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Botanical Illustration

Denver Botanic Gardens' School of Botanical Art and Illustration program is designed to offer a comprehensive series of classes in botanical illustration, providing participants the drawing and painting skills required to render accurate and useful depictions of the plant world with a focus on detail. This program is for the dedicated illustrator, as well as the devoted amateur. It culminates in a portfolio and certificate for some students and offers an ongoing program of botanical illustration classes for others.


Attendance is required at the first class for all required courses. Please contact the program manager for the attendance policy on elective courses.


Please make sure that you have completed all the pre-requisites for this class by the time of the first session. Materials list for each course is attached to your registration confirmation.


Cancellation Policy: Cancellations more than one week prior to a class are subject to a 15% cancellation fee. Cancellations with less than one weeks notice are non-refundable; please consider your payment a donation to the Gardens.

Open Studio


Open Studio is for anyone who wants to experience a creative and supportive environment without attending a structured workshop. You can work on your own projects during open hours, at your own pace. A tutor is available for help and advice (10 a.m.-noon), but there will be no formal teaching. The tutor will help you get started on a project or advise how to add the finishing touches. Attending the Open Studio is ideal for anyone who wants to advance his/her personal projects (or ideas) or needs to refresh his/her knowledge of any media.


Fee: $30/session member, $40/session non-member.


Pre-registration required.


Mon, Jan. 22, 9 a.m.-noon (Constance Sayas)

Mon, Feb. 5, 9 a.m.-noon (Susan Rubin)

Mon, Feb. 26, 9 a.m.-noon (Renee Jorgensen)

Mon, March 12, 9 a.m.- noon (Susan DiMarchi)

Mon, April 9, 9 a.m.-noon (Randy Raak)

Mon, April 23, 9 a.m.-noon (Renee Jorgensen)

Mon, May 21, 9 a.m.- noon (Randy Raak)

Mon, June 4, 9 a.m.-noon (Marjorie Leggitt)

Mon, July 9, 9 A.m.-noon (Susan DiMarchi)


Orchids in Watercolor


Orchids, one of the oldest families of flowering plants, dating to about 80 million years ago, are also one of the largest plant families with nearly 800 genera and more than 25,000 species. Take a break from the cold get inside the Gardens  orchid collection to learn more about this plant family. See how other artists have approached this traditional subject and addressed the compositional challenges of these mostly epiphytic plants. Demonstration and exercises emphasize strategies and techniques to paint orchid leaves, roots, flowers and patterns. Equipped with a range of relevant watercolor skills, complete a botanical portrait of an elegant orchid.


Prerequisite: Botanical Illustration in Watercolor I.


 Fee: $250 member, $300 non-member.



Mon, Feb. 19, 26, March 5, 12, 19, 1-4 p.m.

Instructor: Constance Sayas


Pen and Ink Brush-Up


Was your last pen and ink class years ago? Time to brush up! We've presented many different pens and surfaces over the years - technical pens, sketching pens, quills, bristol, mylar, plastic and paper. Each has its benefits. But, at this same time, all this information can be confusing. It s time to clear the air. Test some different tools, sample various surfaces and refresh you techniques. These three hours are just what you need to refresh your knowledge, update your techniques, explore some new tools and reinvigorate your passion for pen and ink.


Prerequisites: Botanical Illustration in Pen and Ink I


Fee: $55 member, $70 non-member.



Mon, March 26, 9 a.m.   noon

Instructor: Marjorie Leggitt


Perfecting Perspective


Do you shy away from complicated plants? Even experienced illustrators sometimes struggle with foreshortening and simplify their subjects to eliminate difficult elements. Work with botanical subjects that demonstrate each aspect of perspective and learn techniques for seeing and depicting perspective accurately. The class will work entirely in graphite pencil, but the principles apply to all art media. Gain confidence in your drafting skills and improve your drawings from this class forward.


Prerequisite: Botanical Illustration in Pencil I.


Fee: $250 member, $300 non-member.


Thu, Feb. 22, March 1, 8, 22, 29, 1-4 p.m.

