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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.

Cafe Botanique

Café Botanique is a part of the Botanical Art and Illustration Certificate Program and is open to Botanical Art and Illustration students, Gardens' members, the general public, academia and artists. The 30-40 minute talk starts at 6:30 p.m. and is followed by a discussion. This lecture offers one elective credit hour in the BI-program. Fee: $5.



Carbon Dust

Push your drawing skills into a new realm. Carbon dust has been a mainstay medium for medical and scientific illustrators for more than 75 years. Using a combination of pencil lines and dust washes applied with brushes, this medium produces rich tonal renderings with the value range of charcoal and the precision of watercolor. Get introduced to the various tools associated with carbon dust, including carbon pencils, dust, brushes, blenders and fixative. Choose a subject well-suited to the technique and learn to use methodical layering to create a flawless continuous tone. Complete the finer details with pencil for a finished carbon-dust rendering.

Prerequisite: Botanical Illustration in Pencil II.


Fee: $260 member, $310 non-member.



Tue, Nov. 19, 26, Dec. 3, 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Instructor: Randy Raak


Color Layering for Colored Pencil

Colored pencil presents a special challenge: mixing color directly on your drawing! Learn to use a simple color-mixing method adapted to the application of colored pencils. Two-, three- and four-color mixing will get you to the gorgeous greens and luscious lilacs you’ve been missing. Learn to determine shadow colors for vibrant results. Practice color matching with a variety of plant material as you create your own extensive color workbook to speed color selection and application for all future colored pencil drawings.

No prerequisites.

Fee: $370 member, $420 non-member. Fee includes supplies (specified in supply list).



Fri-Sun, July 19-21, 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Instructor: Susan Rubin


Fri-Sun, Sep. 6-8, 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Instructor: Susan Rubin


Color Mixing

The first step to watercolor painting is mixing colors. Learn a system for combining colors consistently to eliminate frustrating trial and error. Exercises, demonstrations and discussion will show you how to achieve the broadest possible spectrum. Learn about paint properties and important information about choosing pigments. Practice mixing colors to match a variety of plant material. You’ll gain confidence and skills to improve your color work.

No prerequisites.

Fee: $265 member, $315 non-member.


Tue, Oct. 15, 22, 29, Nov. 5, 12, 1-4 p.m.

Instructor: Constance Sayas


Composition for Botanical Illustration

The arrangement of line, shape and color in artwork is itself an art form. The difference between a pleasant picture and amazing artwork is often found in composition. This course begins with a study of recognized masters and contemporary illustrators. Learn how to use compositional elements and principles in your botanical illustration. Create your own thumbnail compositions and develop insight and expertise to enhance your future illustrations.

No prerequisites.

Fee: $260 member, $310 non-member.


Date(s): Mon, Sep. 16, 23, 30, Oct. 14, 21, 1-4 p.m.

Instructor: Marjorie Leggitt


Date(s): Fri-Sun, Oct. 25-27, 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Instructor: Marjorie Leggitt


Drawing on Tradition: In the Footsteps of Margaret Mee

Margaret Mee began her painting expeditions in the Amazon in the 1950s. Her beautiful botanicals are her legacy to rainforest education and conservation. Learn about her remarkable story and work as you direct your painting skills to bromeliads. Focus on leaves for composition, form, color, pattern and shine. Refine your skills at washes, as they will form the foundation for your finished botanical plate that follows in the footsteps of Margaret Mee.


Prerequisite: Botanical Illustration in Watercolor I.


Fee: $260 member, $310 non-member.


Date(s): Mon, Oct. 21, 28, Nov. 4, 11, 18, 6-9 p.m.


Instructor: Constance Sayas


Drawing on Tradition: The Sketchbook of Isabel Adams

Botanical artist Harriet Isabel Adams (1863-1952), member of the Botanical Society of the British Isles, fellow of the Linnean Society and a graduate of the Birmingham School of Art, produced and published a full and expressive body of botanical art. Isabel’s drawings and illustrations were developed out of the Arts and Crafts movement, including distinctive lettering for labeling. Learn about the artist’s working style and practice her techniques. Plan to sketch throughout the Gardens and finish with a botanical plate drawn in graphite and enhanced with color.

