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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.

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


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.


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




Watercolor Pencil on Dura-Larâ„¢



Take colored pencil a step further and enhance your botanical illustration with watercolor pencil as you work on Dura-lar film. Enjoy effective color layering, time-saving techniques for jewel tone color and detail enhancements, and no more buckling paper.


Prerequisites: Watercolor Pencil I.


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



Wed, May 16, 23, 30, June 6, 13, 9 a.m. - noon

Instructor: Renee Jorgensen


Workshop - All About Air Plants


Learn about the history, care and needs of the air plant. Work on a creative art project with air plants (Tillandsia) in glass containers. Take home a masterpiece while learning from the expert.


Price: $52, $46 member


Instructor: Scott Preusser, conservatory horticulturist at the Gardens, grew up in Arvada, CO and has a bachelor's degree in horticulture from Colorado State University. He has spent over 20 years working in the horticulture industry.


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