Instructor: Marjorie Leggitt


Fri-Sun, May 25-27, 9 a.m.   2:30 p.m.
Instructor: Marjorie Leggitt




Plants in Tolkien's Middle-Earth


 J. R. R. Tolkien, who wrote the Lord of The Rings  trilogy and  The Hobbit, created a fantasy world that has captured our imaginations about life in his Middle-Earth. As in all of Tolkien's works, the natural landscape plays a major role in the Legendarium, for Tolkien paid special attention describing plant life as he wrote his intriguing novels. Over 140 plants are explicitly mentioned and described as a part of Middle-Earth. Almost all these plants are real species and even the fictional ones were created according to botanic principles. The recently published book by W. Judd & G. Judd, "Flora of Middle-Earth: Plants of J.R.R. Tolkien's Legendarium" (included in the course fee), guides you through Middle-Earth's flora selections. After choosing your favorite plant from the book and researching its relationship to the story and location, learn techniques in mixed media, combining the botany into a dynamic Middle-Earth illustration that will feel otherworldly!



Prerequisites: Expressive Ink or Pen and Ink II, Color media of your choice, Perfecting perspective, Composition.


Fee: $290 member, $340 non-member (fee includes Flora of Middle-Earth by W.S. Judd & G. Judd).


Thu, June 21, 28, July 5, 12, 19, 9 a.m. - noon

Instructor: Susan DiMarchi


Portfolio Preparation Course


Upon completion of all course work (all required courses and minimum of 100 elective hours), students may express their interest in applying for portfolio review and certification by requesting a transcript from the program manager and registering for the Portfolio Preparation Course by January 16, 2018.


Fee: $250 (includes the course, individual consultation with the instructors and external portfolio review). The Portfolio Preparation Course is mandatory for graduation. In spring 2018 the Portfolio Preparation Course is offered at two different times. Candidates must choose one:


1.Fri, Feb. 9, 9 a.m. -4 p.m.

2.Sat, Feb. 10, 9 a.m. -4 p.m.

Instructor: Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski


Sacred Doorways – Byzantine Iconography- Beginner


More than a decorative element, color plays a very important role in Byzantine iconography, which is one of the oldest art forms to survive unchanged for the past 2,000 years. Students are introduced to both the practical and the theoretical part of the iconographic tradition (iconology). Use natural materials: wood panels gessoed with naturally ground, genuine gold leaf and egg tempera made from natural pigments. Learn the language of light, color, image and symbol, with the iconic symbolism explained alongside the technical instruction. Note: The sessions are independent from each other and you can skip a session, however it takes several sessions to finish an icon.


Pre-registration required. Open to both experienced and amateur students. No artistic experience is required from the beginning student.


Fee: $55/session member, $70/session non-member.



Mon, Jan. 29, 9 a.m.-noon

Mon, March 5, 9 a.m.-noon

Mon, April 16, 9 a.m.-noon

Mon, June 11, 9 a.m.-noon

Sacred Doorways- Byzantine Iconography- Advanced Students Only


More than a decorative element, color plays a very important role in Byzantine iconography, which is one of the oldest art forms to survive unchanged for the past 2,000 years. Students are introduced to both the practical and the theoretical part of the iconographic tradition (iconology). Use natural materials: wood panels gessoed with naturally ground, genuine gold leaf and egg tempera made from natural pigments.


Prerequisite: One or two previous iconography glasses.



Fee: $55/session member, $70/session non-member.



Mon, Feb. 12, 9 a.m.   noon

Mon, Feb. 19, 9 a.m.   noon

Mon, April 30, 9 a.m.   noon

Mon, June 25, 9 a.m.   noon

Instructor: Laurence Pierson


Sacred Doorways: Gesso


Egg tempera works best when applied on an absorbent and smooth surface. Traditional gesso being the best material for icon painting, learn the characteristics of a good gesso, how to prepare it and the different steps to apply it on a wooden panel.


Prerequisite: Several previous iconography glasses.


Fee: $55/session member, $70/session non-member.


Mon, May 14, 9 a.m.-noon

Instructor: Laurence Pierson


Sacred Doorways: Gilding


Whether gold is applied on haloes, backgrounds or even painted on garments and buildings, its use in icons is very important as it symbolizes the Divine Presence. Learn the oil gilding technique and discover more about the symbolism and use of gold leaves in Byzantine icon painting.


Prerequisite: Several previous iconography glasses.


Fee: $55/session member, $70/session non-member.


 Mon, March 19, 9 a.m.   noon

Instructor: Laurence Pierson


Surface Patterns with Watercolor Pencil


Accentuate surface patterns and textures that enhance a botanical subject. Learn how to color patterns on bark, prickly seed pods and succulents, the texture and pattern on melon skins, or the smooth and wet interiors of fruits and vegetables. Illustrate with a palette of creative applications including graphite, watercolor pencil and color pencil.


Prerequisites: Watercolor Pencil I.


Fee: $250 member, $300 non-member.



Mon, March 26, April 9, 16, 23, 30, 1-4 p.m.