Fee: $265 member, $315 non-member.


Prerequisite: Botanical Illustration in Watercolor Pencil I.


Date(s): Wed, Oct. 23, 30, Nov. 6, 13, 20, 6-9 p.m.


Instructor: Renee Jorgensen

Forgotten Legacy: Colorado's Lost Apples

Apple trees are a largely ignored part of Colorado’s agricultural heritage. Of the more than 7,500 different apple types worldwide, the Unites States is estimated to have 2,500. In Colorado, approximately 400 different apple varieties are grown, but 25 percent are endangered, and 47 percent of heritage species are practically lost. In this workshop, our goal is to document some heritage apple varieties. Begin with a tour to find some historical apple trees in Boulder County. A specialist guides us and tells us more about the Boulder Apple Tree Project. After locating your specimen, 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 together with a careful study of the apple. Line drawings in cross section complete a comprehensive guide to identification and documentation. Work in graphite and the color medium of your choice to carefully depict form and texture. Your finished portrait will be a record of the Front Range apple revival.


Prerequisites: Botanical Illustration in Watercolor I, gouache suggested, Botany for the Botanical Illustrator.

Fee: $310 member, $370 non-member.


Date(s):Tue, Aug. 20 (field trip to Boulder), Aug, 27, Sep. 3, 17, 24, Oct. 1, 1-4 p.m.


Instructor: Randy Raak


Illustrated Recipe

Apple pie? Borscht? Herbed muffins? Choose a favorite recipe and create an illustration as the perfect companion. See how other artists have illustrated recipes in cookbooks old and new. Composition is key as you arrange fruits, vegetables, herbs and cooking tools to enhance the text. Working in the color medium of your choice, create a piece that would be a delicious holiday gift or card.


Prerequisites: Botanical Illustration in Pen and Ink I, Botanical Illustration in Colored Pencil I.


Fee: $260 member, $310 non-member.



Date(s): Tue, Oct. 15, 22, 29, Nov. 5, 12, 9 a.m. – noon


Instructor: Susan DiMarchi

Introduction to Botanical Illustration

Start at the beginning. Whether you’ve had no experience with drawing or have forgotten what you learned way back when, this is the class for you. Learn drawing basics step by step in this gently paced course. Carefully explained demonstrations, simple exercises and helpful critiques will show you how to draw what you see. Build your drawing skills to enter the School of Botanical Art and Illustration with confidence.

No prerequisites. Note: If you have had some drawing experience, please go directly to Botanical Illustration in Pencil I.

Fee: $260 member, $310 non-member.


Mon, Sep. 9, 16, 23, 30, Oct. 14, 9 a.m. – noon

Instructor: Renee Jorgensen



Thu, Nov. 7, 14, 21, Dec. 5, 12, 9 a.m. – noon

Instructor: Renee Jorgensen


Large- Scale Plant Life in Charcoal

Drawing at a large scale can be daunting, but with charcoal it is surprisingly quick! Charcoal is easier to control than most media, and in this class you will get your hands dirty while we complete four large, loose drawings. Modeled after a classic figure drawing class, we will work at standing easels (perhaps working up to 22” x 30”) and focus on single central subjects on an outdoor terrace at the Gardens. Note: We will be standing for the entirety of each three-hour class (no drawing “horses” are available for seated drawing).


Prerequisite: Botanical illustration in Pencil I.


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


Date(s): Fri, Aug. 9, 16, 23, 30, Sep. 6, 5-8 p.m.

