really arrives (being high plains residents, we know that March 21 date is a bit premature, but April will bloom!) we’ll have our drawing licks tuned up and be ready for massive, blooming, growing color!
If you have questions, contact Libby HERE.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Hooray for us!

MyLife.com (Click HERE to go to the article) )compiled a list of the 10 best cities in which artists can thrive. Starting with a list of the 50 most populous cities in the U.S., they scored various metrics including cost of living, resident age, number of arts industry professionals, number of museums and galleries and household income and weighted the scores based on importance. Here are the top 10:

1. Atlanta
2. Seattle

3. San Francisco

4. Austin

5. Denver

6. Nashville

7. Minneapolis

8. Boston

9. Portland

10. Las Vegas

Denver achieved its ranking in part because of the percentage of the population working in the arts industry and the number of galleries and museums to visit.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Drawing a Day is Galloping Towards Us

Let’s get ready, shall we? First of all, what is a drawing? Webster’s Dictionary says:
Draw·ing ˈ(drô-iNG), noun: drawing; plural noun: drawings

1.    a picture or diagram made with a pencil, pen, or crayon rather than paint,  especially one drawn in monochrome.
2.     the art or skill or making pictures or diagrams with a pencil, pen, or crayon.
Enlightened? I’m not so much. The first definition refers to the tools used to create an image. A pencil uses graphite or a variety of media mixed with pigment. A pen uses the media in ink, generally polymers to carry black pigments. A crayon uses a wax medium with colored pigments, but for the sake of Webster’s definition, they’re probably referring to drawings made with single colored pigment in the wax medium.

 Let’s compare that to the word sketch, which Webster’s defines as: a rough or unfinished drawing or painting often made to assist in making a more finished picture.

 File:Michelangelo libyan.jpg
MICHELANGELO Buonarroti Study for the Libyan Sibyl
Chalk on paper, 29 x 21 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Nothing completed, but many things considered, using chalk and a variety of line to create tone

Better now? Right. Not much more enlightenment there, and a fair amount of confusion, because it calls a sketch an unfinished drawing or painting. So what is a painting? For the purposes of this discussion, let’s think of a painting as an image fully rendered realistically in color. Or, more medium limited, an image created in paint. What is paint? Pigment carried in one or more media (supports). And yet, again, these definitions are really more related to media, and I think we can use a better, more contemporary concept not limited by an arbitrary definition about media or states of completion. Let’s be more free, more artistic, more us.

How about: A drawing is an image, created by making marks on a surface, in any medium. It is valued as a preliminary rendition of images to be finished later, a completely rendered image with limited media or tools, or an image with value known to the artist and observer.

That’s better. It’s more realistic, more open, more accepting and therefore more liable to invite those who love to draw to do so, without limits. Hopefully, it invites those who find drawing difficult or irritating to try again, make drawing their own positive event. That means, when March comes and we leap into making a drawing a day, we know that all the strokes we make on a surface feed us, and generally, are intriguing to viewers.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Birders Bounty

Cassins Finch, Detail, colored pencil on film, Heidi Snyder

Interested in drawing birds? Heidi, our intrepid president, has arranged a great opportunity for our members, Check this out!

Hi Everyone,
Come and join us, we will be sketching birds at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science,(thanks to Heidi, Heidi you rock, thank you!).
We will be sketching real specimens in the behind the scenes lab (which sounds like a lot of fun). The department work area will only hold 12 of us at a time, so we have scheduled 2 days, Feb. 21st at 10:00am and March 7th at 10:00am. So, you know what that means - The first members that I hear from have the best chance of getting the day that they want.
Check your calendars and send me an email as soon as you can. This is an opportunity not to be missed. Just reply to this email or email me HERE.  .
The birds are calling!
Hope To See You There!!!
Carol Ferguson
RMSBA Program Director

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Is It Time to Exhibit Your Artwork?

Whether you are an advanced painter or a beginner, exhibitions serve a great purpose in the development of your artistic life. What are the benefits of exhibiting your art? Well, there are many. First, if you want to work professionally, exhibition is probably necessary. Your resume needs to show that your work has been accepted into juried exhibits, and one-person exhibits are a true indication of interest in your work.

If you aren't aiming toward a professional career, exhibitions are still an important part of an artist's life. Why? Having confidence in your own art methods, materials and results leads to more excitement and satisfaction in creating art. Feedback is a very good thing to have, as you can find out how others react to your art, not in a judgemental sense, but more in an empathetic sense.

"Knowledge is good" as we all learned from the classic film Animal House and their college motto, stating the obvious! And knowing your own goals and needs for your art is knowledge that is explosive! It can ignite your artistic talents.
Do you want to exhibit? Let's explore the proposition, see how it fits in your artistic life.

The Pros are pretty amazing:
Nothing is quite as intensely satisfying as the experience of sharing your joy in an art piece. And gallery/museum exhibits are a wonderful place to share. If you don't exhibit, you lose that opportunity. When hanging out at a gallery or exhibition opening, creative eavesdropping is a valuable art form. Can viewers see what you are trying to say/represent with your art? If so, ask them why the art moves/attracts them. If not, why doesn't it move/attract them. 

The Cons can be a bit daunting:
Exhibiting really only works well if it's part of your plan annually. Which, by inference, means you really need an annual plan. That takes some thought. Once you commit to an exhibit, you DO have to produce art in time to meet calls for entries deadlines. And there are often expenses - framing, glazing, matting, mailing, getting your artwork returned are not cheap. Do you want to spend the money it takes to do it right? Do you want to have your time scheduled externally, that is, following an other's schedule in your own art process?

The answers to the questions above may help you decide a lot of things in your life as an artist, including the theme being addressed in our blog in February, "To Show or Not To Show." It's knowledge that is indeed good to know about yourself.

Pseudolarix amabilis, by Libby Kyer, has been shown nationally at the Hunt Institute and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens Florilegium exhibitions, and in Kew at the Sherwood Gallery. Lots of mileage out of a single image. You might want to consider regions you want to show in, so that you can design an image beautifully suited to travel!

Some other questions that need answering

How's your inventory?
        What do you have in recent paintings to present?                

        Do you know your own pace for production if you need more?

        Can you meet the artwork demand for new artworks for exhibitions?

How's your budget?
        Juried shows:  Entry fees are between $25 and $50 per show, generally for up to 3
        pieces, paid whether you are accepted or declined. It's good to enter the maximum
        artworks allowed for the entry fee.

         Framing in the simple frames called for by most botanical art exhibits is about $150
       to $200 for a 16x24" frame with mat and Plexiglas glazing.

         Delivery: Hand delivery is always less stressful if the exhibit is in your area. If you
       need to ship your entry, it will cost about $85 to $100 per leg - out and back - which
       includes insurance.

So, perhaps this gives you some insight into the planning and money needed to enter exhibits. There are, of course, variations in costs depending on location, jury status and other bits and pieces. As food for more thought on this subject, here are some links you can use to see what galleries want!

Great tips for finding a gallery and exhibiting are HERE.
What galleries look for in an artist - a great discussion is HERE.
Choosing the right gallery for your art - some guidance is HERE.

Next time, we'll talk about some shows you might be interested in when planning your exhibitions calendar.