Instructor: Renee Jorgensen


The Historical Trees in Denver


In 1968 landscape designer Al Rollinger undertook the huge effort of doing a street-by-street survey in Denver, noting the species, location, diameter and height of over 1,100 trees of 46 species. Nearly 50 years later, we have realized how valuable the data collected in this survey could be to analyze the health, mortality and growth patterns of these species. The Gardens is in the process of finding, measuring and photographing these trees to determine which are still alive and to determine growth patterns. The data will be analyzed and stored in a database held by the Denver Office of the City Forester and the results will be reported in a book along with before and after pictures, stories of some of the most interesting or unique trees and implications for the future of trees in Denver. Illustrations from this class will be included in the book.


Begin with a tour to find some of these historical trees close to the Gardens. Learn how to scale and draw entire trees from a distance outdoors, including the canopy, branches and trunks. Back in the classroom; create a composition including the silhouette as well as detailed views of leaves, bark and twigs. Work in graphite and color of your choice to carefully depict form and texture. Your finished portrait will be a record of a growing part of Denver s history.



Prerequisites: Pencil II and/or entry level of medium of your choice.


Fee: $250 member, $300 non-member.


Thu, May 10, 17, 24, 31, June 7, 9 a.m. - noon

Instructor: Randy Raak


The Illuminated Acanthus Leaf


Based on the Gutenberg illumination designs, the Acanthus leaf is a popular botanical used for design elements and beautifully decorated manuscript borders. We will work with the rules of composition and layout using fibonacci as an element to draw the Acanthus leaf. Your leaf design will be used a border design element to wrap around a botanical subject. Suggested media will be ink and gouache. All media welcome.


Prerequisites: Watercolor Pencil I.


Fee: $250 member, $300 non-member.


Wed, Feb. 21, 28, March 7, 14, 1-5 p.m.

Instructor: Renee Jorgensen


The Tropical Plants of Winter in Colored Pencils


A taste of the tropics in winter! The conservatory offers inspiration for big, bold, bright tropical plant portraits. Venture into the conservatory to learn about tropical plant characteristics and create strong graphic compositions that showcase these beautiful plants. Practice new colored pencil techniques to paint glossy leaves and vibrant colors. Work to complete a finished painting that brings warmth to winter.


Prerequisites: Colored Pencil I.


Fee: $250 member, $300 non-member.


Wed, Jan. 17, 24, 31, Feb. 7, 14, 9 a.m.-noon

Instructor: Susan DiMarchi


The Wonderful World of Values and Textures in Pen and Ink


Take your pen-and-ink skills to a new level of sophistication! Explore the Gardens limitless world of textures, colors and complex botany and incorporate this information into your black-and-white illustration. Working with both technical pen and quill, learn advanced techniques to make strokes mimic the fuzz, the spiky seed head, the variegated colors and more. Learn how to layer and manipulate lines and stipples to differentiate and express value, texture and atmospheric perspective. Pen techniques take on new meaning as you develop a final inked illustration from a plant of your choice.


Prerequisites: Botanical Illustration in Pen and Ink I.


 Fee: $250 member, $300 non-member.


Thu, Feb. 22, March 1, 8, 22, 29, 6-9 p.m.

Instructor: Marjorie Leggitt


Transparent Acrylics


Spring offers such beauty in the garden capture it in color. Although transparent acrylic looks similar to watercolor, the damp-on-damp technique offers a more controlled and methodical application process. The result: gorgeous, luminous washes. Step-by-step instruction, demonstrations and exercises provide students with the necessary skills to build washes, variegated patterns, soft textures, intricate detail and a final iris illustration. Select your favorite spring blooms and create a breath-taking final painting.


Prerequisites: Watercolor I


Fee: $250 member, $300 non-member.




Tue, June 5, 12, 19, 26, July 10, 6-9 p.m.

Instructor: Marjorie Leggitt


Tree of Life


If each leaf on a tree represented every known species on Earth, that tree would have over 1,750,000 leaves. Biodiversity is the life-supporting system for our planet and all the species on it. Native species  richness is linked to the health of an ecosystem. The relationship between a squirrel and a plant, seed dispersal and/or lack of water can all be shared as narratives. In this class, learn to tell a story in a comic format using your skills as an illustrator and botanist. Students are not expected to have any experience reading, writing or illustrating comics, as instruction will be provided for each of these three disciplines. Supplemental comic-based text, included in the course fee, will be provided and that will serve as a mentor text to demonstrate how scientific illustration can be used in the comic medium. Students will learn how to expand their skills with pencil, shading, inks, composition and color layering throughout this process. Group and individualized instruction will be provided throughout the comic creation process, culminating in a two-three page botanical-based comic story.