Instructor: Meredith Feniak



Light on Form

Take your drawings from flat to fabulous. The secret to portraying light and shadow on your subjects lies in understanding the scientific method of lighting as it applies to different forms. Beginning with basic geometric shapes, refine your skills in showing light and volume on any subject. The class will work entirely in graphite pencil, but the principles apply to all other media. As you progress from fruits and vegetables to leaves and flowers to entire plants with complex shapes, you will overcome the obstacles in creating three-dimensional drawings.

Prerequisite: Botanical Illustration in Pencil I

Fee: Member $260 Non-Member $310


Thu, July 25, Aug. 8, 15, 22, 29, 6-9 p.m.

Instructor: Constance Sayas


Fri-Sun, Aug. 23-25, 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Instructor: Marjorie Leggitt


Fri-Sun, Sep. 27-29, 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Instructor: Randy Raak


Mon, Oct. 28, Nov. 4, 11, 18, 25, 1-4 p.m.

Instructor: Constance Sayas













Lone Pine: A Study of Rozashi Patterns with Margaret Kinsey

The pine tree (matsu) is a much-revered symbol in Japanese culture. In this class, make a pine tree sampler using the basic stitches of Rozashi, a traditional form of Japanese embroidery. The stitches you learn and employ are ichi dan and ni dan straight stitch, irregular stitch (similar to long and short embroidery) and a step stitch as the background stitch. Incorporate Rozashi silk threads and gold thread into your sampler for a beautiful result. The ro, or linen fabric, comes attached to a frame, ready for you to begin stitching. The sampler kit, included in the price of the class, is complete with a needle and supplies for finishing after stitching.

No prerequisites

Fee: $300 member, $340 non-member

Date(s): Fri-Sun, Sep. 20-22, 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Instructor: Margaret Kinsey, Deltona, FL


Margaret Kinsey is certified by the Embroiderers’ Guild of America (EGA) to teach silk and metal thread techniques. She is also certified to teach traditional Japanese embroidery. Margaret is the designated U.S. teacher for the Kunimitsu Rozashi Studio and studies with Fumiko Ozaki. She has taught and lectured in the United States, Canada and New Zealand. She chaired the EGA 2018 International Embroidery Conference and is the coordinator for its silk and metal thread embroidery master craftsman program.


Native Earth: Three Sisters

Pay homage to the bounty of summer! Begin with a tour by a Gardens expert and learn about the “Three Sisters,” the Native American triad of squash, beans and corn that plays a crucial role in nutrition, lore and magic. Start with field journaling to capture the delicate tendrils of beans, the shaggy elegance of corn husks and the wonderful colors of squash. Learn how to use contrasting value, color, shape and texture to add visual impact to your compositions and learn how to blend and bleed paints for rich color effects. Select appropriate techniques for a variety of surface textures, and create a contemporary, colorful and vivid plate.


Prerequisite: Botanical Illustration in Watercolor I.


Fee: $260 member, $310 non-member.


Date(s): Tue, Sep. 3, 10, 17, 24, Oct. 1, 9 a.m. – noon


Instructor: Laurence Pierson

Nature Observed

Personal drawing books that belonged to old masters such as Georg Dionysius Ehret and the Bauer brothers are now preserved in the Natural History Museum in London. They include a wealth of striking, well-preserved studies of the form and nature of plants. These journals, with their informative handwritten notes, allow us to experience the moment the art was made as if it were today.


This class combines field sketching and scientific documentation. You’ll learn techniques to accurately portray both distant subjects and close-up botanicals within the scene. Different field sketching techniques will help you to see and simplify landscape elements and create compositions with dynamic depth. Learn the process of quickly capturing accurate renderings of any object. Individual help and group critique guides you to see and record correctly while simplifying complex subject matter. Work with graphite and/or water-soluble pencils and a water brush if outside the classroom. No matter what media you use, your personal sketchbook will be filled with pages of valuable information for future remembrance and record.


No prerequisites.

Fee: $260 member, $310 non-member.