Prerequisites: Botany for the Botanical Illustrator, Composition for Botanical Illustration, Perfecting Perspective, Botanical Illustration in Pen and Ink I.



Fee: $275 member, $325 non-member.




Thu, April 5, 12, 19, 26, May 3, 10, 6-9 p.m.

Instructor: Jay Peteranetz



Jay Peteranetz works closely with Denver Comic Con and the Pop Culture Classroom to make sure the core values of education and learning use nontraditional resources to promote education through entertainment. He holds an MFA in sequential art from the Savannah College of Art and Design. He teaches students ages 8-65 at the Art Institute of Colorado, the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design and in conjunction with the Pop Culture Classroom.


Trompe L'Oeil: Plants and People, the Art of Ethnobotany- Online with On-Site Component


Explore the Gardens' Ethnobotany Collection

The ethnobotany collection in Denver Botanic Gardens' herbarium documents plants used by humans in our region, including medicinal, plants used for spiritual purposes, plants used to track the seasons, aphrodisiacs and others. Three main components make up the collection: The Market Collection (specimens purchased at Botanicas and other Native and Hispanic markets), Colorado Native Plants (species that grow in our region that are used by people) and Plants Used by Native Americans.


Trompe L Oeil: Plants and People, the Art of Ethnobotany

You ll start this class with a presentation by the curator of the Gardens  ethnobotany collection. Select your subject and tell a story with trompe l'oeil, or fool-the-eye, artwork. Difficult but delightful, work in this style requires meticulous attention to detail and perspective, and relies on cast shadow to create the optical illusion that the two-dimensional work exists in three dimensions. With careful instruction in the style as well as specific techniques, you ll create a small tableau. Step by step, you ll work out every detail of the effect, starting with a graphite layout along with careful study in light and shadow, and finishing with artwork that will have everyone scratching their heads.


Prerequisites: Colored Pencil II.




Fee: $305 member, $405 non-member

  In-class sessions: Fri-Sun, June 22-23, 9 a.m.   2:30 p.m.

**All assignments are to be completed no later than July 27, 2018.**

Instructor: Susan Rubin


The Off-Site Learning Approach

Following the two-day concentrated classroom instruction, three internet sessions cover the remaining course elements. The successful completion of final artwork (a plate) one month (30 days) after the conclusion of the on-site session is the culmination of each of the distance learning courses.


Students must use a scanner or digital camera to record their weekly achievements and email the high-resolution image to the instructor and the school manager. All student questions, as well as instructor answers, recommendations and suggestions are handled by email. The student must send a scan of the final plate to the instructor and the school manager in order to receive credit for the course.


Tulips and Other Flowers from the Ottoman Gardens: Graphite and Watercolor


Tulips, hyacinths, alliums, anemones and crown imperials   these are just a fraction of the plants that spread to Europe through Turkey. The Turks loved flowers and they were a regular feature of palace and court ceremonies.


Learn about the history of the gardens, flowers and the floral art in the Ottoman Empire. You'll create your own masterpiece of one of the plants from the Ottoman Gardens. Start with a pale pencil under drawing, or grisaille, which will allow you to tackle a watercolor painting with confidence. Achieve continuous tone both in your graphite and watercolor washes. Demonstrations and individual help will guide you toward a finished work as you discover a new set of skills and tricks ready to use in your future illustrations.


Prerequisite: Botanical Illustration in Watercolor I.



Fee: $250 member, $300 non-member.



Tue, Feb. 20, 27, March 6, 20, 27, 6-9 p.m.
Instructor: Laurence Pierson


Ukrainian Easter Eggs: Pysanky


Beautiful batik with a botanical flair! Start with an introduction to the history of the centuries-old craft of decorating Ukrainian Easter eggs or  Pysanky  and study botanical motifs in traditional ornamental patterns. Create your original egg design by combining motifs and changing up colors. Learn about the specialized techniques and tools for this batik method using aniline dyes with wax resist. A discussion of dye colors and preparation will have you ready to create one sampler egg and one or more with your personal design, just in time for Easter.  


No Prerequisites, though some drawing experience is helpful.


Fee: $310 member, $360 non-member. Fee includes professional toolkit with three different sized traditional kistkas (drawing tool or stylus).


Fri-Sun, March 9-11, 9 a.m.   2:30 p.m.

Instructor: Annie Reiser




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