Wed, July 31, Aug. 7, 14, 21, 28, 9 a.m. – noon

Instructor: Randy Raak

Observe Through the Lens: Wetland Grasses and Sedges Online with On-Site Component

Native grasslands once covered 40 percent of this continent, though less than 1 percent remain today. Colorado has lost approximately 35 percent of its central short-grass prairie. Native grasses are integral to our ecosystem and provide a wide range of color, texture and fascinating seed heads. But this distinctive plant structure presents a challenge to illustrators. Start with a visit to the herbarium and a talk by a Gardens expert to expand your understanding of how grasses grow. Learn and practice pure drybrush techniques including feathering and blending. Mix the subtle greens, browns and neutrals of live and dried grasses. Combine your new knowledge and skills to complete a portrait of an ethereal Colorado native.





Prerequisites: Botanical Illustration in Pen and Ink I and entry-level botanical illustration in color media.


Fee: $350 member, $405 non-member (includes “Field Guide to Colorado’s Wetland Plants” by Denise Culver).


In-class sessions: Fri-Sat, Aug. 30-31, 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.


All assignments are to be completed no later than Sep. 30, 2019.


Instructor: Charlotte Ricker


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.


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: $35/session member, $45/session non-member.


Pre-registration required.



Mon, July 15, 9 a.m. – noon (Renee Jorgensen)

Mon, July 22, 9 a.m. – noon (Constance Sayas)

Mon, Aug. 5, 9 a.m. – noon (instructor TBA)

Mon, Aug. 12, 9 a.m. – noon (Renee Jorgensen)

Mon, Aug. 19, 9 a.m. – noon (Susan DiMarchi)

Mon, Aug. 26, 9 a.m. – noon (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: Light on Form.

Fee: $265 member, $315 non-member.



Mon, Aug. 5, 12, 19, 26, Sep. 9, 1-4 p.m.

Instructor: Marjorie Leggitt


Thu, Sep. 26, Oct. 3, 17, 24, 31, 9 a.m. – noon

Instructor: Marjorie Leggitt


Plants with Bite

Go beyond the usual and dive into the world of carnivorous plants that capture, kill and digest their prey! With more than 600 species, carnivorous plants are found on every continent except Antarctica. The bizarre predatory plants from the Gardens’ extensive greenhouse collection challenge your perception of docile plant portraits. Learn about these interesting plants and get a rare up-close view to help capture a dramatic plant study that also includes the specimen in its natural setting. See how to create luscious textures, colors and creative backgrounds to highlight these sinister beauties.


Prerequisite: Botanical Illustration in Colored Pencil II.


Fee: $260 member, $310 non-member.


Date(s): Wed, Sep. 25, Oct. 2, 16, 23, 30, 9 a.m. – noon


Instructor: Susan DiMarchi

Red: A Color of Passion

Capturing the right red is an interesting challenge for the illustrator. During this three-day workshop, we create rich reds using different pigments to make the subjects come alive on the paper. We explore reds, maroons and purples found in nature, seasonal flowers, orchids and juicy fruits. Build on your watercolor skills as you learn to mix the red hues you need and effectively apply color to create value and form. Instructor demonstrations, practical exercises and individual guidance with a variety of red botanical material prepare you to complete a finished plate of a red-blossomed specimen.

Prerequisite: Botanical Illustration in Watercolor I or intermediate skills in watercolor

Fee: $365 member, $415 non-member

Date(s): Fri-Sun, Oct. 11-13, 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Instructor: Isik Güner, Turkey


Isik Güner studied environmental engineering at Marmara University in Istanbul. During her undergraduate years, she also began studying botanical illustration, attending courses by Christabel King. Immediately after she graduated from university in 2006, she began working full time as a botanical artist.

Isik is involved with several projects and is currently organizing botanical illustration courses in various countries including Spain, Chile, Turkey and Scotland. She has received several gold medals at the Royal Horticultural Society’s botanical art exhibitions. She was the 2017 artist-in-residence at Denver Botanic Gardens.


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